Christmas is always advertised as a magical family-oriented holiday period, where goodwill and gluttony reign supreme in equal measure. It’s about swapping gifts with loved ones, and seeing family who you might not have met up with all year.
But what if it’s not idyllic? Let’s face it, it’s never perfect. Sometimes the Christmas dinner goes wrong and everyone has to fill up on roast spuds and parsnips, and sometimes a new toy goes wrong and your kid (or kid-at-heart) is trundled off to A&E. But sometimes … ok, maybe more often than not … the problem is your family. Especially if you haven’t seen them for a while.
People argue more at Christmas time than at any other time of year, and you can understand why. There are just so many stressors: from preparing Xmas dinner to hoping presents are received with joy to simply being in the same place as a load of other people with a load of family baggage on their shoulders.
So here are some quick tips to help everyone survive Christmas with the family:
Prep the food
If the Big Meal is a source of hair-tearing, then try to do as much of it before the Big Day as you can. Potatoes, carrots and parsnips can be peeled, chopped and stored in water in the fridge for up to 24 hours. (That’s what the guidelines say, I’ve kept potatoes in for longer than that and been fine). If you’re advanced enough to be making your own Yorkshire puds, you can make the batter the day before. Gravy can be made pretty much whenever you like and frozen in advance. Add the turkey juices on the day for the perfect taste.
Plan the presents
Surprise presents are always a risky business. They can pay off in dividends of smiles and joy, or deflate everyone’s faces with disappointment. I’m not saying only get people what they ask for, but I am saying check with all other family members to see whether anyone else is also getting little Emily an Elsa costume, or whether Graeme actually likes white chocolate. Take a deep breath if your gift isn’t received enthusiastically, and learn how to choose better ones for next year.
Bury the skeletons
All the family in one place – or any amount of family in one place, really – is an awful lot of secrets, rows and simmering under the surface. There’s a reason why boardgames and falling asleep in front of the TV are traditional at Christmas – they stop the conversation meandering into more dangerous waters! If you’ve got sore losers in your family, however, games can be fuel to the fire … Basically, try to keep everyone’s wagging tongues otherwise occupied, and if that means letting the sulky teenagers down from the table to play on the Xbox then that’s fine. (Accept that whoever is cooking will bite the heads off of anyone who enters the kitchen).
We wish everyone reading this a joyful, tasty and minimally stressful Christmas period.