THE most wonderful time of the year? Not for these four women who say that certain aspects of Christmas fill them with fear.

While the pandemic has curtailed much of the Yuletide fun, for these four not being able to mingle as much is a welcome tonic for their festive phobias. From terror-inducing turkeys to scary Santas, Nikki Watkins finds out just what it’s like to ho-ho-hope that Christmas will soon be over.

Louise Smith, 39: ‘Stressed by Santa Claus’

‘Never got over Mum kissing man dressed as him’

LOUISE is scared of Father Christmas after she saw her mummy kissing a man dressed up as Santa Claus, who wasn’t her dad, when she was a child.

The single fitness instructor, from Bethnal Green, East London, says: "In a family tradition set by my parents, my three siblings and I used to hear the sleigh bells outside every Christmas Eve and await Father Christmas.

"I used to jump on my top bunk convinced I would see Santa fly over our estate, and on Christmas morning there was a black sack at the end of the bed with presents inside. One Christmas Eve, when I was about seven, I got up. Dad was in bed fast asleep so I went looking for Mum.

"I peered through the bannisters and saw mum kissing a man dressed up as Santa. I made an involuntary noise and woke up the whole house, and there was a row. That year my parents separated and we never spoke about it again.

"The following Christmas approached and I was hit with huge waves of stress if I ever saw Father Christmas. I never wanted to sit on Santa’s knee in grottos because I hated him. If he was on the telly I switched him off. Even the Coca-Cola advert would set me off.

"Hitting my teens, I began to feel rage when Christmas approached, which I think is a Santa Claus phobia. If I see anyone dressed as him, I have panic attacks.

"To me Santa Claus is creepy and horrific. I have tried psychotherapy, counselling and hypnosis but nothing has worked.

"Nowadays, I tend to travel abroad, away from the commercialism of Christmas. I’m currently in Cyprus."

Poppy Haskell, 28: ‘Phobia of Christmas turkeys’

‘They repulse me, I can’t go to supermarkets at Xmas’

POPPY, from Chichester, West Sussex, has a phobia of Christmas turkeys. It started when a cousin played with a raw, plucked bird in front of her when she was a teen. The youth mentor and ex- model, who is in a relationship, says:

"I became vegetarian when I was 14. I had always been an animal lover and never liked the idea of animals being killed and eaten. But things got more serious when I was about 15. I remember my cousin Aaron, who was then 41, cooking Christmas dinner.

"He stuffed the turkey in front of me and before putting it in the oven, played around with it, making it dance on the table. The whole scene just repulsed me and put me off turkey for good. I found it disrespectful. I ran out of the room crying and everyone was telling me to calm down and not ruin Christmas Day.

"But it was just something I felt really strongly about. I haven’t touched a piece of meat since that day, but turkey physically repulses me. I can’t go into supermarkets at this time of year, there are just too many turkeys around.

"I will offer to make a dessert as I can go down those aisles without having to look at all the raw meat. Turkey has a really strong smell too, I find it overwhelming.

"My dad usually has all the family over for the big day, but he got annoyed with me last year as I was trying to convince everyone to have a Quorn log or nut roast instead of the traditional turkey.

"I’ve joked a lot this year that if we do have to socially distance, that would be perfect for me. No one eating turkey will be able to get too close while I’m enjoying my dinner.

"I can’t wait until I have my own family as I’ll be able to stay at home and cook what I want. We’ll definitely be having a turkey-free meal."

Gina Ogden, 20: ‘Frightened of The Elf on the Shelf’

‘Seeing one sends shivers down my spine’

GINA has a phobia about the Elf on the Shelf after her parents put one in the house when she was younger. Gina, who is studying media make-up and lives in Oakworth, West Yorks, says:

"I absolutely love Christmas and I’m definitely no grinch, but I have a real phobia about Elf on the Shelf. My parents had one in the house when I was younger and the idea is that they move around the house when you are not looking, messing things up and being naughty.

"I found the idea of them creeping about quite scary. Essentially, they are sent to spy on you – why on earth would anyone like that? The fear deepened as I got older.

"I watched some horror films with clowns in and became petrified of those. The elf toys remind me of clowns. I hate the idea of toys that come alive and would picture them moving around while I was in bed. They are very disturbing.

"I try my best to avoid elf toys altogether, but it’s very hard at Christmas. They have become so popular. I hate turning up at a friend’s place and seeing one staring at me.

"I ask them to take it down. People laugh at me and I try to play along, but this is a genuine fear. I always feel like they are watching me.

"If I spot one in a shop, I will have to walk down a different aisle.

"I know it’s just a toy but just seeing one sends shivers down my spine."

Charmaine MacFarlane, 40: ‘Freaked out by Xmas decs’

‘They make me feel incredibly claustrophobic’

BEAUTY student Charmaine is freaked out by all the Christmas trimmings as they make her feel claustrophobic. The single mum of Beau, 12, and Lachlan, nine, lives in Arbroath, Angus. She says:

"I used to really love Christmas. I was completely into all the decorations. But over the last few years I’ve fallen out of love with them. They make me feel claustrophobic and like the house is dirty.

"I’ve had anxiety issues in the past and while I’ve never been diagnosed with anything compulsive, I feel like the house is closing in on me the second all the seasonal ornaments go up.

"And I really don’t like the threat of it causing me anxiety. I still put things up for the boys to enjoy, but I can’t wait to take them down and don’t even wait until January to get them removed. I’m a single mum juggling college, so life is busy, but I always feel like I’m in control of things when I have a clean house and tidy work surfaces.

"It’s a bit of the “tidy house, tidy mind” thing, so when all the baubles go up, I start feeling like things are getting dirty and I’m not in control. I feel like grime could be gathering under the decorations too.

"I love a movie night with the boys but when we cuddle up on the sofa I’m distracted by the Christmas clutter and can’t wait to get into the clean space of my bedroom.

"I don’t let the boys know how I’m feeling – as far as they’re concerned, I love the festive look just as much as they do. But I find myself spending more time out of the house, exercising or walking before Christmas, just so I don’t have to sit among the decorations."

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