Meet the Christmas family of the Nineties, from Damon, aged seven, upwards. By Eleanor Bailey. Illustrations by Linda Combi


With adolescence hitting a person at about six these days, it is unsurprising that the seven-year-old Damon Christmas is the only seriously cool member of the Christmas family. Damon has demanded a complete set of Teletubbies this year, but only as an ironic retro interior decor joke for his apartment - he still keeps a room at his parents' house, but since his CD-Rom (a multimedia guide to starting your own kid's entertainment channel) - did so well, he has bought a flat in north Soho where the vibe is more conducive. And, actually, it's quite handy for school, too.

Damon doesn't get up at 5am in frenzied excitement any more - he was mixing till three and who's going to miss sleep for some satsumas and a Sony PlayStation? He hasn't seen much of the family this year, but always gets immersed during the day. Realising, with the arrival of Neanderthal, unreconstructed cousins, that he is expected to stuff his face with inappropriate food items to "spoil his appetite for dinner", he obliges. His parents, Pam and Alan Christmas (see below) are delighted that he's being "a proper kid at last" when he has a tantrum over not being allowed to watch The X Files Christmas Special.

Gives? Promo copies of his own Christmas special CD - Postman Pat, the drum 'n' brass remix.

Wants? Any Tommy, Air Max, Polo, Teletubbies accessories.

Eats? No sprouts, no parsnips, no cabbage.

Church? He is a choir boy no more.

TV? Anything relating to the Teletubbies, documentary on Roni Size. Dave (aka hedge) Christmas age 18 Eighteen and back after his first term studying Humanities at university "two Es and you're in", Dave has discovered far-left politics, snake-bite and that wearing black means you don't have to wash your clothes very often. Due to the effects of over-indulgence the night before, Dave can't laugh or speak or he will throw up. Not having got up until 1 pm, he sulks all the way though the Queen's speech. Won't eat dinner since becoming vegan - he insists that animal matter must have been transferred to vegetables since the same spoon was used.

Wants? The Communist Manifesto, Che Guevara posters, combat gear, Gap tokens.

Gives? "A donation to an ecological developing world charity on your behalf" - at least that's the plan when his grant comes through.

Eats? He's vegan, but generously makes an exception for chocolate and alcohol. His main diet is cigarettes taken behind the greenhouse.

Church? As a heckler.

Watches? Xmas Specials of the daytime soaps. Jo Christmas age 26 A sorry Christmas tale. This year Jo planned to go skiing with friends: "I mean, for God sake, there comes a time when you don't want to watch Raiders of the Lost Ark again." Skiing with a group of 10 got downgraded to a cottage for four in North Wales. "No one could afford the skiing but, it's going to be great, just a group of people who are sick of turkey and the nightmare of hanging out with the family. We'll get loads of champagne, take unfeasible amounts of drugs, go on a real old-fashioned bender. There's absolutely no reason why I should have to go home to see Mummy."

Sadly, this year, like every one before it, the plan fell apart as the whole group reneged, and Christmas day sees Jo once again in the family bosom. "But this is the last time."

Eats? Chocolate all day: "To cheer me up."

Wants? A ski-pass.

Gives? Booze, shower gel, luxury mince pies - or anything else available at the last minute Tesco's superstore, which was all that was open when plans changed.

TV? Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Church? "I think that Aussie pub's closed until New Year. All the backpackers go home." Jane and Tim Christmas age 34 Having spent years as twentysomethings planning to ski, Jane and Tim are, at 34, now married and throwing themselves into the best traditional country Christmas known to Islington. Jane and Tim were buying Conran decorations in October. She has three minimalist steel trees - which leaves the flat rather overcrowded. Baby Hector Stanislaus may only be four months old but of course he has to have his own chocolate advent calender. Their presents require two trips even in the new Ford Espace (which had seemed a little big for one 12lb baby) - Jane doesn't want to spoil the bark wrapping paper. While she leaves the more prosaic tasks (like the turkey and the clearing up) to Pam Christmas (see below), she has made her own Kumquat and Oolong sauce (it's not available over here yet but it will be in the new River Cafe Cook Book).

Gives? Minimum pounds 50 (and that was on the cat's stocking - "He's been feeling neglected since Hector").

Gets? "Very disappointing - nothing but yogurt-making kits and Joanna Trollope novels - do they think I'm some kind of cliche?"

Church? Since they realised that a cabinet minister and former alternative comedian are part of the parish, they've been delighted to lend a hand at coffee mornings.

TV? They'd like to ban it. "We're trying to get back to the true spirit of Christmas" - which means forcing the unwilling to play charades and the unable to sing carols in harmony. Pam and Alan Christmas age 45 Pam and Alan are drained, stressed and close to mental collapse. In fact, Alan was struck down with a fit of depression in the summer precipitated by three things: the onset of impotence (he blames the threat of redundancy; she thinks it's down to her middle-aged spread); finding hair in his ears; and the fact that their eldest son Dave looks like Swampy.

Nevertheless, at Christmas time, most of the work falls to them. Pam, who is vulnerable anyway, has been up most of the night preparing food and begins to cry over the turkey when Jane Christmas (see above) remarks, "Oh God, I thought we were having goose this year."

Nor does Dot's (see below) Christmas quip ("Is the flesh a bit dry then?") raise so much as a smile.

Happily, doing all the work gives Alan Christmas easy access to the booze. He is bright cheeked by 11am, telling everyone what a "Bloody hellish year it's been" by midday and downright abusive by the first chipolata. "I've always hated all of you," he shouts. There is a polite laugh from Jane and Tim, who are convinced that this is the first parlour game. But he maintains, "No, I mean it, I'm sick of the bloody lot of you. Sometimes, I just want to do myself in." Wife Pam surreptitiously puts a napkin over the carving knife.

Gives? M& S ties, Body Shop gift sets - what with everything, they've had neither the energy nor the inclination to be imaginative.

Gets? "Anything. Honestly, it's just such a bloody relief to put our feet up in front of the telly for a few days."

Eats? Very little. They get terrible indigestion and in any case, "It never tastes as nice when you made it yourself."

Church? "We wouldn't, but someone has to take Dot."

TV? Anything and everything. "It's all blocking out reality." Barbara and Don Christmas age 64 Just back from the Azores, Barbara and Don are glowing with health. What Barbara most enjoys is telling Pam about the days when she used to cook for 20 and all the vegetables were warm at the same time. "You have it easy, I can tell you," she laughs, knocking back another Martini.

But Barbara is sympathetic when she she sees Pam brimming over again (Christ, wasn't the Prozac doing anything?) "You should have a holiday. The Maldives are good at this time of year." Pam thinks about her overdraft and consoles herself with the thought that at least she won't be as wrinkled in 20 years time. Don has become intensely boring about boats.

Gives? Duty Free.

Gets? "Anything by John Grisham or Michael Crichton for reading on the plane."

Eats? "Just a little. God, no pudding! Think how I'd look in a bikini!"

Church? "We've done our bit, thank you very much."

TV? All the old films and costume dramas, because "All we ever get to see are Mr Bean re-runs and Jean Claude Van Damme movies with subtitles." Dot Christmas age 80 At this festive time, Dot Christmas uses her decaying mind as a powerful destructive tool. She likes nothing better than to ruin Jane and Tim's idea of traditional party games by pretending to misunderstand. They retaliate by giving her "Really soft, honestly" toffees that loosen her dentures. She gets on best with Damon by bribing him with fivers. Jane and Tim's bark wrapping paper starts her grumbling about "wicked wastefulness" - she started wrapping presents in newspaper during the war and sees no reason to stop now. After a few sherries she becomes maudlin and starts rambling about how things haven't been the same since "my George passed away". Barbara points out that they must be much better since she did nothing but complain at the time.

Buys? Bargains (indiscriminately - this year she bought Damon bedlinen).

Wants? "Anything little and pretty. What do I need when I'm going to die soon anyway?" Nevertheless her mind unclouds if anyone has failed to deliver. Particular fondness for lavender.

Eats? "Oh, like a bird, me!" she says, as they wheel on her second helping.

Church? Every week.

TV? Lots, but she sleeps through most of it.