Sandra Dick: Perfect Christmas far from reality

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It is, so I’m reminded with every advert on television, every blast of piped music in every shop, and each time my boys say the words “We want an Xbox One for Christmas”, allegedly the most magical time of the year.

Every time I see Peter Andre salivating over two chips and a fish finger stuffed into a cardboard cone like it’s something Tom Kitchin spent hours slaving over serves as another warning that we’re on countdown to the big day.

There’s no escape on Facebook or Twitter, stuffed with pictures of dazzling Christmas trees, festive baking successes, presents neatly wrapped and perfect children heading to their next party. I, meanwhile, cast an eye over the mayhem in my home which has barely recovered from Hallowe’en, my stomach churns and I wonder where to start.

Personally I find it hard enough to hold family life together at the best of times without some bampot in a beard turning December into one huge stress-fest of pure chaos.

It’s certainly bad enough spending a year’s savings on presents, cash which would – if not for this stupid December 25 thing – get you a nice handbag and pair of shoes in the January sales.

But it’s also the misery of endless cleaning in case your relatives spot fluff balls underneath the sofa or cat treats stuck to the carpet. And it’s the annual battle with the Christmas tree, rooted beneath bikes, a tent and some waterlogged wellies in the hut.

No cheerful window display can make the Princes Street trudge in the rain any more enjoyable. And the school nativity is less fun when you’ve had to rearrange your entire working week around it and carol concerts, panto trips, scouts outings and the inevitable bout of vomiting bugs.

As a mum, I should love the joy and magic of the season. Instead there’s a chunk of me dreads it – and I’m not alone. For a study by the American Psychological Association revealed men seem to have this Christmas thing wrapped up: they found women experience a far more dramatic spike in stress levels.

Just a quarter of women find time to relax compared with 41 per cent of chaps. No wonder us girls seek to remove this angst out of our systems: nearly half go on to comfort eat and 28 per cent hit the bottle – leading to even more stress as we slip into our party frock and find it’s shrunk.

Of course it’s all worth it in the end, particularly when we get to exchange the unwanted gifts and find they’re suddenly 50 per cent cheaper.

So by all means have yourself a merry little Christmas. You’ll find me comfort eating, drinking like a fish and wishing it was over.