Magazine article The Spectator

Christmas Advice from the Great and the Good

Magazine article The Spectator

Christmas Advice from the Great and the Good

Article excerpt

Friends of The Spectator share their favourite Christmas rituals - and tips on what to avoid

Clare Balding

I love a good walk on Boxing Day followed by watching the racing at Kempton. Avoid the internet. Be present in the moment, enjoying time with family rather than being distracted by online conversations.

Alain de Botton

My favourite ritual is reminding everyone involved that we will, of course, be having a sad and tense Christmas; there will be arguments, frustration, bitterness and barely suppressed longings to be elsewhere with other (better, more interesting) people. The food will be mediocre or, if tasty, will exact such passive-aggressive retribution from those who made it that it would have been better to have a sandwich. The children's presents will be a sickening reminder of materialism and everyone's inability to be happy without a screen. With expectations thus reduced, the chances of spending a really quite pleasant time will increase markedly. For a successful Christmas (or life), avoid hope.

David Cameron

On Christmas morning, we all open Santa's offerings together. So all three children and two adults are in bed together, opening our stockings.

I would avoid family arguments. You've got to get outside at some stage on Christmas Day and go for a walk, which helps to defuse any tensions.

Jilly Cooper

My husband Leo and I used to dream up our own Christmas cards, and I still do. One year we had three black labradors in turbans in the middle of the desert. The caption was: 'There came three wise dogs from the East, bearing bones, and being wise they ate them.'

The thing that I can dispense with at Christmas are those ghastly round-robin letters -- four pages of people telling you what they have been doing during the past 12 months. That darling bird the robin should not have his name attached to such a horror.

Niall Ferguson

Every Christmas -- or, to be precise, every Hogmanay -- all the members of the jazz band I played in at university gather together with their families at our place in Wales. We eat and drink gargantuan amounts and play music with steadily deteriorating precision. It is a wonderful way to see in the new year.

Susan Hill

A friend always has a pork pie for breakfast on Christmas Day, but I have nothing so original to offer. We do, however, always have smoked salmon for lunch and eat a turkey - with all the trimmings, naturally - in the evening.

At Christmas, never ever ever tell the truth. To the cook: 'Well, I don't think it was cooked right through.' To the child: 'You're a bit too old to believe in him still.' To the aged aunt: 'We are all sick to death of hearing about Christmas 1939. …

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