Christmas, as well as being a time for rejoicing, for celebrating, for four- and even five-bird roasts, is also a time for remembering.
Especially, in our family’s case, for remembering where you put the Christmas lights last year when you packed them away so neatly and tidily in a labelled box up in the loft.
In the intervening months, through some supernatural force that only inhabits the upper storeys of family homes, that box has somehow got mislabelled. And your task is to find it, or Christmas won’t be Christmas chez Dixon.
So, after a neck-twisting, knee-piercing, elbow-scraping scramble through the outer recesses of the attic, you retrieve three boxes.
The first looks quite promising. It has “Xmas Stuff” scrawled on top in thick red felt pen, but when you delve inside all you find is a couple of baubles and the kids’ old soft toys.
The second box is tagged “Miscellaneous”, and is most definitely not the one you’re looking for, containing as it does embarrassing pictures of yourself when you were 20 and didn’t know any better, which must remain hidden from the rest of the family at all costs.
The third box is labelled “Bank Statements 1995-7”, and deep within – Gloria in Excelcis! – are the Dixon festive illuminations.
Ignoring the protests from your maltreated joints, you stagger downstairs and proudly present your spoils. “That’s funny,” says Mrs D. “What’s happened to the ones we hung over the mantelpiece last year?”
After a brief but vain struggle to recall what they even looked like, let alone where they might be, you offer manfully to put up the special weatherproof strand that traditionally garlands the spindly shrub by the front door.
But the malevolent force that switched round the labels on the boxes has another trick up its sleeve.
Some time last summer it must have got hungry, because it has chewed through one of the wires, with the result that only about half of the lights actually come on, and those that do work don’t twinkle, pulse, glimmer or throb, but simply flicker despondently.
Two solutions spring to mind. The first involves a soldering iron and a lot of swearing; the second a trip to Homebase and a lot of money.
Not wishing to sully the air with expletives, you pile into the car. Everyone else comes along too. Ostensibly just for the ride, but more likely to make sure yours truly buys the right sort. And there, amid a festive electronic menagerie of warbling penguins, gurning bears and flatulent reindeer, you find a replacement.
On the way home, you can’t help but notice the house down the road. Snow-effect illuminations tumble from every windowsill. Santa’s sleigh has landed on the garage roof and is strobing fit to bust. The tree in the front garden is wreathed from trunk to crown with a thick rope of incandescent finery that must have needed a crane to put up, and puts your low-wattage LEDs to utter shame.
Somewhere in your head, a switch goes off.