Our writer is hitting the Big Apple for Christmas
Are you hanging up your stocking on your wall? I’m not! Because I’m running away for Christmas. That’s right, you can serenade me with all the John Lewis tearjerkers you can find, roast as many chestnuts on as many open fires as you can light, but this year, I’m packing a case and taking my mother to our happy place – the bright lights of New York city.
That means no presents, no turkey or ham. In fact, I don’t even think I’ll put up a tree.
Before you get all Scrooge on me, I’m not running away from Christmas, I’m just escaping my crazy Irish family, and all the madness that comes with a Christmas at home. Plus, New York does the festive season way better than anywhere else.
And why, you may ask? Purely selfish reasons, of course. Do you remember how Christmas felt as a kid: the excitement of Santa, the smell of your mother’s honey-glazed ham cooling, the buzz of the electric whisk to make the cream for the trifle, the sound of your father cursing as he tripped over your brother’s Scalextric?
Christmas as a child was always a spectacle. Santa always got me everything on my list, and then some. Being the youngest of seven, it’s fair to say I was spoiled.
But then I grew up, and Christmas as an adult seems more festive mood killer than stocking filler – in fact, one 2004 study from the American Heart Association suggests the stress of ➤
Christmas can actually give you a heart attack.
The anarchy really begins in November. You’re tied to deadlines to try and finish all of your work by December 24 so you can actually take time off. When December rolls around, you’re reliant on one payday to cover presents for everyone – and with five sisters, one brother, five nephews and one niece, that’s a lot of presents.
Then for the day itself, you’ve to choose whose house you’re going to. With all that aforementioned family – and throwing in the ten dogs we have between us – that’s a lot for a threebed semi-detached in west Dublin to take.
Then, being single at Christmas is just a big fat reminder that you’re, well, single. You’re sitting with all your siblings and their other halves with no escape. Oh and that weird uncle – is he even related to us? – keeps asking if you’ve found anyone yet, while you look to the dog for help.
That’s not to mention the groundhog day-ness of it all. Your mother gets up at the crack of dawn to start the dinner, moans about no one helping her, when you offer, she says you’re not doing it right.
Some neighbour you never liked anyway always calls in right as you’re about to sit down to dinner, so you’ve to wait another hour, and fill up on tea and biscuits while they’re there, while smiling through gritted teeth every time they ask your mother if you’re the one not married as if you’re not in the room.
Everyone wants to watch Love Actually for the 245th time, and just when you’ve invested in it and are at the scene where Emma Thompson cries into her Joni Mitchell CD, your brother-inlaw switches to that obscure sport that doesn’t stop for Christmas Day.
Inevitably with a family this big, one sibling ends up drinking too much and falling out with everybody for the next six months; and then everyone leaves without taking the right presents and they all get mixed up.
So, to escape it all, I’ve booked into the fivestar Beacon Hotel on the Upper West Side, overlooking Strawberry Fields in Central Park and the Hudson River. I plan on eating and drinking my weight in fabulous French food and wine come December 25.
I’ll wake up in my deluxe room, I might even avail of the fitness centre at my disposal, and don my most festive jumper and comfy eating jeans because I don’t have to worry about in-laws and neighbours knocking at the door.
I’ll rock around the Rockefeller Christmas tree, and stand with the hundreds of other tourists trying to video the precise moment the Saks Fifth Avenue store lights up.
I’ll walk through Central Park with a gingerbread coffee, and sing John Lennon songs around his memorial, because even though it’s not John Lewis, everyone loves a cry on December 25. Then I’ll park myself somewhere cosy, most likely Rolf’s on 3rd Avenue (left) which has the best Christmas decorations, for some hot whiskeys, living my very own Fairytale of New York.
And how do I know all this? Well, having visited the city a couple of times before – once for New Year’s Eve and once in summer – I thought I’d squeezed every last dollar out of New York, but then my mother and I experienced the magic of Christmas there, and vowed never to spend another one at home in wet Dublin again.
So when I come back with airport Toblerones for everyone – because that’s all anyone is getting this year, I may even wrap them – I’ll settle back into my normal routine of seeing the family once a week for Sunday dinner.
And I’ve plenty of time to start planning my next Christmas bon voyage...
Eva with her mother in New York at Christmas