Whether you believe that Baby Jesus popped out of a virgin or not, everybody has their own little religions on 25 December. A strict order of when dinner is served, what gets opened when, what, if any, role the Queen's Speech plays. Christmas Eve and Boxing Day tend to stick to tradition too. Specifically - the tradition of whether you choose to be hungover on the big day or not.
With hindsight, my parents were bloody lucky I had two bigger siblings to calm my Christmas morning excitement. Growing up, they would throw huge parties on Christmas Eve, only to head to Midnight Mass, manage to clear up and tend to Father Christmas before waking up mere hours later to small excited people.
It would make sense, therefore, for me to think of Pissed-mas Eve as a thoroughly acceptable tradition. My sister does - a decade after they first started, she still goes to the pub with her old school friends. I went with her once, only to be served by a embarrassing ghost of Christmas teenage love life past at the bar, who clearly hadn't the same desire to leave our rural hometown as myself.
So, while the other Vincents potter off to various drinking holes on Christmas Eve, I enjoy a roaring fire, sometimes with friends, scoff a couple of mince pies and make sure that I'm tucked up well before midnight. Occasionally, I play taxi driver to Big Sis and her kebab-wielding friends, but I don't meticulously plan a special festive dancing outfit, nor bump into those I went to school with in the pub I never used to drink in. And, societal pressures aside, I don't really care.
Because why would I want to spend one of the most special days of the year hungover? While I can just about sleep past 8am on Christmas Morning these days, that excitement hasn't diminished - and, importantly, it's hangover-free. I'm fortunate, or indeed, unfortunate enough to be able to inebriate and embarrass myself on a 51 weeks-per-year basis. So taking one off when the next day is full of food, presents and merriment seems like an acceptable deal.
Maybe I'm boring, or maybe I'm a victim of having too much of a good thing, but aside from a G&T and a glass or two of wine with dinner, Christmas has never been about the booze. Watching icicles grow off my parents' thatched roof, filling the village elderly in on my love life at Church, setting fire to a Christmas pudding my Dad and brother triumphantly eat alone because nobody else likes it. That's my Christmas.
I'll toast a notional glass of fizz any day, but being prevented from eating another pig-in-a-blanket by any reason other than sheer food-based gluttony? Ridiculous. There's no way a house double vodka and being bored by one's old lab partner is going to get in the way of my festive feeding.
This year, I will once again resist the pub. I'll probably be the only one in the house to do so, but coming back home after midnight ruins the magic a little. Christmas begins with that first drowsy crackle of excitement, accompanied by the village brass band playing carols down the silent roads outside and the smell of woodsmoke. The kind of quiet that facilitates a once-a-year excitement, so tangible you could almost bite it. And being completely, childishly sober is all part of it. No amount of eggnog down my local could compare.
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