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3rd December 2015

Christmas survival guide

Eva Katz reveals her tips and tricks to guide you through the minefield that is the ‘most wonderful time of the year’

“‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house, the sole sound to my ears was my mother’s screech like a Scouse, the odour of burnt turkey (so foul) fills the air and the dog is sat quivering behind the armchair.

My siblings wreak havoc, fuelled by too many Buck’s Fizz, Nana’s knocked over her drink, she’s in such a tizz. The bin’s overflowing with wrapping paper galore and the relentless Christmas carols are becoming a bore.”  

If this all sounds painfully familiar, then be rest assured that you’re not suffering alone. Once you become a student—in theory—you gain a relative enjoyment of your newfound independence, therefore the holidays are often a vastly underwhelming experience. Yes, you get food made for you every day, yes you are allowed to have the heating on without the depressive worry about your dwindling bank account. But do these advantages really outweigh the persistent nagging from your family, the constant need to know where you are and what you’re doing on top of Mum’s extraordinarily early hoovering? The answer is probably dependent on how well you and your family cope with the inevitable stress that comes with this most joyous time of year. But with some minor adjustments, you can make this a Christmas to remember, for good reasons rather than bad.

Food is often something that many struggle to readjust to when returning home for the holidays. It is likely that over the semester, you would have developed a liking for foods, eating habits and schedules that don’t exactly conform with those at home.

Tip: Offer to cook some of your newfound favourites for the family. Not only will this mean that you don’t have to worry about your expanding waistline or consuming yet another concoction involving turkey leftovers, it could also relieve a little stress from the usual family chef and thus make the kitchen a slightly less daunting place in the house.

As if that’s not enough, there will undoubtedly be comments on weight made or lost over the festive period: “you’re looking a little rounder than when I saw you last” or “you look like a bag of bones” will likely grace your ears.

Tip: The trick to combatting this is to make the most of the season’s debatable fashion sense and don on a Christmas jumper or two. Check out the fashion section for some of The Mancunion’s favourites.

Small talk with distant relatives is another exciting element to look forward to this Christmas. “How’s whatever you’re doing now going?” doesn’t exactly scream genuine interest now, does it? Persistent questions about your love life—whether it be nonexistent or sordid—are yet another reason to be thankful it’s Christmas.

Tip: Turn the tables and ask the questions first, or better yet ask close family members to tell you a little about what the more distant family has been getting up to. You never know, you may have a lot in common—or better yet, score an awesome internship for next summer.

If you’re fortunate (or perhaps unfortunate) enough to have young children in your family, you’ll already know that this is a bittersweet time, especially during the holidays. Yes, the excitement on their faces on Christmas morning will warm even the most Scrooge-like of hearts. However, it is also likely that their Christmas morning will start at an extraordinarily early hour i.e. 6am. The combination of too much chocolate and hours of excitement will also make for some rather whiny infants as the day draws to a close. What’s more, being the independent and ‘responsible’ student that you are, you will also be graced with the role of babysitter.

Tip: Chocolate is not your best form of bribery—queue hyper children reluctant to go to bed when they’re told to. Instead, use a cup of hot chocolate to put them off to sleep. This, matched with a little extra effort playing in the snow during the day will ensure they’ll go out like a light.


There’s no denying that giving gifts is a stressful and tenuous process. Getting it right can result in elation for giver and receiver alike, but the look of disappointment following the receival of an unwanted presents can really ruin Christmas.

Tip: If you haven’t done so already, send out your Christmas list as soon as possible. Ensure that you include gifts at a range of prices and make sure that your family communicates to avoid receiving the same thing twice.

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