It’s the most wonderful time of the year for those with functional families. Christmas is hyped as the time when distant relatives convene over succulent roast dishes and starchy sides. Besides an opportunity to gorge ourselves into oblivion, holiday gatherings can also be a time of sloppy spectacles, drunken dissent, and of course, many hours of Michael Bublé.
Christmas morning is a sacred ritual in my family. The five of us potter aimlessly around the house until someone suggests it’s acceptable to open wine. From that point, historically speaking, the day could go in many different directions. If a certain aunt drops by to visit, we’ll make small talk in the backyard while she chain-smokes Indonesian ciggies and explains the collective shortcomings of my generation. When a different aunt stops by, I get trapped in the same conversation about every gay best friend she’s had since 1974, and have to answer questions about whether Grindr has ruined romantic love. Most infamous was the year my dad and sister had a fiery row over offshore detention, which only ended when, mid-sentence, my sister fell into a prosecco-ed slumber at the dining table.
Maybe it’s different for families with kids still running around. I’m sure that makes it easier to muster some holiday cheer. Nowadays, the boozy regression of my sister and I to childlike forms – food-stained, barely able to walk or form a coherent sentence – is as close as we get to entertaining kids at Christmas. Somewhere throughout the proceedings I can usually detect in my brother-in-law’s eyes the flicker of a realisation: “What exactly have I married into?”
When you start dragging partners home for the holidays, the charm of these shenanigans can start to wane. The flip side? Forcing partners through this baptism of Irish-Catholic fire is a foolproof test of fortitude. You know you’ve found a soulmate when they’re happy to drink three bottles of shiraz with your dad, watch Sharknado and fall asleep by 9pm. (Future boyfriends, you’ve been warned.)