Despite it being the season of good will to all men, some strange things end up defining Christmas. Shaky karaoke renditions of Mariah Carey, incomplete card lists, and the nagging feeling that the turkey you’ve just ordered won’t fit in the oven, for example.
Here, we outline the 12 magical moments that make Christmas more tense than they need to be – but also a whole lot more funny.
1. Seeing your ex
The recent pictures of Pippa Middleton meeting her ex boyfriend James Matthews outside a carol concert should show us all that the dreaded encounter doesn’t need to be that uncomfortable. While your former partner might not be the number one person you want to spend time with right now, it’s always good to grin and bear it, especially at Christmas. And if they say anything truly hideous then you’ve got a great anecdote for your friends right there.
2. That terrible Secret Santa present
Is there anything quite so offensive as the terrible Secret Santa gift? Is there anything that makes your more paranoid? ‘Have I,’ you think, ‘really been misrepresenting myself to the people around me for so long?’. Upon unwrapping a bottle of de-icer for a car (you don’t drive) it’s when you are most reminded that those eight hours a day you spend in the office don’t amount to quality time.
3. Having to wear something stupid
This normally coincides with point 1. Everyone’s being shoved into thick synthetic jumpers with a saucy reindeer on it, or being cajoled into wearing antlers, and suddenly you’re locking eyes with an old flame. There’s no way to handle the situation apart from pretending that you’re too busy having fun to care and then being privately mortified for the rest of your life.
4. The office party
Bringing together points 1, 2 and 3 into a majestic harmony. The only well-worn advice is that you should probably alternate flutes of prosecco with flutes of fizzy water so the Fun Police won’t accuse you of bringing the mood down, and you’ll get to go home with your dignity intact. Well, intact apart from the Christmas jumper but there’s really nothing that can be done about that at this stage.
5. Buying the wrong present
A tough one to navigate. But it’s best not to beat yourself up about it – there is just so much stuff to do at this time of year that it’s impossible to do it all right. People who matter won’t mind.
6. Mixing families
You love your family and you also love your paretner’s family, but do they love each other? If the answer is ‘no’, it can make for a tough lunch, but there is always some comedy potential to be found, no matter how dire the situation. Best things to do are sit them far apart, visualise your house when all the relatives have cleared out, and pat yourself on the back for being such a generous host.
7. The surprise vegetarian
Your nephew’s bought his new girlfriend, and of course they don’t want turkey. Or pigs-in-blankets. Or the stuffing. Or the goose-fat-cooked potatoes. Or the sprouts with pancetta. Sigh. But this is yet another test of your Royal Family-like graciousness in a poor situation. Which translates into giving them as much bread and cheese as you can and giving an apologetic hug. They will definitely understand.
8. When board games go wrong
People forming ‘mergers’ during Monopoly. One of the kids taking a loss in Hungry Hungry Hippos very hard. A game of poker ending up in warfare. Anybody who takes games too seriously should not be allowed to play them, and as punishment for throwing a wobbly should be made to eat all of their worst flavour of Quality Street.
9. Forgetting to send that Christmas card
December 22, you’re opening the envelope, see the name signed at the bottom and freeze. You didn’t send them one, did you? And now the last post has gone and it’s way too late, isn’t it? Take solace in the fact that very few people really care for more than a day or two – and that’s if they do care in the first place.
10. Kids gone wild
Light sabres, kids, and especially fragile Christmas baubles is a brave combination. If you brought this heady mix into your home, we can only congratulate you and suggest that you go plastic next year. Nobody will ever notice.