You don't get good presents anymore, it's cold and your favourite pub is going to be taken over by people having fun. Welcome to hell.
Oh, it's December again. God: it never stops, sometimes, does it? Because I'm pretty sure we had a December – with all its festivities, with its frivolities, with Noel Edmonds in a soft felt hat handing out Deal or No Deal-themed gift boxes to baffled sickly children – last year, and we had another December – with all its itchy Christmas jumpers and the fake snow window decorations and Jamie Oliver in a Sainsbury's advert gurgling "PROPER PUKKA BIT OF TURKEY GRUB"1 and me stepping with my bare feet onto an especially fragile bauble – the year before it. So what the fuck gives, man? Why is this happening again? Why does this keep happening?
Because beyond the unrelenting joy of Christmas Day ("Uh, actually, I don't like Christmas Day" — twats and/or orphans), December is like one long Groundhog Day of the soul, 31 straight days of 'Extremely Epic Xmas Drinx!' Facebook invites and people not knowing when it is or is not unlucky to put Christmas decorations up or down. We are in a constant state of flux where we don't know whether a squiggle of tinsel will bring down upon us a curse from the gods condemning us forever to hell or whether we are just celebrating Christmas in a just and orderly fashion.
Anyway, how best to survive the repetitive hell that is December? With a shareable list of all the things that are going to happen to you over the coming month, of course, so you can be entirely prepared for them once they hit! Print this off and pin it to your Christmas stocking. Get this article iced on a big, dry gingerbread house. Hand this over in lieu of payment for an underwhelming Bratwurst at a seasonal German food market. Write this out by hand to the card that you're begrudgingly sending your nan.
1. THE CONSTANT, UNDULATING TRUTH AND UNTRUTH OF WHETHER YOUR BABY COUSIN KNOWS ABOUT SANTA OR NOT
Every year I have to ask, and every year nobody seems to know. Does that eight-year-old kid you have to buy Lego for know about Santa, or not? His dad looks at him. Looks back at you. "Mmmmmmaybe?" When you were eight you knew about Santa. When you were seven you had your suspicions. There is always a hard kid in the school playground – with a thousand-yard stare and a kind of unwashable grubbiness and always seems to know about adult things two, three, maybe five years ahead of everyone else, that eight-year-old you're pretty sure you saw smoke once, the kid you could always turn to if you wanted to see a dead body by a creek, the kid who allegedly had sex with a woman at aged ten – and he told you, when you were seven, that Santa wasn't real. And now you have to buy this dumb kid £30 worth of Lego and you don't even get the props for it. My baby cousin is better than I am at Call of Duty – his reactions so sharp, his focus ethereal – but the dumb little fuck doesn't know Santa doesn't come and visit him and every other child on earth with some magical fucking sleigh. Like: he can spin a 360 and throw a grenade that lands directly on me, and he can watch my digital body explode into blood and pulp without his heartbeat raising even a beat, and he can say something like, "Ha–ha, Joel sucks at shoo–ting!", but mention that the magic beard man doesn't exist and he loses his entire mind. You know what? He's not getting anything this year. That'll teach him.
2. SOME CUNT PRETENDING THEY DON'T KNOW SANTA ISN'T REAL
This happens at least once every December but maybe more: I'll say something throwaway like "Santa isn't real", and I'll turn around and Keith from Accounts is there, in his Santa hat and his novelty Christmas tie that when you press it plays a song, and he will clutch his chest and in faux surprise say, "Santa isn't real?" and he'll laugh, and yet – in front of a jury of my peers – I would undoubtedly be found guilty of murder if I did slaughter him for his own good right there where he stands, and you know what? The world isn't fair because of that.
3. YOU DRINK AN EXPENSIVE AND OVERCOMPLICATED RED PAPER CUP OF HOT CHOCOLATE
Oh, paid six quid and stood in a queue at Starbucks for 15 minutes because you fancied a 'hot choccie' halfway through a shopping trip did you, mate? Asked for marshmallows but they all got stuck to the plastic blast lid while you were unknowingly sipping and so you had to dig this sort of clot of marshmallow and accumulated cream off the bottom with a coffee spoon after you've drunk it, is it? Diabetic now, are you? You're a fool. You're a bloody Christmas fool.
4. YOU FALL INTO THE TRAP OF MAKING YOUR LUNCHTIME MEAL DEAL ANY MORE FESTIVE THAN IT NEEDS TO BE, WHICH IS ZERO PER CENT FESTIVE
Oh, look: Tesco have a turkey sandwich. Do you? It's part of the meal deal. Do you? No you do not. Here is why: because on Christmas Day, after hours of slaving in the hot kitchen, your mum brings the turkey out of the oven, and your dad brings through his famous glazed ham, and your cousin – the one who bakes for a hobby, and makes jams and preserves – has made a special Christmas chutney, and you look at the glory before you and go: is there any way you can spread a slice of bread with mayonnaise then put it in the fridge for eight hours so I can eat it with that? You inhale the unctuous aroma of the gravy and go: can I have some prawn cocktail crisps, to go on the side of this? Your grandma offers you plump, oven-roasted sprouts, thick with butter and bacon, and you go: is there any way you could put some extremely dehydrated stuffing in the mix, instead? You have ruined your actual Christmas dinner with relentless £3 sandwich after £3 sandwich. You cannot eat savouries anymore without a dessert spoonful of commercially saccharine cranberry jam. You ruined Christmas for yourself with a sustained campaign of festive lunchtime bolt shooting.
5. ATTEND A BAD TASTE JUMPER PARTY WHERE NOBODY TRULY KNOWS THE STATUS OF THE OMNISCIENT IRONY
Fundamentally the only reason a Bad Taste Christmas Jumper Party (hereby B.T.C.J.P.) is because the girl organising it – I am sorry, squad, but it is never a dude organising a B.T.C.J.P. – is actually in possession of an extremely cute Christmas jumper that makes her look extremely cute, and so you all turn up in those sort of square synthetic £7 high street jobs and she is there in some light-up reindeer cashmere situation looking positively supermodelesque. "Oh, this thing?" she's saying, handing you a weak Bailey's-based cocktail. "I think I picked it up on ASOS years ago, or something?" She is hiding an expensive-looking receipt that says HÅNDKRÄFTEN ECH SWEDEN on it and plying you with vegan Devil's on Horseback. This cosy angel is extremely, extremely sus. And now Here It Is Merry Christmas is playing, and you're drunk and sort of shout-singing through the synthetic jumper sweat, and someone puts reindeer antlers on you and you do not take them off, and like: are you secretly enjoying yourself, or is this just a bit? Are you having fun right now, or is this some many-layered irony thing? Someone just handed you a brandy cream mince pie arrangement and you genuinely enjoyed eating it. Look around you. Everyone is crumpling their eyebrows and legitimately having fun. The concept of irony is dead, now. It baked to death in a Primark Christmas jumper.
6. YOU ARE GOING TO BE DEEPLY DISAPPOINTED BY MULLED WINE
There are three kinds of mulled wine:
— Mulled wine that you make at home with a decent bottle of red and an orange studded with cloves and sugar and spices gently crumbled and tied in muslin bags and warmed gently on the stove for hours until the kitchen smells like Christmas and then you take a special mug (you bought special mugs) and decant a cup and lift it to your lips and: oh, it's just hot wine. You've made hot wine. Two hours, that took. Hot wine.
— The kind of mulled wine they make it pubs when they drag out their special mulled wine cooker from the basement and haul it up onto the bar and do a cute little chalkboard outside that says 'MULLED WINE! WARM YOU UP ON COLD DAY. £5.', and then you buy some – you always buy some, you always foolishly buy some, you always fall for this trick, you always think how cosy the pub smells and how warm you've feel when you drink it – and then you lift the polysterene cup to your lips and: oh. It's just hot wine thinned to the point of being a soft drink with a load of orange juice. That's it. Pub mulled wine is just boiled Tropicana made red.
— The pre-mixed dirt you buy in supermarkets and warm by the mug in a microwave, and costs like £2.99 a bottle if that, and is so sweet it is essentially syrup, and is the only mulled wine worth drinking, no argument, no disambiguation.
You're going to be disappointed by mulled wine.
7. SOMEONE IS GOING TO OFFER UP THE SHITTY OPINION THAT 'MINCE PIES ARE BAD' AND THEY ARE GOING TO BE LOUDLY AND CONTINUALLY WRONG ABOUT IT
Oh you're at a party and someone thinks they are being really original and good with their hot take. "Raisins are bad," they are saying, "sultanas are bad. Brown unknowable sludge is bad. Heavy pastry is bad. Using those little tin bottoms for pistachio shells is bad. Mince pies are bad." Hey, you know what else is bad: your continued efforts to ruin the fine and upstanding tradition of Christmas weight gain, my buddy! So shut the fuck up saying stuff about mince pies that is wrong!
8. SOMEBODY IS GOING TO OFFER UP THE OPINION 'FAIRYTALE OF NEW YORK' IS THEIR FAVOURITE CHRISTMAS SONG LIKE THAT OPINION IS IN ANY WAY NEW OR EXCITING
Everybody thinks this, everybody. Everybody on earth thinks this thing. You are not original in any single way. You are so basic Tesco could sell a tin of you for 24p.
9. YOU'RE GOING TO HAVE TO GET ON A LADDER TO HELP PUT A SINGLE DECORATION UP BECAUSE YOUR MUM CAN'T BE ARSED
Ah you've come home and it's Christmas Eve and you're in from the cold after taking three trains and a provincial bus all while holding a gigantic Duplo set for your distant niece and you open the door and expect a friendly sherry welcome with a mince pie and turns out no: your mum has just been saving all the high Christmas decoration jobs for you to do, and so you're given a ribbon with a load of Christmas cards hanging off it or a massive spaff of tinsel and a footstool and told to get hanging. "Don't look at me," your dad's saying, nodding to the corner where the slightly greying artificial tree he's been taking out of and putting back into the attic every year since 1990 is, four sad baubles hanging from its thinning branches, "you know I don't like it fancy." It's three feet tall, this thing. He has kept the box that it came in, despite it splitting down the side the year you learned Santa died. It's lashed together with the bungee chords he used to keep in the car. "Your mother insists on a real tree but that'll do me, that." Your mum wants you to pop down to the nearest pub garden and get a little seven footer for the garden, and you do, getting pins stuck in your neck that won't leave until the 27th. "Where," you croak, "where is the sherry?" They forgot to get sherry and the shops are all shut tomorrow.
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10. YOU GET A HEARTFELT CHRISTMAS CARD FROM YOUR NAN AND REMEMBER THE ONLY TIME YOU SPOKE TO HER IN THE LAST YEAR WAS WHEN SHE SENT YOU A £20 FOR YOUR BIRTHDAY – SHE'S NOT GOT MUCH, HAS NAN, HER PENSION ONLY STRETCHES SO FAR – AND YOU SENT HER A SINGLE TEXT, THREE DAYS AFTER YOUR BIRTHDAY, SAYING 'THANKS NAN!', AND EVEN THEN THIS CARD – HANDWRITTEN, IN THAT SWEET OLD LADY CURLY HANDWRITING SHE DOES – COVERS BOTH SIDES OF THE CARD, AND SAYS STUFF LIKE "I HOPE YOU ARE WELL BECAUSE OBVIOUSLY I DON'T HEAR MUCH ABOUT YOU THESE DAYS" AND "I TRIED TO GET ON THAT FACEBOOK SO I COULD SKYPE YOU BUT I JUST COULDN'T FIGURE IT OUT!" AND "I MISS YOUR GRANDDAD MORE AND MORE WITH EVERY DAY THAT GOES BY, MY HEART IS SO HEAVY NOW, SO TIRED" AND YOU THINK 'I REALLY, REALLY OUGHT TO BUY NAN A NICE CARD AND WRITE HER BACK' BUT THEN TOY STORY 2 IS ON AND THERE'S A WHOLE THING OF QUALITY STREET AND YOU FORGET AND YOU ONLY REMEMBER ABOUT IT AGAIN THE DAY SHE INEVITABLY DIES
Call your nan, you shit.
11. IT WILL SNOW IN A REALLY SHIT WAY AND PEOPLE WILL ENDEAVOUR TO GET EXCITED ABOUT IT
"And this is the big one," every single weather forecaster is saying, with a creeping smile that says, this is it, a smile that says finally, people care what I'm doing with my arms, "and it looks like we'll have snow this Christmas!"
And then there is a photo of a car struggling to get through a blizzard that signifies: snow.
"But don't get too carried away – it's expected that less than a millimetre of snow will fall, and it won't even stick, and if it does stick it'll just make the ground white a bit – not enough to scrape up a snowball, but somehow enough to go slushy and grey in the crevice between the kerb and the road, a rock salt-like sludge that will stay their, filthy and cold and stinking for days after the original snowfall – but people will still try and get excited over it, they will still take photos of their frosted gardens and upload the photos to Facebook with the caption 'feelin festive' as if anyone fucking cares." I mean, very cynical, this weather forecaster, but I feel they have a point.
12. YOUR MUM WILL OFFER TO BUY YOU SOMETHING EXTREMELY PRACTICAL INSTEAD OF AN ACTUAL PRESENT AND YOU WILL SAY YES
Yes, you do want a pair of trainers, some box fresh pyjamas and a new Xbox for Christmas, but doesn't your car need the MOT doing? "Something about the battery," your mum's saying, over the phone. "Didn't you need a new car battery?" Yes: you do need a new battery. You need the car for work but you can't afford to straight up fix it yourself so you're just coasting it down the B-roads and hoping for the best. Oh, your dad's yelling through from the dining room. "And tyres," he's saying. "It needs new tyres." And so that's settled: new battery, two new tyres and a full MOT, and mum will do you a little stocking so you've got something to open on the actual day. Christmas for adults is shit.
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13. YOU WILL FORGET ENTIRELY HOW TO DRESS FOR THE COLD AND HAVE TO WEAR ONE OF YOUR DAD'S FLAT CAPS TO THE PUB TO SEE YOUR OLD MATES
You've gone home for Christmas but apparently left your sense of cold weather wearing at home with you, because all you've bought is a big coat and a couple of t-shirts. But now there's a cold snap and your hands, feet and face are all rendered in frigid agony when you go outside, and the pub you're doing Christmas Eve in is a good 20-minute walk away, and your dad is going through the big basket of musty-smelling hats and knitwear he has, trying to foist one on you. "There's a balaclava, here," your dad is saying, offering up something that looks like it very much survived an international incident in the early '90s. "That's warm. Or I've got this incredibly uncool grey fleece hat that I go walking in sometimes?" It has an insane toggle and flap situation that is meant to keep your ears warm. It had a reflective band so you don't get mowed down on country roads by a car. It smells like your dad, like someone decided to delouse a moth factory using exclusively Brut. You wear it and everyone takes the piss.
14. PEOPLE YOU HATE WILL INSIST ON HAVING "FESTIVE DRINKIES"
Best thing about Christmas is eating and doing nothing. Worst bit is when the kind of people who arrange trips to the pub via Facebook instead of just sending a text saying "pub?" invite you to festive drinks, or drinkies. Nobody just has drinks in December, it is always drinkies. It is always drinks rendered six or seven times more cutesy and irritating by being transformed into 'drinkies'. And it is always bad, novelty alcohol. Would you like a snowball? It is like someone phlegmed some custard into lemonade: no thank you. How about some mulled cider? The cider is hot and someone has put an entire cinnamon stick in it. Hot buttered rum, anyone? We have somehow ruined both rum and butter, two patently unruinable things. But you go, don't you, you always go. You put on novelty reindeer antlers and you go, and you'll do the same next year, and the year after that, every year until you die.
15. PUB AMATEURS WILL RUIN YOUR FAVOURITE PUB, AND YOUR LEAST FAVOURITE, TOO
December 1st, and they descend: the pub amateurs. An army of office lunches in cardigans and paper hats, who clutter around the big good tables and order at the bar like this: "One house red, one house white, one bottle of prosecco, three lemonades – Chris, what was it you wanted? Chris? Chris? [GESTURE OF TAKING A DRINK, SILENTLY MOUTHING 'WAS IT LAGER?'] Chris will have a Foster's, and what are the crisps you've got? [FIFTEEN MINUTES WHERE THEY PUT ON BIFOCALS AND CONSIDER EVERY SINGLE FLAVOUR OF CRISP] No crisps, thanks. Oh: and five pints of Guinness." They are laughing loudly and pulling crackers. They have taken up an entire chair piling up their coats and bags. They keep standing in the way to the toilets. These people have never been in a pub in their lives, and now they are here, loudly asking the landlord to put some party songs on. This isn't a party, people! Pubs are where people with problems go to escape from you! Go back to the hell from which you came!
16. YOUR PARENTS WILL HAVE QUIETLY SCRAPPED YOUR MOST BELOVED CHRISTMAS TRADITION
Where's that tree decoration you made when you were five? Little papier mâché Santa turned monstrous through years in a cold damp attic? "Oh," your mum says, "we don't do that anymore." What the fuck is this, beef? "Oh," your dad says, "wasn't worth getting a whole turkey just for three of us, so we got a joint of beef in." WHERE IS THE QUALITY STREET? "Oh," they say, in deflating unison, "we got Roses this year, your dad likes the orange crèmes." Nobody likes the orange crèmes! Stop ruining Christmas!
17. YOU'LL GO 'AND WHY THE FUCK CAN'T I EAT EVERY SINGLE ONE OF MY ADVENT CALENDAR CHOCOLATES, HUH? I'M A FUCKING GROWN-ASS PERSON' AND THEN FEEL REALLY BAD WHEN YOU EAT EVERY SINGLE ONE OF YOUR ADVENT CALENDAR CHOCOLATES
Sheepish little visit to Poundland for a replacement Minions calendar, is it? Congratulations: you played yourself.
18. YOU'LL HAVE TO ADMIT THAT YOU ACTUALLY LOVE CHRISTMAS
Yeah you do. Yeah, you do. With the crackling fires and the decadent roast meats and the chocolate for breakfast and the trifle for brunch and the alcohol and the alcohol and the log fires and the squidgy sofas and the family films and the late nights and the racist uncles and the endless WhatsApp groups with all your bored mates at home and the looming dread of New Year's Eve and that weird stiff feeling you get on the 28th when you realised you haven't significantly moved for four days and your mum getting worried about the bins and your dad getting close to an emotion when red-nosed on whisky and the dog getting a present and you getting a present and everyone getting presents that you got them, and liking them: you love it. Christmas is great, December is great. Festive drinkies are terrible but you'll endure. You love it, you love Christmas. Make the most of it.
1. I am working on a theory that '90s-era Jamie Oliver – with his catchphrases and his loved-by-mums shaggy good looks and his inclination to declare things are 'naughty' when they were empirically unnaughty – wasn't so different to current well-profiled lad horror Dapper Laughs, and that all Dapper really needs to do for full redemption is to pretend to drum in a Toploader† video and tut at some Rotherham mums for giving their children carbohydrates.↩
† Fun Toploader facts: their first – and let's be real, only – song, Dancing in the Moonlight, was actually a cover of the King Harvest song of the same name. Despite that they filled Wembley once. Correction: despite that they were the last British band to play old Wembley. Toploader: a sham band, for idiots.↩
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