Picture / Babiche Martens.

10 Ways to Have a Relaxing Christmas

Christmas these days is far too frantic, so chill out and and enjoy a restful festive break

This Christmas Eve, the BBC is to devote two hours of prime time to a film about reindeer crossing the white wasteland of the Arctic Circle. In All Aboard! The Sleigh Ride there will be no commentary or music and no sound bar the crunch of runners and hooves on snow and the tinkling of bells as the reindeer are driven on by the Sami people. This is called Slow television, and along with bestselling books on artistic ways to store firewood, it is yet another new craze from Scandinavia.

The idea is that you just chill out, drift off and float away in the comfort of your cosy living room.

What a brilliant wheeze. Christmas these days is far too frantic. It has become imbued with the work ethic - the idea that unless you are a “hard-working family”, in David Cameron’s phrase, then you have no right to exist. So we rush about the city streets, get stressed about Brussels sprouts and weep over wrapping paper and lost rolls of Sellotape.

Yet Christmas should be a time to retreat from the world and its vanities — and indulge yourself gastronomically and spiritually. Probably the greatest and most romantic Christmas in literature is the one celebrated at Camelot as described in the 14th-century poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. It seems that the whole point of Christmas in those very olden days was to do nothing except have fun for two weeks straight:

For there the feast was alike full fifteen days, with all the meat and mirth men could devise.”

So how could we create our own slow Christmas? I have compiled my top 10 tips for an idle and restful festive break. 

1. Work at making Christmas as long and as languorous as possible.
There are Twelve Days of it, after all. The aim should be to do very little from Christmas Day until Twelfth Night, the Feast of the Epiphany. The fact that New Year falls on a Friday means many of us will not have to be back at our desks until January 4.

2. Sing songs
In my dream Christmas scenario, we would hire some minstrels to play sweet tunes on the lute from the gallery and perform plays about St George and the Dragon. Sadly, it continues to be beyond my budget, so instead we have a singalong. I get out my ukulele and hand out song-sheets so assembled family members can lustily belt out everything from Jingle Bells to Fairytale of New York. This year I am sending the lyrics around early so people have a chance to prepare.

3. You can’t overdo the hospitality
Even if it involves extra work, the payback in feeling good is worth it. Before the Puritans tried to ban Christmas in 1645, it was all about generosity. As Elizabethan writer Thomas Tusser put it: “At Christmas we banquet, the rich with the poor, Who then (but the miser) but openeth his door?” Richard II frequently had 10,000 people to dinner. The guests went through 200 oxen and 200 tubs of wine. Now that’s entertainment.

4. Make up games
Chesterton believed Christmas was about being creative. His own idea was for a game that we could call “hit the host”: “How pleasing it would be to start a game in which we scored so much for hitting the umbrella-stand or the dinner-wagon, or even the host and hostess, with a missile of some soft material,” he wrote. Perhaps not. But the old games such as cards, chess, Monopoly and dominoes are best. Not least because, unlike Black Ops II, they can be played together by all age groups. My 10-year-old son and 90-year-old father-in-law love playing backgammon.

5. Dance
This year we are going to do some Scottish line dancing — something that can be enjoyed equally by the six-year-old and a great aunt. With a bit of practice, anyone can master the Dashing White Sergeant, Strip the Willow or an Eightsome Reel. See our edit of choreographed music videos and copy the moves. (Hint: you will dance better if you have had plenty of wine or beer at lunchtime.)

6. Leave Christmas buying until Christmas Eve but...
... do it online and buy digital presents for delivery on Christmas Day: gift cards or online courses.

7. Read books
Thankfully, Kindles and ebooks in general are dead and gone and the real book is back. What finer luxury in life is there than to lie on the sofa deep in a hardback book? Browse this list of interesting fashion books to read, or try out the growing craze for adult colouring-in books.

8. Watch old films
I reject any television channel that features advertising because Christmas is about getting away from shopping and spending. Instead I force my children to watch my favourite films: Withnail and I, This is Spinal Tap, Zoolander and anything by Terry Gilliam.

9. Sleep
Obviously this is a time when you can sleep whenever you like and not feel remotely guilty about it (even if everyone else is off for a brisk walk). So make the most of it. But it is also acceptable to lie down on a bed or chaise longue and allow a slim volume of verse by Shelley to fall from your hand as you enter the Land of Nod. (Hint: you will sleep better if you have had plenty of wine or beer at lunchtime.)

10. Share the work
I hear your complaint: it’s all very well to talk about lying around doing nothing except for sleeping and reading, but someone has to make Christmas happen. If you are host/hostess, imagine you are managing a small cleaning and catering business. Family and guests are your staff. Have a meeting and apportion tasks. If Christmas is about anything, it is family harmony, and that means plenty of loafing about for everyone.

— The Daily Telegraph

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