The festive season is upon us. That means that from now until January, you’ll be hard pushed to turn a corner without being offered a glass of mulled wine, or a snog. Brass bands playing yuletide favourites will echo through the wind. Snowflakes will fall gently on the floors of shopping centres, while people hurtle about going increasingly berserk in the hunt for ideal gifts. Love will blossom, hearts will break, babies will be made, divorce papers will be served with the turkey. Meanwhile, amidst the chaos, there will be you. Christmassing the hell out of this thing, doing Christmas to the max.
Get the weird drinks in
For many families, Christmas is all about tucking into a conveyor belt of strange concoctions that wouldn’t normally feature on your evening’s entertainment – fortified wines, double shots, old ladies’ drinks like sherry.
At some point around mid-December you’ll probably start mulling bottles of red wine too, on a hob with cloves and orange peel like you’re a medieval witch. Then Christmas Day comes along, and you’ve got champagne and orange juice going before breakfast, then next thing you know you’ve unwittingly knocked back ten goblets of moonshine while arguing about politics with an elderly aunt/Brexity sibling/youngest nephew.
Yes, it truly is the most slap-dash time for alcohol-consumption…one which starts around the end of November and ends abruptly in January when your clothes smell of Aftershock, you’ve forgotten your own name, and you decide to completely change your lifestyle. For a month/two weeks.
Embrace the soundtrack
There’s a point in the run up to the big day when Noddy Holder’s nerve shredding “IT’S CHRISTMAS!” is almost too much to bear. It’s like nails dragging down a chalkboard, the ensuing sing-along morphing into the soundtrack to your impending nervous breakdown.
But really, that’s what Christmas is all about. It’s not just presents, and Santas, and giving and receiving, it’s a Tough Mudder for the soul. An endurance test to see how much saccharine seasonal pop your ears can handle before you crave Shane McGowan slurring incoherently from behind a wheelie bin – the true embodiment of Christmas.
Make your house look insane
We’ve come a long way from coat hangers wrapped in tinsel and wreaths of holly on the front door. Now you’ll find entire streets done up like Blackpool pleasure beach, with their houses decorated with zany light shows, and funny inflatable Santas pretending to be stuck on the roof.
Now, some people (cruel people) might argue that the wattage of your home is inversely proportional to the wattage of your brain, but not here, we don’t think that at all – we believe that if you peered through the window of one of these illuminated Christmas houses, you’d almost definitely find a family of intellectuals inside playing Scrabble.
Dine on “concept sandwiches”
Ask anyone and they’ll tell you, the best bit about Christmas dinner is the leftovers – cold meats, roasted veg, sprouts you can chuck over a fence – so really, the “Christmas” concept sandwich was always a lightbulb moment waiting to happen. Slices of turkey, chunks of stuffing, a lonely teardrop of cranberry sauce on a malted brown loaf. Then sausages wrapped in bacon, bread sauce – but in a bap. Generally speaking, by the time you get to the actual Christmas leftovers, the average office worker has enjoyed at least seven of these already. There’s even a vegan option. Most likely.
Keep up the Santa ruse
The festive season is so many things – not least a bumper harvest for rotund men who spend the rest of the year stoically ignoring government health guidelines.s Jolly men dressed as Santa with elastic waistlines, evoking the spirit of the 4th Century Turkish bishop St Nicholas, while their faces somehow tick off every shade and hue on the spectrum of the colour red. You’ll find them in shopping centres and random grottos, or turning up to class to kindly share the gift of creepy-lookingness with your kids.
Wear a silly jumper
Now seen as a tradition that stretches through the ages, the truth is that Christmas jumpers were never really a thing. There was a sitcom trope that your mother-in-law might knit you something humbling to wear when you’re with the family, but this notion that we celebrate gaudy displays of tackiness every year surely emerged from an opportunistic marketing brain somewhere, and somehow stuck.
Whatever the case, it’s unavoidable, so from around late-Nov onwards these appalling wardrobe decisions start to appear, at first in your peripheral vision, before flocking towards you like a swarm of bad-taste peacocks showing off their plumage. Friends and colleagues, sometimes even family members, will sport these things as if somehow having a bad jumper on means you’ve got a winning personality. And, truthfully, you can only hold out for so long before it gets you too. Before you’re strutting down the office slow motion high giving and laughing hysterically, all because there’s a funny snowman with a protruding carrot nose on your jumper. Don’t fight it.
Go carol singing
In life, there are three reasons to fear a knock at the front door. One is if you’ve wronged someone – be it debt collector, an angry boyfriend, the leader of the local mafia. The second is because it’s Halloween and groups of local youths are hunting for sweets and chocolate bars, and they expect you to furnish them with what they want (or you’ll get it). And the third is the excruciating tension of knowing there’s a festive Glee club outside waiting to sing Silent Night at you while you stand there with a rictus grin waiting for the world to eat you up.
But here’s how to remedy this: join them. Get out there, out of the house, and like Walter White in Breaking Bad, be the one who knocks. You are the danger.
Binge on telly
How we watch telly has been utterly transformed over the past decade. Yes, Christmas has always involved an indecent amount of screen time, but now we have the technology to really test our bingeing limits. No longer slaves to the schedules, this is the time to make a dent in that seminal show you’ve always been meaning to watch, so you can finally get involved in conversations about it at work. The Sopranos, Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad…with enough commitment you could polish one off in the strange perineum that exists between Christmas Day and New Year.
Some people mourn the loss of the communal telly watching that went on before streaming services came along. “It’s not Christmas unless we’ve gathered around to watch someone die on Eastenders”, they say. But, really, it’s the perfect excuse to put some headphones on and ignore your family. Bliss.
Survive/enjoy the office Christmas party
Tis the season of parties that go on forever, as you move from one cup of hot spicy wine to another, cornered by chatty neighbours, or distant relatives, or colleagues at the annual high wire act of the work Christmas party – by far the most daunting night on the social calendar. The one unavoidable evening in which the planets of “business” and “pleasure” – or more realistically, of “work” and “heavy drinking” – collide. A mine field of free booze, which will either fuel your bonhomie, or stoke the coals of embittered rage.
Stay for long enough and you’ll find a heady mix of faux lesbian dance moves, executives puking through their hands, and at least one “happily married” employee snogging someone from the post room up against a wall. It’s all about damage limitation, but once you realise it’s not the best time to instigate debates with people whose ability to process basic information vanished an hour ago, you’ll have a great time.
Go big on food
Christmas may be the most wonderful time of the year but that doesn’t stop many of us treating it like the apocalypse, stocking up on enough food to keep a family going through an eternal nuclear winter. Funny thing is the shops are only shut for two days. Two days! And yet we’ll still pick up that sixth loaf of bread, just in case, and go to war over the last tub of gravy granules.
Wander into the kitchen and you’ll find irksome family members passive-aggressively chopping vegetables, endless debates about the correct way to eat sprouts (which, for clarity, is not at all). Numerous different sauces, from bread, to cranberry, to gravy. And mountains of lesser-seen items, like parsnips – once used in hilarious Elizabethan mimes to represent peasant penises or witch’s noses (probably). And best of all, sausages wrapped in bacon – all the best bits of a full English in one bite.
Get a gigantic tree
Every year it’s the same. A solemn promise to buy a modest tree. But then you get to the pop-up tree shop, and head straight for the tall bushy monster in the corner. It’s just so alluring, and face it, it’ll look amazing by the bay window, all shiny and bigger than the neighbour’s pathetic family offering.
Before you know it you’re squeezing the mighty conifer through the front door, reassuring family members “it’ll be fine, I can lop the top off”. Yet somehow despite its heft, even a simple household cat could fell it by playing with a low-level bauble. And each year, as the clock ticks towards New Year’s Eve the mighty oak (metaphorically speaking) becomes an increasingly morbid presence, weakening by the day, every touch sending a shower of pine needles to the floor. Or just bundled out of the front door and onto the street after a few too many sherries. Still, you know, don’t let that put you off.
Words by Josh Burt and Chris Windle