27 Nov 2020

6 Christmas Nightmares (and how to avoid them)

News that we can spend time with loved ones over Christmas will be welcome for many of us, but the social challenges of the past year might also make the prospect of hosting a festive gathering seem even more daunting than usual. From cooking fails to drunk guests, we've shared some common Christmas pitfalls – and how to avoid them.

1.) The diverging dietary requirements

Trying to accommodate a range of special diets and food intolerances can leave even the most creative of chefs at a loss for ideas. Now is the time to accept any offers to contribute to the meal (and if none are forthcoming, a tactful 'I love that quinoa salad you make' might prompt one). Otherwise, choose a few simple, fresh dishes that won't overburden you with work, while ensuring that everyone is catered for.

2.) The kitchen disaster

Certain culinary mistakes can be glossed over with enough bravado and some decorative salad leaves, but for truly catastrophic cooking (turkey still frozen inside, potatoes burnt to a cinder) you'll need a Plan B. The worst eventuality is to leave your guests hungry, so keep some easily reheated staples stashed away in the freezer - a casserole, stew or pie - and serve them with confidence: don't feel you have to apologise. Alternatively, call a reliable local takeaway.

3.) The unexpected plus-one

You've carefully plated up six starters when your sister arrives with a new partner in tow - and uninvited. Although the faux pas is technically your sister's, you'll have to smile graciously and welcome the extra as if you'd been expecting them all along. Then get back to the kitchen pronto for some hasty rearrangement.

4.) The underwhelming gift

Whether it's a hideous scarf or some out-of-date liqueurs, Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without a frankly terrible gift making it under the tree. But revealing anything other than unbridled joy as you open it could cause offence, especially if the giver put a lot of time and effort into choosing something. So dig deep, act delighted and say thank you.

5.) The drunk and disorderly guest

If a drunk guest's behaviour is making you or others feel uncomfortable,  you're well within your rights to get them an Uber and send them home.

For those still teetering on the acceptable side of tipsy, administer carbs (mince pies, turkey sandwiches, leftover roast potatoes) and encourage them to drink plenty of water between alcoholic drinks.

6.) The forgotten present

A neighbour pops round with a thoughtful homemade present, but you've completely neglected to buy them anything in return. There's no point trying to improvise by grabbing a bottle of Prosecco from the rack – just apologise and buy them an extra nice post-Christmas present to make up for it. If it's a teenage niece or nephew who's been unintentionally overlooked, some cash hastily slipped into an envelope will usually compensate.


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