The Editor’s Desk: Christmas questions answered

Is the thought of another fraught family Christmas dinner getting you down? The answers are here!

We’re not even two weeks into December, and I’m already tired of Christmas music. Help!? Is that a question or a statement?

Both, but any assistance would be appreciated. I assume that developing some sort of life-threatening illness or condition that puts you in hospital until Dec. 26 is out of the question.

Will that prevent me from hearing “Do You Hear What I Hear?” more times than is healthy? Not necessarily. Christmas music is, as you know, ubiquitous.

You’re telling me. Are there any stores or restaurants not playing it non-stop? If there are, they might consider making it a feature of any holiday advertising. It could be a winner.

Any tips that will make Christmas dinner easier and more pleasant? Go to a restaurant.

Really? It’s that easy? Think about it. No cooking or clean-up, no recriminations about lumpy mashed potatoes, no one upset about the modifications someone made to a beloved family dish, and no awkward sitting around trying to make small talk after the meal is over, even though no one has much left to say, just because it strikes you as rude to eat and then just leave. Restaurants depend on you eating and then leaving quickly, to free up the table for someone else and increase their profits.

Sounds like heaven. Plus when you’re at a restaurant, as opposed to in someone’s home, people are more inclined to behave themselves. Thus there’s less chance of Aunt Edith getting into the sherry a bit too heavily, or Uncle Frank expounding loudly and vehemently about politics, or the kids trying to kill each other.

Sigh. I wish that was an option this year, but I’m already locked into a family meal at someone else’s house. In that case, if you suspect things will be fraught, show up as late as you possibly can (but preferably before the meal is served). Then, to get away quickly, have a cover story rehearsed and ready to go to soften your exit.

Any suggestions? If you’re one of the many people who has to work on Boxing Day—and there are more of those people out there than you might think—then getting home early because you have to work next day is a great excuse. You could feign an illness (migraines are always good, since no one can prove or disprove them), or you could claim to have a sick pet at home you simply have to go check on. Just make sure your story holds water, and say it as you’re putting on your coat and shoes on the way to the front door; you’re more likely to make a clean getaway.

I’ll start practicing. What about the dinner itself? If I have a dietary restriction, should I tell the hosts in advance? It depends on how restrictive a restriction it is. If it’s life- or health-threatening, then by all means mention it early and often. If you’re a strict vegan or vegetarian, let your hosts know in advance and hope for the best. If it’s more a preference than a restriction, you can let your hosts know, but there are no guarantees. There will probably be at least one thing there you can eat, and while it might feel odd to sit at the dining table with nothing but a plate of brussel sprouts and some cranberry sauce, so be it.

How do I avoid conversations that inevitably end up with someone getting into a heated argument over politics? Sit at the kids’ table. Sure, they’ll be trying to kill each other, but that’s probably preferable to listening to Uncle Frank getting on his political hobbyhorse again and beating it to death.

What about a gift for the hosts, like a poinsettia or some chocolates? Nice idea, but people are drowning in both this time of year. You can’t go wrong with a good bottle of wine.

Any last words of advice? If your hosts have got one of those all-Christmas-music, all-the-time channels on, grit your teeth. Make it through dinner, and you won’t have to hear “Run, Rudolph, Run” for at least 11 months.

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