Latest posts by Rebecca Mann (see all)
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“Christmas time! That man must be a misanthrope indeed, in whose breast something like a jovial feeling is not roused – in whose mind some pleasant associations are not awakened – by the recurrence of Christmas.” Charles Dickens
Reader, I am that Mann. Christmas just doesn’t do it for me. I basically don’t have the time; especially now I’m a working parent with a younger daughter who was born on Boxing Day (I KNOW, like December’s not busy/expensive enough). I start dreading the, er, advent of the festive season as soon as the first Christmas cards appear (increasingly, around mid-September, it seems). Preparing for a modern-day family Christmas is a full-time job – and I already have one of those – so the only way I can contemplate the annual tour of duty, which includes at least seven days’ hard labour chained to the stove (we always have house guests too), is by hitting the Malbec. Hard.
I give you the opening of Allison Pearson’s novel I Don’t Know How She Does It. Specifically the part where the central character Kate Reddy, fresh off the plane from a business trip, is up at 2am ‘distressing’ shop-bought mince pies so they look more home-made. Seriously, I’ve been doing that for years. What else is Waitrose for? To escape the drudgery of Christmas you have to either be born a man or pay another woman to do it all for you. In 2006 I went into labour on Christmas Day and not even THAT got me out of cooking the dinner. Give me Easter any day. There’s more chocolate and I’m usually on holiday.
So when the invitation from Jo Malone arrived in my inbox – on 7 July, no less – to attend the brand’s Christmas preview today, I did give an involuntary shudder. Once a year is surely more than enough.
And yet. From the moment I crossed the threshold of Jo Malone London’s Townhouse, decorated with an exquisite wreath, something in me shifted. Because this wasn’t Christmas the way mere mortals do it. This was Christmas perfection. Not having relatives there doubtless helped.
At the bottom of the staircase was a stunning white and crimson Christmas tree, surrounded by Jo Malone gift boxes big enough to sit on, flanked by a dreamboat dressed in red velvet. At the top of a staircase was a divine-smelling snow-dusted room crammed with goodies: the entire Jo Malone festive offer, laid out on a table to lust over. Beautiful beribboned boxes, trimmed with scarlet, showcased a tantalising array of fragrances, bath products and candles – and an exquisite Cherry & Clove Scented Bauble.
On one side of the room was a wreath-making station (I actually tried this one year, in a freezing cold marquee in the middle of a field. Three hours of my life I’ll never get back and my efforts in no way resembled these works of art). On the other side was a desk displaying the bespoke glitter stencils consumers can have their gift boxes decorated with. I love glitter. I love red. I was weakening by the minute.
The next room featured a breath-taking Christmas table, dressed in the same striking white and crimson livery, complete with frosted cherries, a stunning centrepiece and a subtle sprinkling of snow. Mentally I have already re-decorated my dining room to accommodate this colour scheme and *may* have ordered some ivory candelabra this evening.
But the pièce de résistance was a mini ice-rink next door, set in the middle of a winter wonderland, inhabited by Luke, the hunky male model who appears in the Jo Malone Christmas ad campaign. Talk about a Damascene conversion. NOW I understand the attraction of Christmas, I thought, in a daze. OF COURSE it’s the most wonderful time of the year. On the event invitation, Jo Malone London promised “A World of Icy Enchantment”. It certainly managed to cast a spell on me.
Never slow to get my skates on, I was soon being escorted around the rink, holding Luke’s hand very firmly a) in case I fell over and b) just because I could. Jo Malone chose wisely when it came up with the #FrostedFantasy hashtag to promote the event, because frankly I was living the dream and beyond.
This is the type of Christmas I crave. Chic, classy and absolutely effortless – predominantly because someone else has done all the work. If my house ever looks like this on 25 December then I suspect, like Wizzard, I too will Wish It Could be Christmas Every Day.
It won’t of course, and on reflection perhaps that’s no bad thing. Nothing in the Jo Malone Townhouse – aside from the ice rink perhaps – would appeal to my family at this age and stage. It’ll be wonky Christingles, chocolate oranges, too much TV, board games and panto all the way Chez Mann, and I’m starting to think resistance is futile.
Come December, when I am simultaneously attempting to lay the festive table, dispose of Rudolph’s carrot, consume Santa’s mince piece, dust ‘snowprints’ on the floor, peel potatoes, stuff stockings, find fridge space for a birthday cake and check my kids are still asleep – all while keeping on the right side of the sherry – I shall take a moment, exhale deeply, and escape to the soothing memory of Jo Malone’s perfect Christmas tableau.
Then, I hope, in the true spirit of the season, I will smile (possibly through gritted teeth) at July’s Frosted Fantasy, and give thanks for my own Flawed Reality. Has Jo Malone actually helped me bid goodbye to my inner Grinch? Maybe. If I can enjoy a make-believe Christmas in July (and against all expectations I really did) then perhaps I can enjoy a real one in December. US author Lenora Mattingly Weber says it best: “Christmas is for children. But it is for grown-ups too. Even if it is a headache, a chore, and nightmare, it is a period of necessary defrosting of chill and hide-bound hearts.”
Here’s to a permanent thaw. Happy Christmas to all!