Christmas is a time for joy and celebration, a day of eating too much, screaming Christmas carols and napping through the Queen’s speech. But the festive season also involves being trapped in an enclosed space with relatives, leading to opinions as strong as your grandma’s eggnog and insults as thinly veiled as the skin on her gravy. Usually full-blown arguments can be avoided, but this year the Brexit shadow is sure to loom over the dinner table. People don’t just lean one way on the subject, but have unwavering passion that their opinion is right and any other is masochistic idiocy. If you are one of the lucky few that lives in a household where you all share the same view then praise the Gods, stop reading this and go enjoy your blissful holiday. For anyone else – here’s a how-to guide to avoid complete carnage…
1. Skip the Brussels sprouts
The name alone could prove contentious this Christmas. Perhaps if it were a ‘Brussels lava cake’ or ‘Brussels chocolate ice cream’ it would be worth the risk but why put family relations at risk for the sake of this gassy Christmas perennial? Better to do away with it once and for all.
2. Put nothing to a vote
Often at Christmas, decisions are made by committee – how else do you keep everyone happy? Should we play charades or Pictionary? Should we pull the crackers now or later? But resist the urge to canvas family opinions. Make all decisions beforehand. Any vote cast runs the risk of being ignored anyway.
3. Peel off the wine labels
Where are your wines from? Probably somewhere in Europe… will you still be able to buy them in a year or will EU tariffs wreak havoc on your Christmas bottle of Piedemonte? None of these conversations are worth inviting. Besides, without a label no one will be able to see how cheap the wine is you serve them.
4. Moderate your drink
There are two ways to do this, either drink nothing and stay sober so you can effectively slalom around conversational landmines, or get so drunk you don’t care what others are saying. At all costs, avoid the middle ground where you suddenly have the confidence of an Etonian male and start painting ‘facts’ on the family car.
5. Make a seating plan
Carefully arrange your seating plans. Avoid putting very young and very old people next to each other and if possible gradate family opinions from one side to the other. Rank your guests on a spectrum between Corbynista and Moggster and seat them accordingly.
6. Prepare your response
In the event that the dreaded B word is uttered, plan a quick comment to summarise your views and end the conversation – state clearly you don’t want to open a debate. If this doesn’t end things (which it probably won’t) prepare a nuclear topic to envelop all thoughts and move the conversation on. Some suggestions include: you’re abandoning Jesus for your one true lord Satan; you knocked up the neighbour’s daughter; Game of Thrones is overrated.
7. Stay at home if your name is controversial
Theresas, Jean-Claudes, Nigels… It’s unfortunate if it applies to you, but people with trigger names should take one for the team and sit this Christmas out. Nobody wants to have the constant reminder at the table and the puns will be incessant.
8. Plan your exit
It’s no good just knowing you want to leave, as we’ve all painfully learnt this year, you need a plan! If the Brexit talk becomes too much, I suggest you skip the goodbyes and execute a French exit by leaving straight away. Savour the irony as you go that in France this form of departure is known as a ‘filer à l’anglaise ’- to leave the English way. You can leave safe in the knowledge that your family aren’t the only ones stuck in a constant state of fracas: France and Britain have been at it long before the B word was even invented.