It’s a funny time of year… Seasonal madness has well and truly taken hold. The high-streets are crammed with frantic faces attached to stressed bodies dashing about. Agitated lines of men-folk worm their way uneasily toward perfume counters, Pandora stores have barricades and security to manage the crowds and the supermarkets are stocked to the gills with millions of unnecessary calories and gallons booze.
Last night I was quietly wandering the isles of my local store making my usual purchases. I was struck by how many staples were missing. Gone were my favourite mushroom pastry thingies and, in their place, were extra-rich and extra-large versions of Christmas fare, most with added booze… chocolate with Tia Maria, pate with cognac, pies with ale, champagne sorbet, cheese with gin (?), Prosecco flavoured crisps (I kid you not), red wine gravy, vodka marinades, chutney with port and the traditional but gout-inducing brandy butter.
Since starting and alcohol-free lifestyle, I have started to notice the pervasive nature of alcohol and how it is, quite literally, everywhere. There is no escape and is almost as if alcohol has become the foundation of our modern culture… we all know us British can’t have a party of any kind without an intoxicating drink to oil the process, but it now seems that we can’t eat in December without experiencing the marketing onslaught. Indeed, the addition of alcohol now appears to transform any moment into a special occasion worthy of a cheer and any food-like substance into a seasonal luxury item.
Last night I found myself shopping with my eyes wide open and, slightly horrified, came away with much less than I had anticipated… I must confess, needing no excuse to get both fat and shitfaced and using Christmas as an excuse, I have been known to tuck into an entire round of brie with little more than a cheese-knife and a bottle of red. This year will be different – OYNB is teaching me to be alert and prepared. I now see that brandy butter without brandy is just butter… the addition of brandy being the only reason to buy it.
On day 58 I can see that the system is out to hijack our sensibilities. It wants us to think that Christmas can’t be Christmas without spending £200 on a single trolley of food and drink items to feed a small family for a day. You can’t have fun without a champagne breakfast, fancy pre-lunch drinks, expensive and attractively packaged drinks to compliment your meals, rich and potent post meal drinks and an evening of further imbibing to ensure the party goes with a swing.
If, like me, you are embarking on your first Christmas for decades which will be alcohol-free, it’s time to strengthen your resolve, double down embrace the true spirit of Christmas: to create memories not hangovers, to tell people we love that we love them, sing ‘Last Christmas’ by Wham very loud, embrace family and to give what we can to those less fortunate than us – if we stay strong this will be a season to remember. Merry Christmas.