UH-OH! It’s too late now! That eighty quid train to Exeter St Davids is booked, those mini sausage rolls and two cans of gin and tonic are stuffed in among the presents, and you’re on the platform waiting for the train back to RURAL AND/OR SUBURBAN FESTIVE HELL.
A world where people can drive actual cars, own actual houses with gardens, and care about things like “getting fresh air” and “having breakfast” and “coasters”. So weird.
They’re a right strange bunch once you get outside Zone 4! People who think watching I’m A Celebrity is more important than meeting actual celebrities. You know, some of them aren’t sure whether Germany is in Europe. One of them said that on Come Dine With Me.
So how do you navigate this socio-political minefield? Well, it’s lucky you’ve got us with another of our handy guides! Surviving Christmas with the family. Obviously everyone’s family is different. For hyperbole’s sake, we’ve just imagined that yours is an absolute nightmare. So here we go.
Don’t respond to jibes about weight or your general physical appearance
It’s not worth it! Just change the subject to something innocuous. The natural instinct is to give a rebuttal, and lay criticism on someone else. If you HAVE to call someone fat, call the dog fat – it can’t understand you. If you call your mum fat, everyone will gasp and she’ll run upstairs crying (even though she thought it was perfectly acceptable to call YOU fat two seconds ago).
Do not, under any circumstances, engage in a game of Monopoly
We can’t stress this enough. It goes into our little book of UNIGNORABLE Christmas rules, along with NEVER GO TO WINTER WONDERLAND. Monopoly only ends in tears. Someone always gets accused of stealing money, then it descends into an argument about morality, and before you know it Uncle Hector has just confessed that he had an affair with the woman who worked at the Post Office in 1972. Not what you want.
Don’t do that whole “awful Christmas jumper” thing
Not because it’ll necessarily lead to conflict or animosity, just because it’s crap. Yes, yes, we’ve all seen Colin Firth looking endearing in a horrible reindeer garment in Bridget Jones’s Diary, and then they did the awful Christmas jumper “joke” again in that romcom The Holiday with Cameron Diaz. Oh, haha, she’s being forced to wear an awful Christmas jumper, so HILARIOUS. Get a life and a sense of humour.
Don’t kick up a fuss about brussel sprouts
They’re actually really not that bad. It’s just tasteless pulp. But it’s one of those things that’s a conflict-causing Christmas staple. There’s always a CONVERSATION about sprouts isn’t there. Usually, most people don’t really like them, and then someone, the “edgy” one, maybe Anita who moved to Hackney and works in PR, pipes up about how they’ve actually got health benefits and blah, blah, blah. Look, they’re not awful and they’re not lovely. They’re totally uneventful. Just slather it in gravy and mayo and fucking eat it.
Don’t log in to Grindr during a bored moment
TEMPTING isn’t it! Who will be around?! That closeted Verger who groped you during Christingle in 2001? The old homophobic bully from your secondary school? Your cousin Mike who you’ve always fancied a bit even though he’s your cousin? Don’t do it! If a closeted member of your family is online it’ll be massively awkward. But the most likely outcome is that the closest person will be a balding farmer twenty miles away. And that’s just bleak.
Don’t give the kids book tokens
Remember that sinking feeling when you opened a card as a kid and it was a fucking book token. Don’t get us wrong, we think books are great, and we hate how fewer people are reading these days. But Christmas is not the time. People want fun stuff for Christmas. If there are kids below the age of twelve in the family, get them something LOUD and COLOURFUL. An animatronic t-rex, perhaps. It’ll be annoying for the parents, but it’s their own fault for having kids in the first place really.
Do not TOUCH the Christmas tree
If it falls over, or if a bauble smashes, you’ll be the one who gets the blame. Even if you’re nowhere near the tree, if you were SEEN to be touching it, AT SOME POINT, everyone will blame it on you. That priceless and insultingly fragile gold bauble that’s been in the family for a hundred years is now in a million pieces crunched into the carpet and it’s ALL. YOUR. FAULT.
Be very, very careful about film choices
If the whole family decides to sit down to watch a film, DON’T let the older members pick. They can’t be trusted. They’d probably pick Tipping The Velvet, thinking it was an innocent romcom about upholstery. WRONG. Don’t pick anything with sex. Because of our fucked up, shame-ridden culture, explicit violence would actually not cause awkwardness at all. Apparently we find blowjobs way more awkward than people’s heads getting blown off. But violence isn’t very CHRISTMASSY is it. Harry Potter. A safe bet every time. The third one is the best one.
Accept mild homophobia and microaggressions
The one time of the year where we’d encourage this. There’s just no point. If one of the teenagers says “that’s so gay” or if Granny gives a sharp intake of breath at two men kissing on a Tesco advert, just LET IT GO. You can pull them up on it at a later date, but Christmas, when everyone’s drunk and strung out, is not the time. But DO confront explicit homophobia. Like if someone says gays need to be shot, scream and shout at them and, if needs be, storm out of the house and all the way back to London.
Accept that a lot of your family just don’t ‘get’ Mariah Carey
Sure, they’ll know All I Want For Christmas Is You, but they won’t properly understand the iconicness of Mariah, because most of them don’t pay attention to pop culture beyond watching Alesha Dixon on Strictly Come Dancing. But just breathe. Relax. Accept it. And quash your real feelings. That’s what Christmas is all about!