Christmas is coming so it's raining in my heart

Hygge sounds suspiciously like a visit to Ikea, a place akin to Dante’s seventh circle of hell – you go in for a mug and you go round and round and round, past interminable gadgets you never knew you couldn’t live without. If anybody buys me The Little Book of Hygge for Christmas I’ll floor them with it

Nuala McCann

Nuala McCann

Nuala McCann is an Irish News columnist and writes a weekly radio review.

As that distinctive whiff of singed martyr wafts from the kitchen...
As that distinctive whiff of singed martyr wafts from the kitchen...

WHEN are you writing your Christmas column, asks a colleague in work. Can’t she see I’m walking around like Minnie the Minx, as a solitary black cloud floats over my head?

It’s raining in my heart.

Dear reader, you know that Christmas would not be Christmas if I didn’t harp on about the hell of crowds and presents and food and manic merchandising.

Last week, there were so many lists competing for attention in my brain that my bread-making skills went to pot.

Someone in work once admired the lovely brown seeded bread in my husband’s lunch box and asked him if he had a breadmaker at home.

“Yes,” he replied. “Nuala.”

(It has to be said that I have only ever had one dishwasher... and it’s him).

But despite hundreds of times making the healthy brown bread (thank you Roisin Armstrong, formerly of this parish, for the recipe) on auto pilot, I dithered last Sunday over whether the recipe called for baking powder or bicarbonate of soda and went for the wrong one.

The result was two small flat, hard brown loaves that were inedible.

Our fella walked into the kitchen, lifted one of them in each hand, clutched them to his chest and smiled.

“Quick take a photo...Which biblical character am I?” he asked his dad.

“Moses receiving the tablets with the 10 commandments,” his dad shot back.

It is nice to know that his Catholic education has left a lasting impression (You know the old Jesuit saying: “Give me the child and I’ll give you the man,”) and equally reassuring to know that the funny gene is a dominant trait passed down through the male line, from father to son.

Oh, but if only I had it at this moment.

Instead, I am trying desperately to channel my inner hygge. It’s all the rage. It is almost a cult. There’s even a Little Book of Hygge and if anybody buys me that as a Christmas gift, I’ll floor them with it.

The effect of hygge for me is, unfortunately, more Nordic noir than Skandi bliss. Hygge is all Danish cosiness – it’s red and cream knitted everything, Norwegian wood and candles on the hearth.

It’s snow on the eaves and bright woollen hats and scarves. It’s all mulled wine and meat balls and cinnamon buns. It’s roaring fires and hot chocolate in a thick white mug.

I’m not succeeding. I’ve seen too many wonderful dark Scandinavian dramas – and close to every snowy eave, loiters a dark murderer with a sharp knife stuck down his Damart long johns.

Anyway, hygge also sounds suspiciously like a long, long visit to Ikea. That place is akin to Dante’s seventh circle of hell. You go in for a mug and you go round and round and round with your trolley and your free pencil and paper past interminable gadgets like melon ballers and grapefruit segment thingys that you never ever knew you couldn’t live without.

If you are very unlucky, you are with someone you love whose only little fault is a penchant for utterly useless, useful things. So the visit to hell is punctuated with the phrase: “Oh look, that might come in very handy.”

And all the time, in my head, The Eagles are singing Hotel California. You know that line: “You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.”

When I get to the check-out in Ikea, no amount of Swedish meatballs would convince me to stay another moment. When I get to the exit, I want to fall down on the pavement and kiss it, just like il Papa. I am that grateful to escape.

So this is my “Christmas is hell, tra la la la laaa,” column.

I love Christmas when it gets there. I love it when there is nothing more you can do about the lists and the presents and the food. I love it when I no longer have to endure road rage in the supermarket car park and blood on the supermarket vegetables after somebody gave somebody else a bloodied nose over the last bag of Brussels sprouts – I wish I was joking.

Really, when it comes to it, it’s not really Christmas I object to, it is the run-up to it, the sense of hundreds of thousands of hamsters on rattling wheels, dashing their socks off and getting nowhere.

And then there’s the Christmas dinner and that distinctive whiff of singed martyr wafting from the kitchen. Alas, that's somebody else’s line.. but it sums up the other side of Christmas.

What fresh hell is this? Roll on 2017, I say!