Don't go crackers at Christmas

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Christmas has a cheeky habit of sneaking up on us unawares, so that we suddenly find it's late afternoon on 24 December and little kids are singing carols through the entryphone and we haven't even started the Christmas shopping, and we burst out through the front door, shouting: "Out of the way you little devils, I have to get to Harrods before it closes on Christmas Eve!"

Well, we don't want that happening this year, do we? No, we don't. So here's what we are going to do. We are going to bring you a Christmas checklist today containing all the things you have got to do in the next few weeks.

OK. Here we go.

Things we have to do

BEFORE Christmas

Decide who we want to spend Christmas with.

This is not as simple as it sounds. Whether you are young people deciding which parents you would like to spend Christmas with, or older people deciding who you should invite to stay, it is not just a question of deciding who you would like to have as company on Christmas Day. It's a question of who you should be with on Christmas Day. God gave us a lot of fun friends and relatives, but he also gave us a lot of unattached and sometimes tedious kith and kin, because He's very fair like that, and if we look back over 1995, we'll probably find that we spent more time with the fun-to-be-with relatives than with the other kind, and round about Christmas we start to feel guilty about the not-so-much-fun-to-be-with relatives, and we start saying things like: "Oh Lord, I suppose we ought to have Aunt Julia over on Christmas Day for lunch" or "I wonder if anyone is going to stay with Granny for Christmas this year" and before you know where you are, you've signed away your Christmas to guilt and duty.

So don't do that.

Instead, decide who you don't want to spend Christmas with.

Yes, draw up a list headed "People who make me feel I would rather die than have to spend Christmas with them". Put down everyone you can think of, even neighbours and colleagues who might just drop in unasked on Christmas Day.

Now, just to be fair, draw up a list marked "People it would be fun to have around on Christmas Day".

Just for interest's sake, count the number of people you don't want to be with on Christmas Day.

Now count the number of people you would like to have round at Christmas.

Is the number of people you don't want to see at Christmas larger than the number of people you would like to see at Christmas?

Oh, yes it is.

Because there are some other people you didn't put on that unwanted list, aren't there?

Including some very close relatives, right?

Even, maybe, children and spouses, am I right?

So go on, be honest, put them down as well.

To sum up, the list of unwanted friends and relatives is longer than the other one.

Or to put it another way, at this stage in your life you have acquired more people you dislike than people you like!

Makes you think, doesn't it?

One of the things it makes you think is this: "If most of the people I know and am related to are people I don't want to have around at Christmas, what kind of person must I be, to attract such large quantities of people I don't like? And so few that I do like?"

Another of the things it makes you think is: "I wonder if I rang up Granny and asked her to come and stay for Christmas, and she said she had already made plans to go away to Barbados for the festive season, I wonder if she would have made those arrangements in order to avoid the risk of having to be with me?"

But we don't have time for morbid thoughts like that.

So what you have got to do now, before you do anything else, is discuss with your nearest and dearest how Christmas should be arranged.

And find out that they have already made their plans for Christmas.

Which don't seem to involve you at all.

Oh, my God.

Nobody likes you.

And probably never did.

It's going to be a fairly bleak Christmas, isn't it?

Tomorrow, we think this whole Christmas thing through again ...