Christmas is a time for friends and family - loved ones who perhaps have seen one another over the course of the year - to gather, reunite and reconnect. As such you are only ever seconds away from utter social catastrophe. Avoiding this and making the most of your festive time back home, requires a delicate balancing act. Unfortunately, it is a skill that, even with the help of this article, is near impossible to master and no matter how much you endeavour to avoid conflict, it is a near certainty that you will at some point find yourself knee-deep in an argument with a distant aunt over the merits of the Pope's visit to Ireland.
Given that returning home for Christmas is fraught with the potential for such calamity to be forewarned is, to an extent, to be fore-armed. Therefore, much like say a special forces commando preparing to be deployed into a high-risk war-zone, it is incumbent on you to take every precaution necessary to ensure you stand as strong a chance as possible at surviving your Christmas back home.
1. Opportunity For A Feed
While this mightn't necessarily be the best point to kick things off with in terms of maintaining family harmony, it is important that you take full advantage of being re-united with a fully stocked kitchen. Surviving through term-time on a diet that, by any reasonable dietitian's metric, would place you in the 'high-risk' group for developing scurvy is a hallmark of every student experience; it is therefore vital that you flood your body with the necessary nutrients and vitamins that you have for so long denied it. You are a swarm of locusts, your kitchen's fruit-bowl is the field of ripe wheat upon which you will descend. Devour everything you can before you are verbally, or physically, demanded to stop by a member of your family.
For only when you've looked after yourself will you be able to look after everyone else.
2. Hire A Competent Debate Moderator
One of the worst facets of living in an increasingly fractious and dysfuncitonal world is surely the abundance of subjects with which families are now armed with to have very semi-informed but fully-heated arguments over at the Christmas dinner table. As such, it is vital that you embrace this inevitability with as much grace as possible - hiring a competent debate moderator to keep the arguments balanced is nothing short of a necessity.
3. Prepare To Answer The Same Questions
Throughout the Christmas period you will be under siege from a barrage of questions from well-meaning relatives and, given that you are likely to come across every person within a three-generational spread who can reasonably claim to be a relative, you will inevitably find yourself dealing with many of the same questions pertaining to what you've been up to for the previous year. As such it is well worth your time preparing a sort of sound-board programmed with a range of pre-recorded answers covering the more predictable topics. 'What have been up to for the year;?' 'How've you been getting on in college?' 'How's your love life going?' etc., whenever you're presented with a question like this simply raise a hand, ushering your relative to silence, and play your pre-recorded reply.
4. Strategic Mistletoe Placement
Everyone thinks it good, wholesome fun to litter mistletoe about, say, if you're hosting a party. Perhaps it will help provide a helpful ice-breaker with some distant acquaintance? Perhaps it may actually jokingly inspire you and the person you've been fancying for a while to kiss? Who knows. Among friends and strangers, you're on safe ground. In a family setting however the presence of mistletoe is to be shunned and deplored.
5. Dealing With What You Watch On Television
Ah yes, the classic struggle for the remote. It seems that no family can ever agree on what to watch on Christmas day. As your brother is making a case for watching It's A Wonderful Life, your aunt is demanding to watch an omnibus episode of Eastenders, all the while your father is inexplicably trying to put forward a case for why you should all be watching German submarine-thriller Das Boot - in short, it's damned near chaos. There is evidently only one fair way to settle things - a series of increasingly complex and arduous physical challenges from which the eventual winner is afforded ultimate power over your collective viewing schedule.
6. Getting The Most From Your Christmas Clothing
Unless you are insane/Mariah Carey/an owner of a novelty costume shop/the point of liaison in a company that franchises shopping-centre Santas, you should ideally have a fairly limited selection of Christmas-themed clothing. Given that you're probably going to want to get as much wear-time out of this modest selection it is time we look to the tactics used by explorers on arctic expeditions for advice - I know, I'm surprised we've had to wait for this until point six in this list too. In order to maximise the number of times they're able to wear a pair of underwear, explorers will often wear a pair of underpants for four days, once the normal way round, then reversed, then inside out, then inside out and reversed, toward the end of the Christmas period it may be necessary for you to deploy a similar tactic with your Grinch onesie.
7. Take Everything You Can Carry
Though the Christmas break can often feel as if it will sprawl on luxuriously and indefinitely into the future, it will eventually come to an end. As such, it is imperative you take appropriate measures to prepare for returning to your life of your meager comforts and penury as a student. I don't know if you've any experience in international smuggling, for your own sake I hope not, what I will say is that you should seek to secret as much left-over food as possible about your person and amongst your luggage when it comes time to leave. I will leave it up to you to explain, when the time comes to hug your family goodbye, why you very obviously have an entire tin of biscuits gaffer-taped to your chest under your t-shirt, I'm not here to fight all your battles for you.