There are women who start shopping in October, send tasteful cards in November, leaving all of December to perfect the art of mince pie baking. If you’re not either of them, it’s more likely to go like this…

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Day 1

First text arrives from mother-in-law / own mother asking what everyone wants for Christmas. Compose gracious and thoughtful reply, such as: IT IS SEPTEMBER, GET A GRIP.

Day 2

“Oh yes, bossy clienty person, of course I can complete this massive project by Christmas.” That’s aaaaaaages away and I’ll be able to work right up until December 24 if need be. *Goes on Facebook for a bit*

Day 3

You know what? Even though Christmas is usually a soul-crushing combination of epic drives to see relatives at opposite ends of the country, being locked in overheated houses with said relatives for periods of time for which no one should have to see their relatives, trying to deal with everyone’s drunken “honesty” while not able to have more than one drink yourself because you are CONTINUALLY pregnant or breastfeeding, baby waking every hour at night because it’s in an unfamiliar place… it’ll be different this time! In fact, why doesn’t everyone come to us?

Day 4

Pop into TK Maxx in usual vague search of Christian Louboutin shoes, comfortable non-pinchy fit, price £28. Hear first rendition of “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day”. How ridiculous that they put this on in – oh. It’s the second week of December. Bolt for the doors before “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” starts up, accidentally taking out 6ft display of overpriced generic bath sets with buggy. On street, hunch over buggy handles, gulping in fresh air as the enormity of what has to be done in the next two weeks sinks in.

Day 5

Right, step one: write Christmas cards. Did we buy last year in sale? Cannot find sale-bought cards. Have a good think about where one buys new cards that communicate happiness, festivity, respect of everybody’s religious views and refined good taste. That don’t say “TESCO” on the back. Maybe let’s do cards next week.

Day 6

Notice family-sized tubs of sweets in supermarket. Buy two kinds just in case anyone doesn’t like one kind. And some posh ones for gifts. Spend evening putting up Christmas tree instead of working. Time taken to decorate Christmas tree and get kids excited: 20 minutes. Time taken to study balance of baubles and fairy lights to ensure perfect balance: 2.5 hours. Stay up late online shopping for nieces, nephews and godchildren. Google “What is a good gift for a six-year-old with ADHD?”. Sneak top off family tub of sweets. Who’s going to notice if the odd orange creme is missing?

Day 7

Work project somehow not nearly finished – must find out if we can get extra childcare. Draw name of the non-drinking IT guy in work secret Santa.  What to give? Memory sticks? Moisturiser? Go out to buy and end up coming back with assorted stocking fillers for two-year-old instead. Remove all “Made in Taiwan” stickers in case two-year-old is clued up enough to know that Taiwan is nowhere near Lapland.

Day 8

Childcare send child home sick, scuppering all work deadlines. Note to self: this time next year, administer Calpol every morning as precautionary measure. Sit child in front of TV to send emails. Receive huffy follow-up email from mother/mother in law asking for gift ideas. Realise will be spending time in confined space with these people NEXT WEEK. Sneak into kitchen to finish first lot of sweets and move on to second.

Day 9

Thoughtful husband gift required. Have we been married long enough for jumpers to be OK or is this the sort of thing that screams “Emma Thompson in Love Actually”? Stay up late again browsing gifts that will convince husband not to have affair with office sexpot, or at least make him feel really vile if he is. Briefly weigh buying lingerie for self as partial husband gift. Remember quarter-cup bras not an option for post-breastfeeding tits that require industrial-strength scaffolding. Compulsively eat posh gift truffles.

Day 10

Last f***ing posting date for cards! Literally no time to write cards. Write some cards. Realise do not have addresses for all. Send email asking for addresses trying to sound casual and witty rather than desperate and on the verge. Is it too late to buy another Christmas pudding if I eat this one?

Day 11

Turkey! Was supposed to order the turkey. Where do you buy a decent turkey three days before Christmas? Try asking husband, who sneezes and declares he has “bad cold” – actually the lowest level of cold possible for men, whose colds range from “bad” to “terrible” to “dying of this”. Give up on possibility of husband being any use for next week, as he will be greatly occupied with lying around sighing dramatically in manner of Southern belle after fainting fit. Clean entire house and replace all sheets during toddler’s nap. Take delivery of 73 Amazon parcels. Try to come up with festive table decoration using two candles and a handful of holly leaves stolen from next door’s garden.

Day 12

Christmas Eve. House full of relatives. Wake up with crick in neck from sleeping on airbed. May as well have a quick look at the… HOW IS THAT MY WEIGHT AND IT’S NOT EVEN CHRISTMAS DAY YET? Start fight with mother because it must be her fault you’ve taken this on. Ditto husband. Make mince pies. Mull wine. Prep vegetables. Stay up until 3am wrapping gifts for children who will tear it off in 3 seconds without noticing. Crash into (camp) bed…

Merry Christmas, everyone.