Lucy Mangan's essential guide to surviving Christmas

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Lucy Mangan
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Get through the festive season in one piece thanks to Stylist’s Lucy Mangan.

Party season is so firmly upon us that you are probably sweating sequins by now. But remember, my friends, no matter how young, fit, clear of eye and plumply roseate of liver you may be, it behoves us all to follow a few basic rules in order to wring every drop of joy from the festivities without causing our psyches to fissure. Here’s my five-step self-preservation plan…

1. Know your limits. Or, at least, know your drinks

Years of empirical experimenting – there’s no substitute for hands-on research – have proved that I can drink eight glasses of prosecco on a night out before things get messy. Three sips of red wine, however, and I’m clinging to strangers and showing them photos of my late cat before sliding bonelessly to the floor. So. I stick to prosecco. The years of narrowing the field were fun, though.

2. Face up to your fears and party anyway

If you are at all prone to anxiety, guilt, obsessional thoughts or any of the other methods by which our highly inventive minds cripple many of us, you’ll know they’re prone to hit at 4am. As the booze leaves your system, it is replaced by fear. What did I say? Did I gossip too much? Act too daft? Hurt anyone’s feelings? Flirt with someone I shouldn’t flirt with? Should I just vow never to go out again rather than be visited by all these queasy self-doubts and cold, cold sweats?

No. None of the above happened – and if it did, it’s OK. Really. You’re human. Take stock again in the sober light of day, consume Coke and a fry-up, and I promise you it will all be fine.

In future, remember the rule of the late ‘Prince of Soho’, Bernie Katz, the nonpareil of party people: “Nothing good happens after 2am”, a truth that should be stamped on every condom in the land. 

3. Know thyself

AKA ‘You do you’. Some people thrive on parties. For them, Christmas is genuinely their best, most energising time of year. For others, not so much. Personally, I am closer to understanding some kinds of murderer than I am the truly enthusiastic partygoer. 

Under normal conditions, I can do one social event a month. At Christmas I can step it up to one a week but I have to compensate by spending January in a hoodie and sweatpants under the bed and Tasing people who come too close.

4. Just say no

Christmas is crowded with obligations. Ex-colleagues offer drinks invitations, friends of friends need volunteers at charity dos, godchildren need taking to pantos and your mother thinks it’s time you saw your great uncle’s cousin (“It’s only up to Liverpool and across on the ferry. A quick walk to Galway and Auntie Maureen’ll pick you up at the farm gate!”). 

Mileage may vary, but the point persists: you cannot do everything, and your mental balance will buckle under the strain if you try. Do the things you can sensibly manage, and say a firm but polite no to the rest.

5. Upgrade your journey

Once the parties are over, it’s time to go home. Not to your flat, but to your family – and a turkey the size of your niece – to rest and recover. If this is unlikely to be the picture-perfect scenario that films promised in our youth, at least enjoy the journey.

Plan to stop somewhere interesting if you’re driving or upgrade to a first-class train seat if you can – often just a few quid more if you plan in advance – and enjoy a lovely, restorative few hours of peace.

A very merry Christmas to us all.

Image: iStock