We’re here then. Tired, emotional, stressed, frazzled - but we have made it.
We are lighter in the pocket, heavier on the scales but, hey, we’re still standing.
There’s just The Big One to negotiate. Sometimes after the rollicking ride that is December, Christmas Day can feel like an anti-climax, but it shouldn’t be that way.
Here are my dos and don’ts to make it special.
Do: Have a drink at a much earlier point in the day than you would normally consider seemly. Breakfast is a good place to start. Unless you have children who need their Weetabix very, very early. Personally I don’t recommend alcohol before 6am unless you are continuing the night before - but any time after that, go for it.
Don’t: On the other hand, peak too soon. A Buck’s Fizz is a spiffing way to begin the day. But if you drink yourself to a point where you are incapable of peeling your potatoes, or opening your bag of prawns without slicing yourself open at the same time, it’s all going to go downhill. I have spent Christmas Day afternoon in A and E, and although it’s a bit more festive than usual, it’s still not a lot of fun.
Do: Wear your Christmas jumper. Or Antlers. Or hat. Or bauble earrings. No, they’re not stylish, yes a festive knit does nothing for your silhouette but what the heck? It’s Christmas. And speaking as someone to whom only tinsel was available as a seasonal adornment during the teenage years - the ‘70s were austere times - I am forever grateful for that wonderful thing the cheap and cheerful Rudolph jumper.
Don’t: Forget the parsnips, not once you have gone to all the trouble of cooking them. One year, I found the parsnips in A Safe Place the day after Boxing Day. They had gone a bit cold by then. So my advice for parsnips and, likewise, carrots, sprouts, red cabbage, whatever, is this: always check behind the doors for stray veg before you sit down to eat.
Do: Play games. Sometimes it can feel easier not to. There’s the washing up, there’s the rounding everybody up, there’s the explaining the rules, there’s the deafness and there’s the desire not to make a fool of yourself. If the latter applies, have another drink. Then get playing.
Don’t: Be a martyr. It’s easy to fall into this trap - you are speaking to an expert. Sometimes it feels easier to just Do It All Yourself. You can walk around pale and silent, cleaning and organising and casting secret and murderous glances at that lump in the corner who hasn’t lifted a finger in six hours ...but don’t. Tear up bits of paper, write a job on each of them, get your guests to pick one out. They will feel better for being involved ...is my take on the situation.
Do: remember to breathe. I once had a colleague who confessed to losing weight over Christmas. Now that’s admirable, but not normal. Turns out Christmas with her four children kept her so busy she barely breathed never mind sat down. I’m saying, remember to breathe, people. Stop. Inhale the scent of your Christmas candle. You will be no good to anyone if you drop dead between the turkey and the tree.
Don’t: set yourself on fire. Or any of your guests. I mention it because the opportunities to do so are many and varied. I have discovered most of them. I have set my self on fire leaning over the cooker to attend to the sprouts, I have set the table on fire with low-lying tea lights next to paper decorations, I have scorched the underside of shelves with tall candles. I have learned my lesson and am now very careful. My advice to you, above all, is this: never mix a fluffy jumper with naked flame.
Do: remember to enjoy it. It’s worth it. Exhausting, but definitely worth it .