Christmas parties: Why I'm glad to have a good excuse to avoid them – Stephen Jardine

If one good thing comes out of the Omicron nightmare, it’s the fact we now have an escape route from the worst thing about December. The Christmas party.

Bad food, worse wine and poor company can make Christmas parties rather unappealing, says Stephen Jardine (Picture: Darren Hauck/Getty Images)

Turning down an invitation once left you looking a bit anti-social. Now refusing the chance to drink warm Prosecco while listening to a pan-pipe version of Last Christmas seems like an altruistic decision for the health of the nation.

Let’s be honest, the only reason we go to a party is to meet someone for sex or friendship. My wife probably wouldn’t approve of the former and new friends are impossible nowadays in case we disagree with their views on independence or Brexit.

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Beyond that, what’s the point? In the summer, you can turn up for a barbecue in a t-shirt and shorts and look forward to something decent to eat.

At Christmas, you have to dress smart and go out in the freezing cold and your reward for all that is a tiny version of proper food and a glass of mulled wine that tastes like air freshener. And you can’t even leave early and get a taxi home because everyone else has exactly the same idea at the same time.

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In between are a number of excruciating social exchanges where you bump into people you haven’t seen all year. After a minutes of conversation, you remember why that is. If you are especially unlucky, they will top that off with their views on who is going to win Strictly this year.

Sometimes getting sozzled is the only way to cope. The Christmas vibe can help with that.

For years I used to take nice wine to festive parties only to be handed a glass of Bulls Blood with some cinnamon floating on top. Now I take a bottle of the Greek stuff from Lidl but pop it inside a gift bag and sign the label “Happy Christmas from Jim”. There is always a Jim and he’s often a cheapskate. I can then focus on explaining how my rare allergy means I can only drink that nice bottle of red they’d been hoping to keep for Christmas Day. It’s my truth and I’m sticking to it.

You see, nothing can save you from party hell, not even wealth or privilege. On the hit TV show Succession this week, billionaire Kendall Roy threw the biggest party ever for his 40th birthday with vulval art, a treehouse and a performance by pint-sized tribute act Tiny Wu-Tang Clan in a Manhattan skyscraper.

Despite all that and gifts that included a Harley Davidson, Ken still ended the night blubbing and telling his girlfriend, “I just want to be at home”. Cue final shot of him lying on the sofa in his apartment, wrapped in a blanket. We all know that feeling.

Of course there are ways to make sure your Christmas party is an amazing success. My advice would be not to invite most people on the list, cook some proper food and sit down at a table so you are not trying to balance a hot rum punch, a mini-cheeseburger and a napkin until one of them ends up on the cream carpet.

I know that is not really a Christmas party in the traditional sense but doesn’t it sound so much more appealing?

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