There are presents to buy, cards to write, relations to invite and turkeys to be bought.
But let's be honest here - it'll be women who are doing most of the shopping and organising in the hectic days up to Christmas.Why? Because for some reason, most men just don't seem to be able to 'do' Christmas. They buy their presents as the stores are closing on Christmas Eve - then leave them under the tree in their carrier bags.Ask a man to pop out for brussels sprouts and cranberry sauce and it's almost guaranteed that he'll come back with a singing Santa and a Terry's chocolate orange instead.And if you're hoping for a romantic gift? Well don't. Let's just say you're more likely to find a new vacuum cleaner or a foot spa under the tree from your beloved than diamonds or a weekend in Paris. Yes, Christmas can be an incredibly pressurised and stressful time, particularly for couples, who, despite it being the season of goodwill, often find themselves falling out a lot more than usual.But according to best-selling Australian self-help gurus Allan and Barbara Pease, authors of Why He's So Last-Minute & She's Got It All Wrapped Up, it needn't be so.They claim that with a little understanding of the unique ways male and female brains work, we can all learn to live with - and benefit from - our different approaches to the festive season.Why Men Leave Their Christmas Shopping To The Very Last MinuteShopping is most men's least favourite occupation. That's part of the reason they leave buying Christmas presents to the very last minute (or, better still, get their partners to do it for them).It's also why, when men go clothes shopping, they buy enough to last for the next nine years.
British psychologist Dr David Lewis found the stress men experience while Christmas shopping ranks level with that felt by a police officer dealing with an angry mob.For most women, on the other hand, shopping - even Christmas shopping - is a much-loved form of stress relief, provided they have enough time.The reasons for these two completely different attitudes lie in the different ways men and women have evolved over the centuries.As a hunter, ancient man liked to make a quick kill then go home - and today, that's exactly how men like to shop. They know who they have to buy presents for, they probably have a vague idea of what to get, and they go out and buy all the presents in one go.No agonising over whether Auntie Gladys will like that scarf, no deliberating over how much to spend on little James. If they possibly can, they also get the presents wrapped at the store. Problem solved.Women, on the other hand, shop the same way as their ancient ancestors would gather food: heading off for the day with a group of other women to a place where someone remembered seeing some tasty things growing.Women tend to start Christmas shopping much earlier than men, and it's not uncommon for some women to start next year's shopping in this year's Christmas sales - storing up bargains as they would have squirrelled away seasonal foods in prehistoric times.Often women don't know exactly what they are looking for, or even which people they are going to buy for.As long as they know they have plenty of time, they are happy to spend the day wandering from place to place with a friend, squeezing, smelling and tasting all the interesting things they can find, at the same time chatting to each other on a range of unrelated topics.
This is because, historically, women would go out in groups to gather and pick fruit. If nothing was available or ready for picking and they returned home at the end of the day with little to show for their efforts, then so be it.For men, this is an inconceivable concept. For a man to go out for the day with a group of other men with no clear destination, no clear goals, objectives or time limits and to return home emptyhanded would class him as a failure.To men, doing all your Christmas shopping at the last minute in one go is resourceful. There simply isn't time to deliberate - he has to buy 25 Christmas presents in the next hour, so he gets what's available in the time available and leaves.Why Women Are Good At Wrapping Presents - And Men Aren't
Anyone who believes that men are the equal of women has never seen a man trying to wrap a Christmas present.Most men see wrapping presents as a fruitless exercise. A present is a present whether it's tied up with a bow or not. To them, it is pointless covering something in paper when you're just going to rip it off.A woman on the other hand likes to see that the giver has taken care and attention in wrapping her gift. To her mind, it is a display of love and affection to see that a present has been wrapped thoughtfully.But there is a scientific reason why men don't like wrapping presents. Men and women's eyes are constructed differently. Men suffer greater eyestrain than women because, as hunters, their eyes are genetically configured for long distances - for scanning the horizon for the next kill.As a gatherer and nurturer, a woman's eyes are better suited for close-range activites, making it easier for her to work on the fine detail.Being dextrous would also have been an advantage to the process of gathering fruit and berries as it gives twice the speed, so women have evolved to be more quick fingered and more likely to be ambidextrous than men, which means the average woman is excellent at tying bows and wrapping fiddly presents.
What's more, when it comes to choosing ribbons and wrapping paper, women's eyes are better at putting colours together than men. The retina contains about 130 million cells to deal with black and white, and seven million to handle colour.The X chromosome in our DNA provides these colour cells and while men have only one X chromosome, women have two, which gives them greater variety.This difference is noticeable in how women describe colours in greater detail. A man will use basic colour descriptions like red, blue and green, but a woman will talk of aqua, teal, mauve and apple green.Why Men Can't Find Sellotape, Scissors And Anything Else They NeedMost woman have had the following conversation with a male who is standing in front of an open fridge:David: "Where's the brandy butter?"Jan: "It's in the fridge."David: "I'm looking there, but I can't see any brandy butter."Jan: "Well, it's there. I put it in ten minutes ago!"David: "No. You must have moved it. There's definitely no brandy butter in this fridge!"
At that, Jan strides into the kitchen, thrusts her arm into the fridge and, as if by magic, produces the brandy butter.
Men sometimes feel that this is a trick and accuse women of always hiding things from them in drawers and cupboards.At Christmas, the list of things that men 'can't find' is seemingly endless - they can't find the Sellotape, or the scissors, or the ribbon, and, now they think about it, they're not really sure where the presents have got to either.They're all there, they just can't see them. Men don't just say this to cause a festive feud - there is actually a scientific reason why they can't find things.As a nest-defender, a woman has brain software that allows her to have an arc of at least 45 degrees clear vision to each side of her head and above and below her nose. This was needed to keep an eye out for potential predators.A man's eyes are larger than a woman's and his brain configures them for a type of long-distance tunnel vision, which means that he can see clearly and accurately directly in front of him and over greater distances, almost like a pair of binoculars - useful in times gone by for tracking down prey, but not so helpful when it comes to finding things in cupboards.The female hormone oestrogen also prompts nerve cells to grow more connections in the brain and makes it easier for a woman to identify matching items in a drawer, cupboard or across a room and later remember objects in a complex random pattern - such as where the ribbon is in relation to the Sellotape in the cupboard.New research suggests that male brains are usually searching for the word to go with an item, so if the tub is facing the wrong way and he cannot read the label, he virtually can't see it.
This is why men move their heads from side to side and up and down as they scan for a 'missing' object.Why Men Buy Women Foot Spas As PresentsTo men, present-giving is another opportunity to help solve problems and give solutions. That's why functional, 'useful' gifts such as foot spas, vaacums and kitchen appliances are so commonly given as gifts to women by men.
To appreciate why a man insists on giving solutions to every little thing, there are several things that need to be understood about the way the male brain works.Evolving as hunters, their main contribution to the survival of the human race was the ability to hit a moving target so everyone could eat.Men measure their own success by results, accomplishments and their ability to come up with solutions to problems. Therefore, men will usually buy women something they think will solve a problem and be useful.A woman wants a man to buy her an 'emotional' present, something personal, possibly something romantic. It's not that men don't like romance, it's just that they don't understand its importance to women.
Advice For Men - Why Shoes Are The Ultimate GiftIf a man is serious about buying his female partner a gift she'll love this Christmas, maybe he should consider buying her shoes.Shoes aren't something most men would think of giving as a present, but research shows that whether it's moccasins or sandals, women everywhere are shoe-obsessed. For example: on average, female Inuit (Eskimos) own four pairs of snow shoes to every one pair their male counterpart owns. In the Philippines, studies revealed that women own 12 pairs of shoes to every pair owned by a man.Clothes often disappoint women because most things won't fit, they look bad or highlight a woman's liabilities. But shoes don't fall into those categories because women don't have to diet to fit into them.Women are as obsessed with shoes as men are with sports. So if you want to be a big hit this Christmas, take her shoe shopping and make a secret note of the brands, size and colours she likes - then secretly return to the store, and buy them as her Christmas gift.Buying a woman shoes can have other benefits, too. Women unashamedly point, stare and comment on a great pair of shoes. It's a normal part of the female psyche.That means that once her friends hear that you bought her shoes for Christmas you'll not only become the girl-talk of the town, your love life will dramatically improve, too.Why Men Can't Write Christmas Cards And Watch TV At The Same TimeWomen are experts at multi-tasking. A woman can be writing a Christmas card list while making mince pies and asking her husband to test the Christmas tree lights are working.She can have a phone conversation while decorating the tree. Most women can do several unrelated things at the same time, and brain scans reveal a woman's brain is never disengaged, it's always active - even when she is asleep.
Men, on the other hand, find multitasking extremely difficult. If a woman asks a man to write Christmas cards while watching TV, he will find it very challenging. If she didn't turn the TV off when she was asking him, he probably won't even have heard her!In order to understand why this is, we need to look at how the brain works. The left and right brain hemispheres are connected by a bundle of nerve fibres called the corpus callosum. This cable lets both sides of the brain communicate and exchange information.Neurologist Roger Gorski of the University of California at Los Angeles confirmed that a woman's brain has a corpus callosum that is 10per cent thicker than a man's, and has up to 30 per cent more connections between the left and right hemispheres of the brain.He also proved that men and women use different parts of the brain when working on the same task. This, and other research agrees that men's brains are compartmentalised.A male brain is configured to concentrate on one specific, dedicated task at once, giving him a 'one thing at a time' approach.A woman's brain is configured for doing several unrelated things at the same time. To get a man to help you out over Christmas - present him with just one clear idea at a time. Don't ask him to pick up a Christmas present for your daughter in the middle of a conversation about what you're going to do for New Year's Eve.Choose your timing carefully - and ask him to do just one task.
Essentially, Christmas is so hard on relationships because it highlights the differences between men and women more than any other time of year. As Allan and Barbara Pease say: 'Men and women have evolved very differently because they've had to. Women evolved as child-bearers and nest-defenders, and as a result, the modern female brain is hard wired to nurture, nourish, love and care."Men evolved with a completely different job description - they were hunters, chasers, protectors, providers and problem solvers."And so, over time, the brain structures of men and women have continued to change in different ways. We think differently, believe different things and have different perceptions, priorities and behaviours."To pretend otherwise the Peases claim is a recipe for heartache, confusion and disillusionment - especially where Christmas is concerned.It's all a matter of learning to accept our loved ones as they are and not expecting them to be like us.Because - as the Peases painstakingly explain - they're not.In fact, just about the only thing men and women have in common is that they belong to the same species.• Extracted from Why He's So Last Minute & She's Got It All Wrapped Up, by Allan and Barbara Pease, published by Orion at £6.99. Allan and Barbara Pease 2007. To order a copy (p&p free), call 0845 606 4206.