For the Spectator’s Christmas survey, we asked for some favourite seasonal rituals – and what to avoid at Christmas.
My favourite thing is being allowed to ignore my phone and email for days on end, re-engaging with that vaguely remembered place, the now.
However, avoid overindulgence the night before Christmas. The kids will wake up on the happy morn earlier than seems possible. Even by their own nocturnal standards.
Alain de Botton
My favourite ritual is reminding everyone involved that we will, of course, be having a sad and tense Christmas; there will be arguments, frustration, bitterness and barely suppressed longings to be elsewhere with other (better, more interesting) people. The food will be mediocre or, if tasty, will exact such passive-aggressive retribution from those who made it that it would have been better to have a sandwich. The children’s presents will be a sickening reminder of materialism and everyone’s inability to be happy without a screen. With expectations thus reduced, the chances of spending a really quite pleasant time will increase markedly.
For a successful Christmas (or life), avoid hope.