Even in these Covid dominated times, it is necessary for all of us to navigate our way through the pre-Christmas-check list; to plan the timetable for the day with the precision of an Audi engineer – Langeweile durch Nayhem*. Regardless of the type of Christmas we are to be allowed, certain steps have to be undertaken in preparation for whatever lays ahead. These are the rules.
Christmas dinner this year may be a much smaller, more subdued affair than in the past, but the average pre-Christmas shop will continue to include enough brussel sprouts to power a hot air balloon (which, depending upon your supermarket, will actually be ‘substituted’ with thirty heads of Romaine lettuce, three tins of baked beans, or a catering pack of Brillo Pads); the turkey will still be too big for the oven unless you cut the legs off, and the potatoes will still have blight.
The rigid ‘cook’s plan’ which typically starts with ‘getting the sprouts on’ (about the 19th of December) will collapse into chaos when the vegan ‘pigs-in-blankets’** turn up in the goose fat and the parsnips are discovered, un-roasted, in the garage five minutes before everything else is ready; the gravy will boil over and fuse the pan to the electric hob and the roast potatoes will only be able to be removed from the tray with a machete.
Despite the limited numbers that we in England are to be allowed around the table for Christmas dinner this year (I would say in the UK, but I’m really not sure. Even when the rules are similar across the four nations, interpretation varies almost as widely as pronunciation, so I’ll stick to England. I understand that. Actually, I don’t.) temporary extensions will still have to be assembled in order to allow social-distancing around the table. Grandchildren will still have to be protected from the language and the meal will still find itself deposited onto a multi-levelled surface that will ensure that the gravy ends up in grandma’s lap and the carrots wind up in the custard. Somebody will complain about getting the ‘emergency chair’ which leaves them at neck-height to the table and the paste table will fold itself up when the pudding is put on it.
Christmas presents still have to be bought. It is far less likely that the country’s male population will hit the High Street on Christmas Eve this year. Instead there will be a mad scramble for the thirty day free*** Amazon Prime next-day delivery service which will not be cancelled until the credit card bill gets checked in August, with the realisation that it ceases to be free if you don’t cancel it. Dad will still get socks; mum will still get a liquidizer; grandma will still get a variety of unusable items, all of which smell of lavender. Everybody will get a lottery scratchcard. Nobody will win.
Christmas entertainment is not something that can happen spontaneously: it has to have all the fun planned out of it first. Nothing matches a good spreadsheet for sucking the joy out of everything. Make sure that you print in triplicate and include strict starting times. Plan for every eventuality (grandad falling asleep, grandma having an attack of the vapours, Aunt Ethel finding the gin again) and map out detailed contingency measures. Make sure that everybody sees the print-out and ensure that they all realise how badly they will be letting everybody down if they go ‘off-piste’ again. Remember that the main obstacle to ‘fun’ is joy – do not give it the opportunity to spread. Plan it out of existence. Ensure that every minute that is not pre-scheduled for the Queen is filled with a fun activity in order to guarantee that nobody becomes too relaxed – you don’t want to have to hire that carpet cleaner again.
Finally, we have to plan to get people home/find them a bed for the night. Remember, if you don’t get rid of them before December 28th this year, you may well be stuck with them for weeks. If you don’t want Great-Uncle Desmond sucking up the hospitality until the second dose of vaccine becomes available, better work out some way of getting him home before he’s banned from travelling. If nothing else, just remember that it only happens once a year – and next year is always much better.
*Ennui through mayhem
**I understand your question, but I do not know the answer
***Nothing is ever free – especially online