So what was your excuse this year? You will have had the conversation some time ago.
All across the land, starting around October, there will have been loaded silences, strained smiles, darted looks.
There will have been vicious marital conversations that went:
“I’m not doing it, not again. Last year was a nightmare. I’m sick of it.”
“Okay, don’t do it then.”
“What do you mean don’t do it? You know I have to, no one else is going to.”
No need to tell you which one is the woman in that conversation.
But that’s how it goes as the nation sorts out the big question: “Where Are We Doing Christmas This Year?
And then come the excuses, thick, fast and ever more dramatic. Nothing raises the excuse stakes like the prospect of hosting Christmas for the entire family.
This year, I’ve played a blinder. What I’ve done is, I’ve got the builders in, and then I’ve put a curse on my house and all who enter it, so that everything that could go wrong has gone wrong, and more besides, to make that work last longer than any sane person would believe possible.
During the course of my building work there has been sickness and misfortune.
Our conversations left bricks and mortar behind long ago and now involve phrases like: “It was sudden”.
So that’s me excused Christmas - except I’m not. Not entirely. I’m still doing Christmas Eve, which will involve meat and potato pie for fourteen, eaten among the ruins.
So that’s going to be a challenge but, between you and me, I would have torn the house down with my bare hands if necessary to swerve Christmas Day itself, anything to avoid setting my head on fire again, which is what happened last year. There was a candle, there was hair product and when I leaned over frantically to attend to something there was flame.
That wasn’t the point when I decided I wasn’t doing Christmas anymore. That came when my guests failed to notice me leaving the room with my head smouldering.
Anyway. That’s me.
Others escape Christmas in different ways. My youngest sister downsized to a house where it is impossible for a crowd of more than two to gather. She tantalising holds out the prospect of an extension, but fails to deliver.
My middle sister took a different route, to New Zealand where she has lived for over a decade. Her main motive for this mammoth move, and I know this deep down in my soul so don’t even try to convince me otherwise, was to avoid hosting Christmas.
Some people go for a less drastic but similarly successful solution by removing themselves from the situation temporarily. Usually this is in the form of a cruise, probably because they think that being a moving target makes it even harder for the family to find them. Skiing is a popular choice too, for all the same reasons.
Before the holiday, what usually happens is that there is a gift-and-run day, when the escapees ease their consciences by visiting all the people they won’t be hosting. They leave behind presents and giddy good wishes for the day they won’t be there to endure.
Those who can’t afford to leave the country dive desperately for other options: some people have very small ovens installed, they say it’s because their kitchen is tiny but, please, we all know it’s so they can’t stuff a family-sized turkey in there.
Some people say they are rejecting the obscene consumer-fest that Christmas has become, but what they really mean is that they don’t want to boil sprouts for fifteen, they want to sit in front of the telly and eat chocolate orange in their pyjamas.
Whatever. It all amounts to the same thing. These people are escaping Christmas with their big, fat excuses. If I wasn’t doing my darnedest to be one of them, I would say they were very bad people indeed.