Last night, consumer journalist Harry Wallop tweeted: “My fave Xmas retail fact. Week before Xmas – quilted loo roll sales jump as people try to impress the in-laws/guests coming to stay.”
It made everyone in the office laugh because it’s so painfully relatable – one person admitted that they only have a bowl of fruit out on the table when they have guests coming to stay, with another saying that, at Christmas, they buy the fancy-smelling Fairy Liquid rather than the trusty Original that cleans pasta sauce off their plates for the rest of the year.
Luxurious loo roll isn’t the only fancy thing people buy for Christmas. My mum, who worked in Superdrug for years, says she always noticed that the people who bought own-brand toothpaste and soap all year would be getting Colgate and Pears in December. My friend Ashley hides her Carex handwash in the back of her wardrobe and brings out the Aesop every time her in-laws come round – although, when she has guests, she also buys expensive cheese from Borough market, stocks the wine rack so it looks nice and full, and puts Président butter in a dish, rather than using her regular Lurpak spreadable, so I think she’s operating on a domestic level most humans could never aspire to.
Do we do this because it’s a nice little luxury for us to have creamy drinks and a cushioned bum at Christmas, or do we do it to impress people?
It’s not just toiletries, though. Despite having specifically bought a table that was easy to wipe clean so that we didn’t need to use tablecloths, we buy a new tablecloth every December just to use on Christmas Day. We have expensive serving plates and side plates and cutlery and glassware, which live in the back of the cupboard and are only brought out for three hours a year. And gravy boats. Most of the time, the gravy is poured over our dinner straight from the jug we mixed it in, but for some reason, at Christmas, we have to first decant it into a slightly fancier jug so that we can slosh it over our spuds without shame.
Really, though, nothing signifies that it’s Christmas more than the way our eating suddenly changes. My friend Lauren – without a doubt, the most sophisticated foodie person in my life – throws taste to the wind every Christmas and gorges on the flavourless, gritty abomination that is cheese footballs like she’s Pac-Man devouring dots. People who spend 11 months of the year enjoying fine wine and whisky will spend December sipping Mint Baileys. Let’s not even get started on whatever the hell Advocaat is. I am perfectly happy eating chocolate digestives with my tea for most the year, but if you tried to give me anything other than a Cadbury’s selection-box chocolate biscuit at Christmas, I would look at you like you’d just spat on my cat.
The question is do we do this because it’s a nice little luxury for us to have creamy drinks and a cushioned bum at Christmas, or do we do it to impress people? The former is grand and I am a huge fan of people spending extra money if it means they spend December so delighted with themselves that they keep shoving their hands under people’s noses and going, “Smell this! It’s Aesop! It’s so lovely!”
But, if we’re doing it to fool people into thinking we’re fancy enough to care about whether our plates smell like fruit or flowers after they’ve been washed, maybe we need to have a rethink. After all ’tis the season to be jolly, not the season to fret that the guests will judge us for using Morrisons own-brand loo roll.