It's that time of year when you wake up sweating and can't figure it out. Did you wear your thermals accidentally? Do you have a disease? It is your turn to host, and the list of things that can go wrong on the 25th is long.
Can I suggest a quick wisdom stocktake before we start? The worst Christmas of all time was last year, when every plan was thrown out at the last minute, non-essential shops were closed before we had done our shopping, and people who thought they were going back to their families ended up at home. I don't think it could be as bad as that again, but it wouldn't be as bad.
You can get a head start on some of the bridges that you can't cross until you come to them.
The turkey is too big for the oven. This meal is not a surprise. I am using a harsh tone for a reason. When we are around our families, we tend to default to a mean, buzzing internal monologue of: "You're useless / hopeless / incompetent", a mix of everyone who ever made you feel bad, a proportion of whom are currently in your living room, expecting. Don't do this to yourself. It's easier said than done.
In the pink, but not in a good way. GMVozd is a picture
It seems counterintuitive to consult the author of How to Cook the Perfect, and author of many books, on a matter of such complete imperfection. Cloake is ideal, with so many solutions that you can count them to calm you down.
She says to cut the legs off. They get wedged in the oven element and cause my temperature to go up. They should be easy to remove, but there is a video on the internet to help. Take the wings off if it is still too big. If you have discovered that you don't have room for the turkey and side dishes together, then roast it first, cover it with foil, then carve it and serve it in hot gravy.
You put the turkey in the oven too late and everyone is starving and it is still half raw. She says she would give them a few more crisps if they put it back in the oven. You are in a danger zone if they have already started drinking. They could sail past the appetite on a sea of sherry and into Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
If you need to eat now, I would suggest starting with the breast, which will cook first and which may be ready even if the legs are still raw. Turkey brown meat is dark and may look uncooked if it is not checked with a meat thermometer.
If it isn't cooked, take it out and roast it separately. If you are really desperate, bring a large pan of chicken or vegetable stock to a boil, then take the meat off the bone and cook in it. It should take a few minutes.
Tofu is the perfect vegan snack. Olena Mykhaylova is pictured.
The cheese toastie, the omelette, and all those failsafe store cupboard solutions for the emergency veggie are out of the window. A vegan would consider a burger made of pea protein or fake cheese to be a meat substitute, but in a carnivore's kitchen, you will most likely be missing out.
If you have a dairy-free supermarket puff pastry sheet in, you can fill it with anything from mashed vegetable to a tapenade for a festive presentation. Tofu dusted in cubes and deep fried will make a delicious turkey substitute if you can't fit it in your oven.
What to do with an anti-vaxxer? The picture is by Drazen Zigic.
When we think of anti-vaxxers, especially in an intimate, family setting, we are most comfortable channelling our indignation into the territory of health: that anti-science idiot is endangering my health. If this is a deal-breaker, they are more likely to have caught Covid, and more likely to pass it on.
If they couldn't get vaccine, you might be more worried about them being a Covid victim than you are about being a carrier. The character trait that you could be reacting to is obduracy, narcissism, callousness. You have to get the temperature down in order to take yourself out. They are not doing this to you. It is a thing they are doing.
How can I be kind while making sure my boundaries are respected is a question we tend to think about. Practical research on how we talk to each other across ideological divides can be found in the world of political discourse. The Centre for Labour and Social Studies (Class) is run by a woman named Eleanor Mae O'Hagan, who works on public attitudes related to the economy and culture wars. Anat Shenker-Osorio is the person who divides people into base and persuadable.
Base tends to mean progressive, humane, and reasonable. You are the small segment of the population who cannot be moved, whatever the issue is, and that is the opposition. You will probably read a lot of news and take the information that supports your view. Determine who you are dealing with first. A persuadable person is more likely to express uncertainty, more likely to contradict themselves, and more likely to draw from their own experience. An opposition mindset will be typified by a long list of diversionary facts and a great deal more certainty.
O'Hagan says don't tell them facts with a persuadable person. That doesn't work. Do not myth-bust. The myth in people's minds is strengthened by that. You should start with a shared value and be clear about the good in them. You care about making sure people are safe. I care about that as well.
In a political context, the advice on the opposition mindset is not to persuade them, but to get them to listen. You end up saying something bland if you don't. Don't deliberately alienating them, but don't get involved, that's what this really means.
The NHS divides vaccine attitudes into four categories: accepting; hesitant; resistant; and hostile. They only communicate with the first three, and don't talk to the fourth.
pondering the unsayable? The photograph is of the Pixel Youth movement.
There is an argument that one person will always be spoiling for a fight and that it is their Christmas too. They have come all the way so let them say whatever they want. Someone who wants to kick off will do it with a big, unsayable thing, like that Donald Trump wasn't all bad, or Covid is a hoax. A lot of people who become Covid conspiracy theorists are people who really suffered during the lockdown. They were frightened and suffering, so they were looking for explanations. Try to respond to the hurt rather than the words.
My main suggestion is to make your first offer not champagne or wine, which people always drink too fast because they are thirsty and excited. They will drink too fast if you make weak gin and tonics. At least they won't be thirsty when they move on to their next drink.
You bought your brother something amazing, he got you something from Poundland, and he gave her some tights fromTK Maxx, and she weathered that. The story is true. Have a word with yourself, eh?
The reason Christmas is so fraught and occupies such a central place in our hosting anxieties is because of parking your unique family dynamics. Catering at scale is new to many people. Spending hours in company doesn't suit a lot of temperaments. Extroverts feel offended. The core family of parents plus adult kids will usually have its own strategies to deal with all this, but add in some in-laws, neighbours, new girlfriends or boyfriends, and you are back to square one.
All activities should be optional. MBI/Alamy
When I describe it as awful, it is because it is enforced and went on for two hours, but it allowed us to split into twos and threes and have real conversations. The main thing is to have a few options. Charades, snooze, and wash up. Poker, TV, and walk the dog. If you want to escape, you have to create legitimate escape routes for people who need them.
One of your guests is allergic to cats. In the old days, you probably wouldn't have got a cat if it meant your brother or best friend's boyfriend couldn't visit, but now, sheesh, 18 months with nobody ever visiting you and acres of home time, why not have four?
The hair lying about might have more of an effect than the animal padding in and out. You should be doing it anyway. If you have an allergy, make sure you have one, but don't make your guest feel like a nuisance if you ask them to take one before they arrive.
It's time to go home.
It is a conversation you can have ahead of time: who needs to stay over, how those who don't stay will get home, and who will need elderflower cordial. You can get a good idea of what your entertainment window will look like with these practical details. Our social muscles have atrophied, we have become less good at reading cues, and we have forgotten what time things are supposed to end. Maybe some of us are too excited and want to spend more time together. My sister left at 3am the first time she came over. Others are taking time to adjust. Don't bother with all the Martha Stewart-ey tips, let the wine run out and turn the lights up, we all need radical openness. I know this isn't how we used to do things, but it doesn't mean I love you any less.
They will split up when they are ready.
One of the strangest things about the Pandemic is the fact that the couple you invited can't stand each other anymore. Not seeing enough people outside of our house has got to be a problem. I know couples who have become very saccharine in the way they talk to each other, couples who overshare to a degree that would put hairs on your chest, and couples whose tone has become very rough and sarcastic, so don't overreact. If you wouldn't have invited them, you know them well. One or both parties will probably tell you that they can't stand each other. I am afraid you only have one strategy, to keep it off the table. Christmas Day at your house is not an idea of ready when they split up.
You know your kids have become cynical and will never experience the Christmas spirit again. Last year was probably their final true childhood Christmas, but you were too preoccupied to notice. Marge Simpson would usually quote, "Take all your bad feelings and push them down, all the way down, past your knees, until you're almost walking on them." The passing of time is sad.
I think it is unlikely that anyone will be asked or expected to celebrate on their own after everything that has happened, including the prime minister's bogus "childcare bubble" last Christmas. We may be asked to scale back our plans and find ourselves in a family with too much food or not enough. If this comes to pass, you may find some silver linings in the things you have been worrying about.