A humorous piece published in January 2015 for the old Amsterdam Mamas website.


December is brilliant: It’s like a month long orgy of whatever you fancy. You are seasonally obliged to consume four times your usual calorie intake, or risk being branded ‘unfestive’, which is unthinkable. Indeed, the food for this period is all about being as greedy as possible.

While, for eleven months of the year, we are happy with a bit of butter on our vegetables and a dash of cream on our desserts, nothing is regarded as suitable for the festive season unless it is laden with cloves, brandy, cranberries and other sweet and spicy emblems of Christmas-ness. Unbridled consumerism is also a wonderful release from all the sensible behaviour the rest of the year; present shopping inevitably doubles as sale shopping for yourself: you deserve it; you’re being so generous to others, after all.

And then, like (and often with) a bad hangover, January arrives. You’ve made it safely through December but nothing looks quite the same as it did the month before.

Chocolate incites nausea due to festive overload and your body and brain are seriously dehydrated from the substitution of water for alcohol. Your trusty ‘going out’ trousers are slicing your bottom in two and doing a dodgy double-muffin at the front.

And, as if your waistline isn’t squeezed enough already, your bank balance, which has turned a Christmassy red, is a clear indication that some financial belt-tightening is in order if you are to weather January, the coldest month of the year, and its extra heavy demands on your utility bills.

As if your waistline isn’t squeezed enough already, your bank balance, which has turned a Christmassy red, is a clear indication that some financial belt-tightening is in order.

If December is all about excess, then January is surely about abnegation. The feasting must come to an abrupt stop when the gong of midnight sounds and, instead of the feeding frenzy that we and our children have been enjoying, suddenly, and rather disappointingly, it is the season of abstinence.

Shopping lists, full of luxuries, are replaced with enumerated resolutions, an overhang from the Puritans, impelling us to take some responsibility for our behaviour and undertake acts of self-denial. If December is all about loading up (your plate, your glass, your shopping trolley…) then January is, conversely, all about giving up (tobacco, booze, oliebollen etc.) and it’s not nearly as much fun.

But if, like Janus, the two-headed god who gives January its name, we continue to glance back as well as forward, we may overlook all the good things that January can bestow. The shortest day, for example, is now behind us and the days are getting longer. Those chintzy decorations have stopped cluttering the house and, unless you are fond of hoovering, we’re all secretly glad to see the back of pepernoten.

And maybe those resolutions will prove to add more to our lives than they appear to take away. Maybe the dieting, teetotalism, quitting smoking and so on, will help you gain energy, health and confidence, while lining your pocket with money that can be put to better use. Maybe being nice to people will pay forward. Maybe those pesky Puritans were right after all.

Sound good? Anyway, lump it or like it, it’s January, it’s a new year and, for many of us, a new start. And if you are still pining for excess, there’s always the January sales. Happy New Year!

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