PARENTS
13/12/2018 06:00 GMT | Updated 13/12/2018 17:10 GMT

Which Bits Of Christmas Can You Ditch? A Guide For The Exhausted

No one is going to miss charades.

Christmas is knackering, especially for parents. It’s massively stressful, and what’s the reward? Another year of life, exhausting life.

Between presents, cooking, decorating, seeing your favourite characters on EastEnders die tragically, helping your boss throw up at the office Christmas party and trying to entertain multiple generations of people, it’s a nightmare.

It’s really expensive, you’ve spent all year having the emotional and physical shit kicked out of you by your monstrous offspring, and by rights you should be able to put your feet up. But noooooo, it’s up to you to provide them with some sort of joyous experience. And at a time when the world is wet, dark and freezing and the ground is trying to kill you. Is it all really worth it? Is it, though?

We’ve gone through the festive inventory to check.

1) Advent Calendars

Eating chocolate every day is lovely, a 10-second pause for pleasure in a month of real anxiety, and the manufacturers have done all the hard work. Plus you can get advent calendars that have wine, beer or whisky in, which is definitely useful in terms of boosting merriness.

Verdict: Go for it, they’re easy and delicious, and sometimes you forget a day and get a bonus chocolate the next day, and that’s just awesome.

[Read More: The Major Flaw In The Celebrations’ Advent Calendar]

2) Advent Candles

They’re not made of chocolate, so they’re rubbish.

Verdict: Not worth it in any way.

3) Mistletoe

No child wants to see their parents kissing, and there’s a constant worry with mistletoe that someone visiting will take it as an invitation to lurch at you. But, when everyone’s really stressed and panicking, brief moments of escape and affection can make a big difference. So when you walk past some spooky old lady wearing the clothes of a ghost and selling sprigs for a quid, humour her. Can’t hurt, can it?

Verdict: The effort involved in using an inch of sticky tape to affix a twig to a doorframe is minimal, and kissing the person you love is fairly great.

RyanJLane via Getty Images

4) Christmas Cards

Christmas cards are absolute nonsense. They’re written and sent out so industrially that any semblance of affection is lost – your Aunt Petunia isn’t receiving a thoughtful message of good tidings, she’s getting the umpteenth card you’ve signed that day, with a copyright-free picture of a Christmas pudding on it and “Season’s Greeting’s”, complete with misused apostrophe, printed inside. Just email people. It’s 2018.

Verdict: The hell with Christmas cards. You’re paying to litter people you love.

5) Wrapping Presents

Unwrapping presents is fun, but wrapping paper is one of the biggest cons on the planet. It’s an extra cost and it’s going straight in the bin – not even the recycling bin, if it’s laminated or metallic or whatever. By the time you’ve used nice paper, a nice ribbon and a nice gift tag, you’d have been better off putting that dosh towards a nicer present.

Verdict: Use newspaper instead – you get all the fun of unwrapping, save a bit of dosh, know it’s recyclable and it helps keep journalism alive.

6) Christmas Tree

Acquiring and decorating a tree is quite a lot of effort, often involving things like roof-racks, fiddly gossamer-thin nets, strings of lights that get inexplicably doubled up, inevitable bulb breakage and Home Alone-style foot injuries. But it’s probably a nice thing for the focal point of the living room not to be the telly for a few weeks, your house becomes a little more fabulous for a while and everyone learns valuable lessons about electricity.

Verdict: Worth the effort. It doesn’t feel it when you’ve got bleeding palms from carrying the bastard, but it’s festive.

rustycanuck via Getty Images

7) Church

Look, if there really is an all-knowing God, then He or She knows how knackered you are, so there’s no need to faff about pretending not to be.

Verdict: Life’s too short. 

8) Nativity Plays

The plots of far too many cheesy films involve a stressed parent missing their child’s Christmas show, only to realise they have their priorities all wrong. Leaving aside how unfair that is (you could argue that buggering off at 2pm during a busy week at work to watch a play in a primary school isn’t always the best way of going about things; that there’s a lot to be said for things like being able to pay the electricity bill; that sometimes the way love manifests itself is in working one’s arse off to help keep a roof over ones family’s head, and god damn it, do you like being warm and dry, huh, because being warm and dry sometimes requires Mummy and Daddy to put in the hours), nativity plays are fine. Most of the work is handled by other people, kids look cute dressed up, and you might see something amazing like that really loud girl (“AND HE SAID THAT HIS NAME WAS JEEEEE-ZOSSSSS”) who went viral.

Verdict: Fill your boots, but manage your kids’ expectations, and don’t build their whole emotional wellbeing on whether you make it or not.

9) Visiting Santa

On every other occasion, you’d warn your kids to avoid strangers (especially ageing bearded ones), but at Christmas you’re like, “Oh, hey, tell that guy your secrets and sit on him”. It’s a nice bit of magic for little ones, and there’s comedy gold in photos of terrified, howling children sensibly reeling from this portly caped stranger, but if your children are older than six, it’s just going through the motions. Santa’s pretending to be real, you’re pretending he’s real, your kids are pretending they think he’s real – it’s a grotto of lies.

Verdict: If it’s nearby, and there isn’t a queue, and it’s not extortionate, and the Santa has a real beard, it’s probably just about worth it. Otherwise, there’s stuff that needs doing. Clean your damn room, Junior.

[Read More: Parents Furious at ’Hellhole” Santa’s Grotto]

SolStock via Getty Images

10) Christmas Dinner

Almost all Christmas food is bad, which is why we only have it once a year. Think about it – if turkey was nice and not the dryest meat in existence and Turkeys didn’t look like the Devil, you’d eat it more often. Christmas pudding, mince pies and Christmas cake are all pretty much the same“vaguely cherryish matter” in varying denseness, and sprouts taste like urine. But, damn it, it’s Christmas. You need to all sit down and eat together, and it might as well be eating something you don’t have very often.

Verdict: Necessary in some form, but is anyone really going to be unhappy if you nuke the veg, replace the various desserts with a Chocolate Orange Viennetta and some Kronenbourg, rather than cutting Xs in sprouts like some sort of medieval oddball? And if you do have Christmas pud, for God’s sake don’t put a coin in it. Nobody wants to spend Boxing Day holding your child’s hand as they pass a quid.

[Read More: We’re Not Sure How We Feel About This Deep-Fried Christmas Dinner]

11) Crackers

Crackers are the best thing about Christmas. There’s a loudish noise, some plastic crap, a pleasantly rubbish joke and a silly hat. That’s spectacle, presents, fun and jollity all in one. It’s the undiluted squash of Christmas. And you can get them in Poundland.

Verdict: Necessary.

Robert Daly via Getty Images

12) Charades

The world of entertainment is now so fragmented that a game of charades, especially an inter-generational one, is pretty much 100% bound to end in confusion. Your nan doesn’t know what ‘Stranger Things’ is. Your kids don’t know how to mime whatever racist old sitcom your nan wrote down. It’s a hard crowd to do ‘Dick Tracy’ in front of.

Verdict: Awful, stressful and embarrassing. Just have a box of Matchmakers and a sleep.

13) Putting A Film On While Muggins Does The Washing Up

Finding a film to please everyone is tough – men above a certain age always want to put a Bond film on after Christmas dinner for some reason, but you don’t necessarily want to show your kids the adventures of a mass-killing sociopath who doesn’t know the meaning of consent. Someone will request ‘Love Actually’ forgetting it is literally the shittest film ever made. Go for ‘Star Wars’ or ‘Harry Potter’, leave the old people to fall asleep and the young ones to mainline chocolate and you can retire to the kitchen for a bit of peace.

Verdict: Essential.

[Read More: 7 Classic Christmas Films To Watch With Your Kids That’ll Make You Feel Nostalgic]

14) The Queen’s Speech

The Queen recorded this in April, and will be spending Christmas as she spends every other day of the year, munching a swan and not doing any work. She doesn’t know or care who you are, and you’ve got a lot on.

Verdict: Absolute waste of time.

15) Buck’s Fizz With Breakfast

Absolutely vital. This is real “cold dead hands” kinda stuff.

Verdict: Yes, yes, yes, forever and always, Amen.