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THE FOURTH WISE MAN

THE FOURTH WISE MAN

Regardless of your nationality or religion, you will be familiar with Christmas and what it represents. Millions of people worldwide celebrate this annual festival, decorating their homes with tinsel, fairy lights and baubles and preparing a feast fit for a king (or three kings, in this particular case).

I must admit, I’ve never been a huge fan of Christmas. I could blame my father, his ‘bah humbug’ attitude rubbing off on his offspring could easily account for my dislike of the festive season. More likely, however, it’s my shared birthday with a certain Jesus Christ that raises my hackles at the very mention of tinsel or turkey. Believe me, a yuletide birthday is not all it’s cracked up to be. Certainly, wrapping my birthday present in Christmas paper or writing P.S. Happy Birthday! on the inside of my Christmas card will not earn you many (if any) brownie points. Fact is, despite being at an age when birthdays are probably best forgotten, I still feel more than a little hard done by on December 25th.

I realise, of course, that most people have other things to think about on this particular day. After all, it’s easy to be dazzled by the commercial craziness that is Christmas. Those under eighteen are too interested in their own presents to worry about my presence. My sister, chief-in-charge of Christmas dinner, is usually elbow-deep in prawns, sprouts or a turkey’s orifice to even notice if the birthday girl has turned up. And who am I to interrupt her crucial culinary concentration? As for my parents, thanks to their enviable social calendar, they rarely know what day of the week it is, so expecting them to remember their youngest daughter’s birthday is, quite simply, expecting too much. One year, it took my dad over an hour to remember it was my birthday which, when you consider my mum’s blunder of presenting me with a birthday cake a full twenty-four hours after my birthday, was actually pretty good.

In my husband’s defence, ‘happy’ and ‘birthday’ are the first words out of his mouth every year on December 25th. It’s amazing how far those two little words can stretch, keeping a smile on my face for the entire day, regardless of whether or not anyone else remembers. Of course, it’s in his own interest to remember his wife’s birthday. The consequences of failing to do so don’t bear thinking about and would surely rival any annus horribilis experienced by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. My husband, it seems, is the fourth wise man.

Perhaps, like the Queen, I should have an official birthday in June. How lovely it would be to receive cards depicting roses and ribbons instead of robins and reindeer. Imagine being able to enjoy a birthday lunch without the pungent odour of Brussels sprouts (both first hand and second) or eating out without the need to sell the family jewells to pay for it. I wouldn’t have to wear a paper hat, an oversized jumper with a flashing red nose, or a dress that shed more glitter than the Christmas tree. I could choose my own food from an al a carte menu instead of being compelled to eat a festive three course dinner which would invariably include tasteless soup, dry turkey and cold Christmas pudding. If I was exceptionally unlucky, they might even serve up a stale mince pie. Yes, the more I think about it, the more an official birthday sounds like a mighty fine idea. It would certainly stop me from living up to my zodiac sign and bleating like a disgruntled old goat.

That said, my festive birthday does have some advantages. It allows me the luxury of excusing myself from any Christmas Day chores, the result of which sees me sitting with my feet up with sole control of the TV remote. My dinner is prepared, my drinks are served and my chauffeur awaits. I need do no more than sip champagne, nibble hors d’oeuvres and steal the purple chocolates from the Quality Street tin whilst those around me work up a sweat in the kitchen. As for the dinner itself, my sister’s festive feast is far superior to any inflated fixed price offering served up elsewhere. Thanks to my brother-in-law’s possessive relationship with the dish-washer, I don’t even have to wash up.
The opening ceremony, as I like to call it, takes place after dinner. In an hour of pure self-indulgence I tear open envelopes, untie bows and thank my lucky stars for my wonderful friends and family. Their cards are glitter free, their gift wrap anything but festive, and their presents always perfect. What more could I want? Well, a few more of those purple chocolates wouldn’t go amiss.

If last year’s events are anything to go by, much fun and frivolity will follow. We’ll sacrifice whatever lame movie is repeated on the TV in favour of an enthusiastic rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody; my niece’s piano skills deserving of much more refined vocals than our own rather lairy offering. Despite us being loud enough to wake the neighbours from their post-pudding slumber, my mum will somehow manage to sleep through the entire performance. Meanwhile, my dad will sneak into the kitchen for another bowl of trifle and the dog will disappear behind the sofa with his tail between his legs.

Actually, I think I’ll pass on the official birthday. My shared celebrations sound pretty much perfect to me. Assuming, that is, the fourth wise man remains wise.

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