The 12 Mistakes of Christmas

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At least that
is how I approach the stress-fest. I ditched optimism years ago
and accept that the probability of a ruined dinner and a row is
high by way of insuring against Christmas calamity.

This is not
because I’m one of those party-planning generals who undertakes
a course in napkin origami and creative table décor in November.
If anything, the strategy is based on paring it all down. I have
learnt the hard way; the following these 12 fates are always with

1. Search
the house

You did, you
know you did, buy a few little handmade wooden toys in Turkey last
summer, thinking they’d be perfect presents, then you hid them.
Avoid the irritation of coming across them next July and turn the
place upside down.

2. Resist
railway travel

Those planning
train journeys must rethink. Anything – including a lift from
a hated relative whose dog has bad breath – will be less traumatic.

3. Bend
the knees

report a surge of calls from people who slip discs pulling 28lb
turkeys out of the deep freeze.

4. Under-organise

Cancel the
Aga/cooker/boiler service. Engineers with after-party sore heads
forget to tighten vital screws or valves. Like a doomed space satellite,
your kitchen infrastructure heads for collapse, transpiring just
as the helpline shuts down for the break.

5. Resist

Giving away
unwanted presents from last year will backfire. Can you keep a straight
face as the recipient opens an especially naff box of bath pearls?
A relationship-busting crime is to mistakenly return a gift to its
original donor.

6. Avoid
obvious danger

Recalling here
the fate of one of my friends who decided she could not be bothered
to cook, ordered a takeaway and gave everyone a dose of food poisoning.

7. Take
nothing for granted

You do not
have wide-gauge aluminium foil left over from last year; nor enough
candles, salt, onions, cans of peeled chestnuts or cloves for the
bread sauce and glazed ham.

8. Christmas
Day is sacred

Very little
need be done on the day, so everyone is free to go to church. The
stuffing, potato peeling, sprout preparation, bread sauce base,
brandy butter, giblet stock, cranberry sauce and knife-sharpening
can all be done the previous day.

9. Think

Turkeys do
not fit in conventional roasting tins. Unless, as I once did, you
want to roast it after sawing it in half, buy a big tin.

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22, 2010

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