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As someone whose home resides two hundred miles down the M6, I think of Lancaster as a retreat from the shackles of family life. Now Christmas rapidly approaches, most of us will be preparing for four weeks back in whichever shire you’ve trekked here from, and with this follows a hard-hitting change of scenery. Christmas is synonymous with family; it is unavoidable. So even if you’re planning to spend the season glued to the sofa, it is likely that you’ll still have to spend at least a couple of claustrophobic days playing charades with your twice removed cousins. It’s hardly a Bear Grylls survival scenario, but all the same, it’s worth being in the know about how to tackle the longest of hours over the festive season.
As a child, I can remember complaining about having my grandparents visit during Christmas time. I was met with a stern look from my mum, who simply said ‘they won’t be around forever’, and for some reason this is a phrase that has stuck with me with vivid clarity for years since. It resonates now more than ever as they continue to age. I don’t want to sound like the especially moral Santa at the end of every Christmas film ever, but when you have to laugh uproariously at the seventh cracker joke your granddad tells you, keep that phrase in mind. At Christmas, there are honestly more important things than playing ‘Angel Wings 4: Gun Everyone Down’ on Xbox for the first time. To your granddad, you laughing at his joke is definitely one of them.
If the prospect of Christmas is still agonizing, embrace the tactic of ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’. I hope I’m not the only one who takes the liberty of being able to shout ‘muuuuuum!’ for those blissful few weeks at home, but on the same note, university does not spawn an allergy to washing machines not supplied by Circuit. Offer to help with the shopping. Vacuum the lounge. Help put up more decorations. I find myself forgetting how much of a difference these things make to the lives of my parents at Christmas. Particularly if you can’t buy an expensive present, at the risk of sounding hugely cheesy, helping around the house can sometimes mean more than that lipstick or those socks.
Is Christmas really that taxing anyway? Okay, so the chances are your friends don’t live in the same house as you, the Green Ayre isn’t a place you can fall over in until late January, and most devastatingly, cheap burritos aren’t as easily accessible. However, it’s your family, albeit your family during the most sugar-saturated, kiss-a-distant-relative, receipt-treasuring jolly time of year. You love them, despite the stress and cuddliness of the season. You could hide in your room. You could run to a friend. In most cases, you could probably stay in Lancaster, walk solemnly along the empty Spine and press your face against the glass of a closed Bowland Bar whilst shedding a single tear. Somehow though, that doesn’t sound too appealing.
This is my advice: don’t think of seeing your family this Christmas as a test of patience or a lesson in Endurance 101. Stick with it. It’s the one time of year you will see a lot of your relatives at once, if at all. If you’re not at home for ten weeks either side of the holidays then the likelihood is that it will mean a lot to your family that you will grace them with your presence for a month of your life. If nothing else, you’ll eat well, drink well, and most likely laugh well, too – especially at your granddad’s cracker jokes.