10 Santa Claus
Father Christmas gives hope to parents everywhere. For the rest of the year, a child’s hero is likely to be an unachievable goal. They probably adore a crime-fighting superhero or athlete and parents look on, unable to compete. Unless you can fly, have a six-pack and fire rockets from your hands, that is. Good old Santa, however, lowers the bar to a much more achievable level. Unshaven, not bothered about gym visits and only having to try hard one night of the year, his greatest attraction, to parents at least, is the reason for the affection kids give him. Simply put, Santa buys children’s love. The idea that he will give gifts to those who are nice goes against every parenting guideline, but it’s a winner in the real world.
9 Decorating the house
Eleven months of the year, a parent dictates the prevailing style of the home. Kids don’t get to join in much with choosing colour schemes and the style of drapes. Then Christmas comes around and, before you know it, there are elves on shelves, glitter on windows, flashing lights dangling from plastic trees and candy canes on every surface.
Candy canes are just the start. Christmas is more than just a cheat day, for sensible eaters. It is an entire cheat season, when sugar-coating, honey-glazing and frosting of any kind is not just tolerated but actively encouraged.
7 School concert
No actor in the history of film, theatre and television started out good. They might have been coached into a moving performance with rehearsals or directing. And they probably started out on the dramatic journey at their nursery or junior school’s annual festive concert as well. To an outsider, the performance levels are like, well, every other nursery school concert in the world. But to the people on stage and their parents, it is the pinnacle of cultural achievement.
6 TV specials
Santa has turned up in just about every cartoon ever broadcast. Given the chance, and unfettered access to YouTube, a kid will happily watch him save Scooby Doo, Tom and Jerry, Pokémon, Transformers and any other cartoon character from the past 30 years. A perfect distraction while parents wrap the gifts.
It is about the spirit of giving; it is not a commercial holiday; it is a time for family; blah blah blah. Kids get crazy excited about the potential for presents and parents smile and grow to love the crayon drawing of the family they get in return.
4 Being cosy
So much of the imagery of Christmas revolves around snow and the cosy notion of wrapping up warm and enjoying the winter season. So, it can be hard to adapt to the fact it is likely to be a very pleasant, sunny day between twenty and thirty degrees at Christmas. You could adapt tradition and go hit the beach. Or you could set the air-conditioning to Arctic and stay in your new Christmas onesies.
Before they’re given phones – and don’t get us started on that parenting hot potato – the handing out of Christmas cards to classmates is the best way − beyond the pulling of hair and sharing of candy − to assess social order among junior peer groups. Scrawling a message inside 30 cards is a secret way to get them working on handwriting, but also the most important documentation a four-year-old can comprehend ever doing. They might have a point.
2 Epic shopping
Remember last year when you said you were going to wrap everything up, quite literally, before the start of December? It didn’t happen, did it? Now you’re faced with the biggest shopping challenge of your life. Presents for your entire family, including cousins, aunties and that ex-next door neighbour you can’t seem to shake off need to be bought and crammed into suitcases for the return journey home. Three souks, four malls, two craft fairs and a stroll through Satwa should do the trick. With kids dragging their heels. Maybe scrap these plans and get what you can in the airport instead.
1 Christmas dinner
It could be the one meal of the year with the entire family. Generations and continents are brought together for a family photo, sit-down meal and, ultimately, squabbling over who should carve the turkey. Oh, and heated debates over answers to tough Trivial Pursuit questions.
Will Milner is a regular contributor. He’s buying gifts online this year.