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Image / Editorial

The 12 steps to surviving Christmas

by Laurence Mackin
04th Dec 2020

Hire cleaners, have one party to rule them all, and impose a three-day moratorium on social obligations: here are a dozen ways to help you survive the season, writes Laurence Mackin. 

Learn from the rich and tax-dodging, and avoid the entire Christmas charade by simply being abroad. Or, better yet, tell people you are abroad and stay at home, fattening yourself on ham sandwiches behind closed doors, without having to fill a single social obligation. The. Dream.

As a dad, I’ve discovered children make the entire Christmas thing so much more intense and expensive, so it’s probably best to forestall the issue by not having them in the first place. If you do have children, you can always play down the whole significance of December 25th. Act like St Brigid’s Day is a big deal as a misdirection tactic, then just never mention it again once you are in the clear in January.

There’s always the option to simply ignore the whole Christmas thing, as typical consumerist nonsense built on an outmoded and frankly sexist, heteronormative view of the family unit. Or consider temporarily converting to one of the religions that aren’t too hot on the C word. Perhaps become a Quaker, Jehovah’s Witness or Elon Musker, at least just for a few weeks into the new year.

Don’t go to every party out there. Instead, pick one to really go big on, and then go home (eventually). Choose your session wisely: if you make an absolute fool of yourself, the host needs to be a good enough friend that they will forgive you, or someone you’re really not that bothered about, so you need never see each other again.

Order your wine or drinks in bulk, keep an eye on any discounts being offered, and get it sent to your house for free. O’Briens, for example, delivers free for orders above €60, and currently have a good selection of discounts across their range. Also, always add a few extra bottles for gifts that you suddenly find yourself needing when you have to pop into the neighbours’.

Book cleaners for the day after and a decent table for brunch while they are hard at it. When you are knee-deep in your friends’ debris with the hangover from hell, ask yourself: how much money right now would I pay to make this all go away? It will be a lot less than a couple of good cleaners will cost you. Make sure that if you are hosting an excellent party, that you also have an excellent party to go to. Work like hell for one and reward yourself with the other. «Nothing creates atmosphere quicker than a low fogger (well, maybe alcohol). You can make any room look like the intro bit to Riverdance with the flick of a switch, and they are less hassle than dry ice. You can rent one from soundworks.ie for €80.

For years, I have tried and failed to buy decent presents. (No mother, the level of effort is not up for discussion.) As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realised there are very few things I can say with certainty that most of my friends like – apart, that is, from eating and drinking. So hotel or restaurant vouchers are a stone-cold, can’t-fail gift. If it’s for family, they can go together or separately. As a bonus, when you go to buy them, treat yourself to a two-hour lunch. And if the maitre d’ doesn’t give you a free glass of bubbly after buying a sackload of vouchers, you are legally entitled to steal his Riedel glasses (which also make an excellent, expensive gift, though you may need to get creative with the wrapping). However, pro tip – choose your voucher joint wisely. With restaurants in Dublin appearing and closing every time the tide comes in, you might find six months down the line that your Christmas present is little more than an empty promise.

Have a large joint of meat on permanent standby for emergency sandwiches, and hangover soakage. When it comes to the joint of choice, a good baked ham is hard to beat, and I’ve found that Derry Clarke’s fuss-free recipe for baked ham with honey and mustard glaze (easy to find online) rarely disappoints. This year, I’m more or less vegetarian, so I am desperately researching an alternative. One vegetarian trick I have discovered, though, is that you can make excellent, meat-free gravy that still tastes of Christmas and the secret ingredient is Marmite. You’ll find a great recipe online from food blogger Umami Girl.

Have the neighbours round for one early evening. Use some of that discounted, bulk-bought wine to promote some Christmas cheer along your road and get yourself beyond being mere nodding acquaintances. This is also a great way to put some serious goodwill cash in the bank, which you can burn through later in the year when you apply for planning permission for that deeply divisive Doric-columned extension.

It’s unfortunately inevitable that you will find yourself having to go into town to “do the shopping” at some point. You have clearly left it too late to order online, but make your life slightly easier with Click and Collect. Yes, there will be a queue at the desk, but you can always use one of your smaller, more compliant children to hold your spot. Finally, they have a use beyond being a Christmas cost centre. You can also completely overcompensate for your trial by commerce by treating yourself scandalously well. Do not go into town without having somewhere good picked for lunch, or better still, be an absolute pro and book that table in advance. Check out ResDiary or OpenTable to see what’s available at the last minute. Or opt for a place that doesn’t take names. In Dublin, the best lunch in the city for my money is in Assassination Custard on Kevin Street, and you can’t reserve ahead. The delicious Fish Shop on Benburb Street also operates a no reservations policy.

Last year, Ikea had a solid deal, where they sold real Christmas trees for €30 that came with a €20 voucher. They’ve announced a similar deal in the UK for this year, so fingers crossed they roll it out in Ireland again. If you can’t even be bothered to leave the house, christmastreedublin.com will deliver several trees to your door, which you can then choose from. And if you want to go full lumberjack on it, Kelleher’s Christmas Tree Farm in Brannockstown, Co Kildare (kildarechristmastrees.ie) allows you to wander the Wicklow hills before chopping down your tree of choice. This means you can legitimately claim you’ve put some effort in and are therefore excluded from decorating the thing.

Put a three-day rule in place for the house over Christmas. This means you do not have any obligations to go anywhere for three whole days. Forget the hustle, get comfy on that couch, and start lowering those ham sandwiches into yourself. Unannounced callers may be ignored, or need to be comfortable with seeing you in your dressing gown. Viewings of Die Hard and The Goonies are essential. No chocolate box will go undevoured.

Illustration by Alan Dunne. 

This article originally appeared in the December issue of IMAGE Magazine.

Read more: How she does it: Triona McCarthy’s party-prep beauty tips

Read more: 5 ways to help you fend off festive anxiety this year

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