Balloons: They’re rather unfashionable now, but during my childhood balloons had a very important role to play as Christmas decorations. Two oval ones coupled to a single long thin one was the regulation arrangement, and these would be hung on the walls or pinned to the ceiling to dangle and sway in the breeze like phallic nods to the pagan gods of pre-Christian yuletide celebrations. Blowing them up was a treat for the whole family; no silly little cardboard pumps for us – this was what god gave us lungs for!
Unfortunately those lungs were more often utilised for sucking on Park Drive and Players Number 6, and weren’t always up to the task of balloon puffing. Between bouts of hacking and coughing we would slowly inflate several dozen phlegm-filled bladders, suffering dizzy spells, nosebleeds, blurred vision, and occasional blackouts before triumphantly tying them off in tight little knots that puckered in a manner reminiscent of a cat’s arsehole. Oh how we laughed!
After New Year those that survived would be taken down and used for target practice up the back garden. If one of us had received a dartboard for a present that year the darts would be our missiles of choice, but failing that we would lob kitchen knives and occasionally forks overhand, cheering wildly if one found its target, and even more wildly if the force of the resulting explosion sent the missile flying back at the thrower.
I bear the scars to this day.
Baubles: These are mostly made out of plastic now, but back in the Good Old Days they were made of silvered glass. When you dropped one it shattered like a light bulb, scattering shrapnel hither and yon with the cold efficiency of a ten-pound nail bomb. If you trod on a bauble back then you knew about it, and so did the poor nurse nursing a hangover at A&E who was charged with the task of picking the shards from the sole of your foot and sewing your scissored skin back together . Make sure to keep plenty of bandages and a pair of tweezers handy if you’ve rejected the plastic and gone old skool this Christmas season.
When it comes to dressing the tree stick to one or maybe two colours. Getting more than two colours evenly distributed over an entire tree is like completing a Rubik’s Cube™. Only harder on the feet. Add fairy lights and the colour-coordination thereof into the equation and it’s next stop the nuthouse.
Biscuits: Break out the Tartan shortbread and Fox’s Favourites. Don’t try to cut corners with a £2.99 tin of Family Circle – they may be good enough for the lull between Boxing Day and New Year’s Eve but try serving them up on the big day itself and you’re asking for trouble. Not a decent dunker among them, either, which just adds insult to injury. Go on, splash out, it’s Christmas after all. It’s only once a year. That’s the ticket…
Board Games: Isn’t it wonderful, when you have the whole family round, to dig out the Monopoly and spend a couple of hours arguing over the ‘special tax’ rule? No. Play Cluedo instead, and don’t speculate on what Colonel Mustard and Miss Scarlet got up to in the library with the rope, the kinky buggers. Or Reverend Green and Professor Plum with the lead pipe, for that matter. There are kids about, you know. Try Trivial Pursuit instead. And don’t laugh when somebody guesses ‘Mr Kipling’ when asked ‘who said “let them eat cake”?’ Well, you can laugh, but not in a patronising way. You’re no mastermind yourself, izzit. If anyone suggests charades don’t say, ‘Christmas is one big charade.’ Save that for Boxing Day when the in-laws have gone home. It’s things like that that cause rifts, you know.
Brussels Sprouts: Has there ever been a more divisive vegetable than the Sprout? Let’s face it, Brussels are to the genus brassica what Marmite™ is to the world of savoury spreads: it’s an either/or thing and few seem to fall into the ‘I’ll just have a couple to be polite’ category. Despite this, and the fact that there are so many other vegetables available that won’t so dramatically polarise opinion at the dining table, they now seem so intrinsically linked with Christmas that they’ve become a must-have staple. I’m sure they get dished up even in houses where nobody likes ‘em, on the basis that ‘Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without them.’ But tradition aside the BS plays one other important role in our Christmas celebrations, for, bad manners, copious amounts of alcohol, duck liver pate, and a smorgasbord of overripe and gloriously varicose vintage cheeses aside, what else do we have to blame all the teatime farting on?
Forget about trees and the lights that adorn them,
Forget about cakes and the queen’s speech at three,
Forget dear Santa and presents – who needs ‘em?
But overlook sprouts and you’ll answer to me…