Those of us fortunate enough to have spent Christmas with our families having a jolly good time being jolly together, know that even in times of togetherness and celebration there are tricks to keeping the atmosphere convivial which range far beyond the obvious mantra of keeping guests in wine and food. This year, I’ve learnt…
– Mensch Ärgere Dich Nicht is king. You may know the game by its British name, Ludo, but we Austrians prefer this name which when translated means ‘people, don’t argue’. I’m sure you’ll agree that this is a rather brilliant title as when playing this game, people do argue. Venomously. But said arguing is always over the murders taking place on the board as the poor plastic figures try to make their way home. This arguing diffuses any tension and leads to a delightfully ribald exchange that leaves players getting on better than ever, which is really rather handy when all confined together for such a lengthy period of time.
– Boys like superheroes. Young boys like pretending to be them, older boys like watching them (and, let’s face it, probably still kind of wish they could fly). The fact of the matter is that once presents are unwrapped and food digested, women and men are often desirous of different activities – women gossip, men lie back as if it were they who had spent the early hours of the day tending to a turkey.* While they recline, a superhero film seems the only logical choice to cover all ages of the congregation.
– Every Christmas party needs a veggie. Popping a vegetable roast in the oven while frantically cooking for the majority may be frustrating but the fact remains that a vital equilibrium applies during Christmas as much as during any other time of the year: there must always at any dinner table be a turkey eater and a brussels sprouts eater. As the latter I can unequivocally tell you that you needn’t feel sorry for our people – we eat colourful, varied plates and enjoy the oft ignored dishes, for they are all we know.
– There is never a bad time for tea. As one who exclusively drinks tea, I may be biased, but it seems to me that the humble drink is the last bastion of all things civilised and should be offered hourly at the very least by one member of the party or another. Taken in turns, the burden of keeping a steaming mug in front of everyone is negligible and goes some way to help ease bloat/indigestion and keep noxious vapours to a minimum.
– Buy what you know. My mother, she knows fashion. She knows what suits people and therefore almost exclusively buys clothes and jewellery for others. It is where she shines. My sister, she knows luxury goods – cashmere, buttery-soft pyjamas, bath salts. I employ my skincare/make-up nous and (desperately hope) my gifts are received with joy. Gifts chosen by those with a passion can open an unexpected new avenue to the happy receiver.
*Apologies for the rampant sexism. I have, of course, heard of many men who baste a turkey with aplomb, but have alas never seen such creatures up close.