My recipe for surviving the Twelve Days after Christmas

In this ground-breaking column I'll talk you through the wind- down to Twelfth Night
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The Independent Culture
WE GET a lot of advice about the run-up to Christmas - cooking, last minute shopping, etc - but no advice at all on what to do in the aftermath, no post-Christmas counselling as it were.

So in this ground-breaking column I am going to talk you through the wind-down from Christmas Day to Twelfth Night, detailing what exactly happens on each day, so that you can tick things off as they occur.

(I am assuming that I am addressing a thoroughly typical British family, that is a single parent with partner, 1.5 children, two relations you remember inviting and five you don't. )

First Night

All the presents are opened and all the food eaten, except the nuts, Turkish delight, half the turkey etc, etc. Paracetamol all gone, though.

One of you says: "Well, that's all over, then, thank God". The other says: "Not by a long chalk".

The phone rings.

It's a relation in a far-off country.

"Belinda!" you cry. "Happy Christmas! We tried to ring earlier, but all lines were busy."

You know you have to thank Belinda for a present, but you can't remember off-hand what it is, so you mouth to your partner: "What did I get from Belinda"?

Your partner thinks you are saying: "Have you switched off the blender?", goes to have a look and never comes back.

Second Night

You find a present under the Christmas Tree which nobody has opened and which has no label on it. Nobody recognises it.

A child says to you: "I can't make this toy work. Can you make it work for me?" You can't.

The smell of turkey stock is heard in the land.

Third Night

Your partner says: "Have you seen that list I made of who gave which present to whom?" You haven't.

Fourth Night

You prepare to dispose of all the wrapping paper, but think you should go through it first in case you find any valuables. You don't.

Fifth Night

You wake up convinced that you watched The Maltese Falcon on TV last night and understood everything that happened. This is clearly impossible. You go back to sleep.

A grand expedition to the bottle bank is mounted.

A small glass ornament falls off the tree and breaks. The dog tries to eat it.

In a quiet moment, you say to your partner: "Never again". Your partner says: "Never".

You don't actually define which bit of Christmas you're talking about.

Sixth Night

Still no sign of the return of the grand expedition to the bottle bank. Should you tell someone?

Three cards arrive in the post, two from people you didn't send cards to, and one from someone you sent a card to, and who obviously sent one off to you in return, too late.

First attempt to change presents which were too big, too small, or too tight under the arms.

Someone says: "I wonder if we should phone the vet about the dog and the glass, just in case?"

Seventh Night

Bottle bank expedition returns, saying that they couldn't find a bottle bank anywhere which wasn't full, but they got invited to a very good party by some people who were also trying to dump bottles and sort of stayed on for a day or two.

Someone says: "Talking of parties, when were we invited round to the Galloways?"

Someone else says: "Oh my God, it was last night."

Eighth Night

Turkeyburgers for lunch again.

First heavy fall of Christmas tree needles.

Dog eats unopened present. Looks like a scarf.

Ninth Night

At lunch, someone says: "Are these turkeyburgers again?"

You say: "Certainly not - they're brussel sproutburgers."

Go to visit relatives you are dreading seeing, never suspecting they are dreading seeing you.

Tenth Night

In a quiet moment, you say to your partner: "It wasn't that bad, actually". Your partner says: "Could have been a lot worse." Yes, memory is starting to play tricks already.

Eleventh Night

Worried about the dog again, after the discovery of a strange pile of detritus which suggests dog is leaving very strange droppings, perhaps as result of scarf poisoning.

Dog worries are over - the detritus is identified as left-overs from mulled wine.

Twelfth Night

Partner gets call from Belinda, and says to you later: "Did you ever get that scarf from Belinda?"

You say: "Ah! I think the dog ate it."

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