The season of goodwill can be stressful—but if you add a stranger to the mix and tune out the consumerist clamour, it can be, well, okayby Hephzibah Anderson / November 12, 2018 / Leave a comment
Depending on your experience, “family” and “Christmas” go together like tawny port and stilton or Buck’s Fizz and the hangover from hell. If it’s the latter, you’re in good company. Type those two words into your browser, and along with endless invitations to buy stuff, top billing goes to survival guides. According to the Google bots, the season of peace and goodwill is best summed up by strain, anxiety and bad feeling.
And how could it be otherwise? Twin the world’s greatest consumer fest with saccharine images of family perfection—something money can’t buy, not least because it doesn’t exist—wrap it up in layers of expectation, expense and complicated travel arrangements… Well, it’s no wonder folk get snappish.
Tips on making it through include hitting the bottle (or else avoiding booze entirely), stepping outside for a bit (a Captain Oates-length stretch might do the trick), and delegating, since guests want to feel useful (they do?).
You could hide away in a corner and immerse yourself in calming cat pictures on Instagram. You should definitely make sure you have a good book to hand—The Corrections, say, in which you’ll encounter a festive gathering that’s hard to rival for sheer dysfunction. You might even consider sitting this one out and volunteering for a charity instead.
Relate, the relationship counselling organisation for whom Christmas must surely signal boomtime, issues its own tips, including staving off boredom-induced bickering with board games or a film. I don’t know about your family, but in mine, introducing a competitive pursuit or trying to find something everyone can agree to watch would only fan the flames.
The irony is that we’re Jewish. Even so, Christmas is almost impossible to avoid, especially if, like me, you grew up in rural East Anglia, more than 100 miles from a kosher bagel. And never mind those vast summer skies; come December, Norfolk’s muddy plains and Siberian gusts are enough to drive a person into the arms of any and all winter festivals. So we had presents—mostly homemade, since there was never much money—and turkey, at least until I discovered vegetarianism and insisted on nut roast. I even sang Christmas carols in the school choir.
When I was a teenager we moved to London, from where we’d journey out to Hertfordshire for Christmas Day…