This article contains irony that may be upsetting to serious readers.
My name is Caroline and I am a secret Christmas map writer.
It started over 10 years ago. It was taking so long to put up the holiday decorations. I found myself dreading that moment when I was surrounded by baubles and berries, Santas and snowmen, and just didn't know where to start. There was always that fear of not attaining the perfection of last year's display. And then there was the great Father Christmas disaster of 2003 when 'Ho ho ho' Santa lost his prime entrance way spot to cute doggy Santa, and forever lost his holiday good cheer. Even with new batteries.
So I began drawing Christmas maps - a step-by-step, room-by-room, wall-by-wall guide to where, which and how, compiled the year before and packed away lovingly at the very top of the Christmas decoration box. Because it's not much good at the bottom.
Opening that envelope with its whiff of Christmases past is as exciting as opening a present on Christmas Day itself. It's like meeting an old boyfriend - you can skip the formalities, and just dive straight in. Why go through the stress of worrying about your Yin and Yang energy when you know your holiday home was in perfect Feng Shui balance last year? Because your jingle must be in tune with your jangle, as every good decorator knows.
For the sceptics amongst you who fear a stifling of creativity, you can still give yourself a little wiggle room for spontaneity. On this year's map, I included some discretionary sprinkling of stars on walls. It actually says 'Go wild Caroline!' I even allowed myself an exclamation mark for particular emphasis.
For many years my Christmas secret has been known only to my family and very close friends. But this year, encouraged by the popularity of adult colouring books, I started asking myself - could the world be ready for Christmas maps? A book with pull-out templates for each room, individual pages for particular features such as mantelpieces, and, of course, a garden section. Both a memoir of Christmases past and a time capsule with predictions for those in the future.
I imagine the scene on Christmas Day (or whichever is your Big Holiday Day), the family gathered replete after a fine feast, pencils in hand, moving from room to room (so a little exercise is thrown in), sketching and annotating. Perhaps each member could be assigned a particular room - although I would recommend the main DAFT (Decorating And Finishing Touches) person be in charge of the house's decorative focal point. And then, perhaps to the sound of a sleigh bell, you all gather around the fire for a hour or so of collective colouring.
Plus it's a gift that keeps on giving. Come the beginning of December, when the neighbours have already decked their halls and their outside deck, you serenely open your Christmas map and, like painting by numbers, in two shakes of a shepherd's lamb's tail your home will be transformed from grotty to grotto. Window dressing without the stressing, tree trimming without the tears. Think of how much better the world would be, free from Christmas decorating angst.
I'm already planning a follow-up to the Christmas map. This complementary guide will be of particular use during the holiday season but is a thoughtful gift at any time of the year for anyone about to enter a new family as a spouse/life partner.
The Life Map, to be lovingly compiled by the welcoming family, will be a crucial inventory of back stories, in-jokes and 'must know's that will bring the new family member up to speed with the highs and lows of the preceding years. Guaranteed to eliminate awkward silences at the dinner table, this helpful reference book could include favourite Dad jokes, the correct compliment to pay the family elder stateswoman on first meeting, and which UK football team to support.
And, of course, a copy of the household Christmas map.
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