“It’s the most wonderful time of the year…”
Even the most cynical of us can usually admit that there is at least one thing that we like about Christmas. It may be the presents, or the fact that the diet can go on hold for a week or so. It may be the TV, an enhanced sport schedule or even the fact you’re positively encouraged to play with your phone.
For some people, it’s the Christmas songs. But those songs have a tendency to become bitterly ironic when something goes wrong. And things always do go wrong. There are more people around, more things to do. The weather is likely to be more wet weekend than Winter Wonderland. But if your Christmas is going to be more Jingle Bell Rock than Fairytale of New York*, then you need the right mindset.
(*I mean the arguing in the song. I don’t mean the song itself – it’s a festive classic.)
Bah, Humbug #1: Cooking Mishaps
Who came up with the idea of cooking the most complicated meal of the year on the day you have an audience? Not just that, an audience that’s 30% tipsy and 70% hungry. You need a few helpers on hand, so keep them sweet and keep them sober. The roast itself should be fully defrosted overnight, and enough time set aside to cook the inevitably huge cut you’ve bought.
As things reach their climax, some foods will be roasting; some will be boiling. It’s best to make sure the tension isn’t also simmering. Make a plan beforehand for who’s doing what, when, and stick to it. And if you’re twenty minutes or so late, silence any hecklers by offering to swap places. What are selection boxes for, anyway?
Bah, Humbug #2: Home Maintenance Horrors
Your house is full to capacity, everyone’s washed and dressed up, and all manner of gifts have been opened and used. But what’s that? Maybe it was the first attempt at bread sauce someone poured down the sink. It could have been the eleven showers or the many leaves that have collected outside. Probably it’s a bit of all of them, but you have a blocked drain.
If you can get an emergency plumber out, great. But in case you can’t, make sure you have some drain unblocker around to at least clear it temporarily. There’s going to be a lot of washing up to get through.
Bah, Humbug #3: It’s A Time For Family!
People may have driven in from all over the country – people you haven’t seen for a year or more. But the more people you put into a house, and the more beer that is in those people, the more chance there is of an argument. A few incredulous exchanges about whether Frozen or Tangled is better, fine. But if hurtful stuff starts to be dredged up, a line needs to be drawn.
Appoint a Christmas referee – someone who is easy-going and diplomatic – to defuse the worst of the tension. This is Christmas, and if people have been sharpening grudges for months, now is not the time to bring them out. Make sure everyone that’s invited knows who else is coming. If they can’t stow their disputes for a day, they can have Christmas elsewhere. Your home is not an arena for vendettas.
As long as you can be confident of getting people to pull their weight and keep a jolly mood, you can breathe. A hectic day can give way to a Silent Night.