Christmas is a potential minefield for arguments; with
family, with partners, with children, with the cat, with shop assistants and
probably with yourself. If you’re the
sort of person who could start an argument in a phone box, and if you’re
hosting Christmas this year, channel your inner Kirstie Allsopp and consider
|Cheer up – it’s only a couple of days, isn’t it?|
It does not all have to be
perfect. You do not have to greet people
looking like an extra from a 1950’s retro greeting card in a twinset and
pearls. You do not have to have place cards inscribed with perfect calligraphy, table
confetti, ice cream sparklers or anything else you’ve longingly coveted in the
Lakeland catalogue. It is a good idea
though to adhere to some basic etiquette.
Either that or employ a bouncer.
- Set time frames. There’s nothing worse than the embarrassment of having to turf out
guests who overstay their welcome. If you can, send out written invites –
e.g “Coffee & Mince Pies, 4 – 6
pm”. Or then there’s that helpful phrase
“would you like a coffee before you go home?” This has to be delivered with a
certain amount of aplomb lest you come over like a Christmas Curmudgeon and you
probably won’t get away with it with close family and definitely not on
- Avoid flashpoints – you know, I’m sure what
topics are likely to start World War III but a couple of glasses of fizz and
the urge to start talking about them is hard to resist. Think of it this way. Christmas Day is 24
hours. Even during World War I, the
opposing sides took a day off at Christmas. Surely you can avoid talking about your ex, that outstanding loan, and
why your children are never invited to Aunty Flo’s house for just a day. Stick your fork in your hands. Bite your tongue. Otherwise you’ll regret it.
- Do not remark upon half-finished plates. Annoying if you’ve slaved in the kitchen all
morning but they’ve probably had too many Quality Street before turning up.
- Eat your own food – sounds weird but there’s
nothing worse than a host who loads everyone else’s plate to the rafters and
then eats half a potato and a pea because they’re on a diet.
- Don’t get sloshed. Alcohol and a stove whacked on to full power
plus igniting the Christmas pudding is a recipe for disaster.
And, if you’re lucky enough to be a guest at someone else’s
festive lunch this year….
- Bring a gift. At the very least turn up with a
bottle of something decent.
- Curb your urge to flirt with your sister’s
boyfriend, the next door neighbour or anyone else you know full well is off
limits. And if you see someone flirting
with your partner, try to ignore it and not cause a scene – at least till you
get home! Tell yourself you must have
made a good choice if someone else is after your beau.
- If everyone else is wearing their cracker hat,
don’t be a mardy guts and refuse to on the grounds that “it will ruin my
hair”. If Lady Gaga can go out wearing a
meat frock, you can manage to balance a few grams of coloured paper on your
head for half an hour.
- Try the food. You’re not 12. A mouthful of
Brussel Sprout won’t kill you. And make
sure you’ve told the host / hostess about your wheat allergy / gluten
intolerance / fear of scallops well in advance of the day.
- Join in. Yes I know you hate party games but unless it’s “strip Twister” or
someone’s suggesting throwing car keys in an ash tray, at least give it a
go. Why not bring a pub quiz book with
you or Trivial Pursuit so you can steer the post meal fun in a generally less
embarrassing direction. You can’t go
wrong with Charades, can you?
- Don’t talk through the Queen’s Speech. In some houses, watching the Queen’s annual
address is de rigueur and even if you
think the French had the right idea with their guillotine, Christmas Day is not
the best time to mention that. Keep your
jokes about corgis and an annus horribilis for another time.
- Know when to go home. As a general rule, when your host’s eyes have
glazed over and if anyone has started to snore, it’s time to leg it.
In all seriousness though, if an argument does break out,
the best thing to do is to try not to get involved. A dignified silence usually works well, as
does “shall we discuss this another time? We don’t want to spoil the party”. Or there’s one of my favourite anti-argument techniques learned from
Agatha Christie’s legendary Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot. On hearing anything vaguely insulting, Poirot
would raise his eyebrows and utter just one word in a questioning tone –
Happy Conflict-Free Christmas!