Holly: Bastard stuff. Avoid it if you can. Yes, it does look pretty, especially in a good year when it has lots of berries (‘Sign of a bad winter, you know’ / ‘Ooooh, get you, Jack Hargreaves!’), but it’s still a bugger to get up on the wall without a good pricking (shush!), and why take the risk when there are already so many seasonal hazards (pine needles, baubles, fairy lights, drunks…) knocking about? As for ivy – introduce at your own peril: the Mighty Hogweed and/or Triffids generally prove more user-friendly.
Honey and Lemon: At some point in your life you will get a Christmas cold. If you’re a woman even the slightest itchy nose will be assumed to be life threatening, and you will be commended constantly for ‘bravely soldiering on.’ If you’re a man suffering triple pneumonia, pharyngitis, a collapsed lung, and advanced necrosis of the bronchial tract it will be labelled “Man Flu”, and should you seek respite in the form of a brief nap on the sofa you will be laughed and jeered at for the next three weeks for exposing yourself as a pussy or wimp. If you object to the jeering you will be lectured on childbirth – the ultimate Top Trump™ available only to slightly over 50% of the population – despite ALL the research that has now emerged to conclusively disprove the erroneous theory that women have a higher pain threshold than men.
Honey and lemon – perhaps with a shot of whisky – is the panacea for both conditions. Stock up in advance. And don’t forget the aspirin – paracetamol is great for the headache but won’t touch the fever.
Hostess with the Mostess: Even if your hostess is crap you still have to go through the motions on this one. If you’re the “host” this may actually mean working up some enthusiasm for your annual Christmas Eve coupling. Close your eyes and think of England. Or Tina from the office. Of course, you might be a neighbour or in-law of the “Roger the Lodger” variety who comes sneaking around when the master of the house is at his writers’ group and the kids are at ukulele practice, in which case the trick is to pass off any inappropriate suggestion that slips out across the table while under the influence as harmless fun and banter. Be careful. You’ll get yours soon, but probably not tonight, Josephine.
On the other hand you may just be a regular dinner guest with no marital duties to perform or dirty secrets to conceal whatsoever, in which case you only need pour fulsome praise on said hostess at various points throughout the day. A bit of help with the washing up wouldn’t go amiss either.
Of course, unsavoury bedroom marital duties are not the preserve of the host alone – the hostess herself might feel obliged to oblige him (or her – let’s not make any assumptions of the nuclear family variety here) with ‘that thing’ that has become part of Christmas tradition. Swallow your pride, love, and indulge him (her) – it’s only once a year and you get yours afterwards. What on earth would the neighbours think if they knew about that little foible? Heaven forfend!
Hot Toddy: There are a wide range of heated alcoholic beverages available at Christmas and they are universally vile. The worst of these is Mulled Wine – a glass of cheap red served with slices of various citrus fruits, and a cinnamon stick swizzler where the umbrella would be in a proper cocktail. There will be a scum of mixed spices and potpourri floating on the top, reminiscent of the wash seen banging up against the uprights on Hastings pier at high tide. If an “infusion bag” has been used and forgotten this may be drifting a few inches beneath the surface like a miniscule Bag for Life carrier. Into this steaming mess will have been poured several bags of sugar, in an effort to make it palatable. It won’t have.
Wine mulling was something they did in medieval times to reclaim wine that wasn’t even good enough to be used for vinegar. In those days the water was poisonous, so any liquid that didn’t disembowel you with dysentery had to be utilised. When they ran out of horse piss and vinegar they would drink mulled wine.
The best thing to do with cheap wine these days is drink it. Even the really cheap bland blends can be quite palatable, and it is, in fact, only at the higher price bracket where “distinctive” flavours step in. Leave that end of the market to the wine snobs, and let them suffer the terrible hangovers, bilious attacks and gout that accompany it. ‘It travels well, doesn’t it?’ ‘Yes, it went through me like an express train…’
Humbug: No, not the warming winter sweetie but the catchall word used by Ebenezer Scrooge to express his utter disdain for all things Christmas. Bah! Humbug! Of course, Ebenezer the Silly Old Geezer got his comeuppance when visited by the chain-rattling ghost of Bob Marley and the three Wailing Spirits of Christmas. Terrified and chastened, Scrooge famously turned over a new leaf, despatching a street urchin to purchase ‘the biggest turkey in the shop’ from his local Dewhurst’s, which was subsequently gifted to his clerk, Dick Scratcher, in order that he could feed his family.
Sadly, Ebenezer died well over a century ago, and the Dick Scratchers of this world have fallen on hard times once more – victims of work[un]fare schemes, totally inadequate minimum wages, and benefit sanctions when work proves impossible to find. Tiny Timmies in this Brave New World face degrading and inhumane ATOS assessments and crushing poverty, perhaps even death, if found fit for work by heartless bureaucrats with tick boxes and zero medical training. People will die this winter, bitter cold and hungry in their own homes or huddled in shop doorways on our streets, while others toast themselves in front of roaring fires, wined and dined to excess and tweeting Merry Christmases to one another on their new I-Phones. Bah Humbug indeed. Jobs bless us, everyone…