Christmas Day is a time of joy and celebration. A time for family. Happy kids. Joy to the world etc.
It can also be a massive logistical nightmare. Dozens of competing agendas crashing head-to-head, often in a kitchen.
That's why it's a great time to let your management skills shine. Put systems in place. Take charge.
The most efficient Christmases are run by strong but fair leaders. Benevolent dictators. That's why you need to set up a temporary junta and make sure everything runs smoothly.
Here's some tips for getting through the big day without killing everyone.
1. Lunch at 1pm
Christmas lunch needs to be out at a reasonable time. None of this 2.30pm rubbish.
People go crazy waiting for it. By the time family arrive late, share their suggestions or variations in traditions, things can blow out to 3.30. This can't stand.
Have dinner at your house. Take charge of the kitchen. Run a set menu. Do not allow friends or relatives to bring random plates. It confuses things. You don't have the systems in place for different dishes. Plates that have to be returned. Food that doesn't fit.
A good Christmas junta allows guests to bring booze, nothing else.
The best way to keep everyone happy, sane and manageable at Christmas is to buy the food yourself, cook it yourself and serve it yourself. Remove the variables and bring the joy. It's up to you to get it done, clean it up and move the hell on.
2. Limit gifting
I have talked before about present fatigue. The soul-destroying blandness. The vacuous waste. The shame of kids getting bored opening presents. What is the point of presents if kids aren't excited by them?
Get your kids one good one. That's it.
Extended family will probably pile on a few others. That's fine. But all you need is one good one. One they will appreciate and remember. Love isn't a pile of crap. Love is getting that one perfect gift that makes a childhood.
Even if you have already bought too many presents it's not too late. You can still hide them. Use them later. Flick them off to your kids' friends at birthday parties throughout the year. Throw them in the rubbish. Whatever.
Just don't give your kids too much this Christmas. It's an early rot that can ruin the whole day.
3. Don't get dad anything
Fathers hate getting presents. We don't want them. It's our money anyway. We don't want it spent on something we don't want. If we want something we'll get it for ourselves.
The gift is in the giving for dads. We want to sit back with a beer and watch the joy we helped bring to our family. We don't want to be the centre of attention. A smile and a hug from a happy family member every now and then is all we need.
Besides, the fewer people opening things the better. You need to keep things moving forward. Keep things to schedule. Make it clear in advance that you don't need people's stupid time-wasting presents getting in the way of progress.
4. No kids inside
After lunch, relocate the kids outside. Do not force them to help clean up. They are useless. They'll get in the way. They can help clean up on less stressful days.
For Christmas, get them outside with their cousins hiffing a ball around, swimming or fighting. No devices, games, phones or chat.
The best Christmas afternoons are spent with adults, enjoying their fat guts and a few beers, wines and spirits. In the lucky event, there's a Boxing Day test on. A good Christmas junta doesn't let anyone else touch the remote.
5. Don't get grumpy
You can achieve points one through four with a smile on your face. The best managers run things with a strong plan and an iron fist but also a smile and a joke.
No one need know they are being managed. No one need know they have no say in what's going on. Set the rules. Follow the rules. Don't budge on anything. But do it with a smile and laugh.
Christmas is a multivariable event. With so many complex competing factions you don't want a power vacuum.
Christmas Day needs a leader. That's why it's up to you to form a 24-hour junta. A soft authoritarian state. It's the only way to run a brutally efficient, joyful day.
This year become a good Christmas dictator and crush spoiled kids, competing agendas and late lunches. Take charge and make this the most wonderful Christmas ever.