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Thursday 18 September 2014

Even though it pangs a bit that I'll only be with the family via Skype this year, it's exciting with something new and unknown to do

Declin Cashin

Published 07/12/2012 | 18:00

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Usually you could set your watch by my Christmas routine. Every year, I arrive home to the family pile, proceed to eat my way through the entire south-east, meet friends to get ossified on Christmas Eve (ah, 'tis a sacred time), pig out on Christmas Day, hibernate for St Stephen's Day in the company of one Indiana Jones, and then, by the 27th, consider re-emerging into the outside world.

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Not this year, though. This year I'll be staying in London for the festive period. It's my first time not going home for Christmas, which feels like a rite of passage, but that doesn't make it feel any less strange.

At 31 years of age, some might say I should have reached this milestone before now.

Well, first up, typical of my generation, I have a severe case of arrested development. I'm a fully-signed-up 'kidult', or, as comic writer Mindy Kaling – who is around my age and even shares my birthday. Call me Mindy! – likes to call us, "teen-plus".

Second of all, I'm not married nor do I have kids, owing in large part to that gay gene I was born with after my mother stood too close to a microwave or didn't say enough Hail Marys in a post-Confession penance in that dark winter of 1980, or whatever the latest science says about the causes of homosexuality.

On top of that, I'm single, and have been for a while (choice vs circumstance: a debate for another time), so there hasn't been the alternative option of spending Christmas with a partner's family.

Besides, my family signed contracts a while back stipulating that they have to put up with me for at least two non-consecutive visits in the one calendar year.

Legalities aside, it's always nice to come home, especially at the one time of year that we all have a bit of time off to catch up and just arse around.

However, as I said, that won't be the case this year. I started a new job a while back, and I'm working on Christmas Day.

It's not a bad deal – I get time off around the 25th in lieu – but that hasn't stopped my mother from mentally re-casting the organisation as the evil Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.

But the truth is, I was thinking of sticking around London for Christmas, even before I knew of my work rota.

One of my best friends from home lives in London with his wife, and we got talking about our plans back in October. They were staying too, mostly because of work, but he also said something that really stuck with me.

"It's time we started making our own traditions," he argued.

He's right. My group of friends are mostly all in our early 30s now.

At some point, we all have to make decisions that may ultimately take us away from our families at times like Christmas.

It's the price of wanting – needing – to live and to make your own life.

I won't be lonely over Christmas. I have those friends and some others who are sticking around, too. It'll be nice to see what this city is like at Christmas time.

Honestly, even though it still pangs a bit that I'll only be with the family via Skype this year, it's exciting having something new and unknown to do. It feels proactive and independent.

There's probably another term for it, one I try to avoid as much as I can. But I couldn't dodge it any longer when one friend from home with whom I would normally spend every Christmas Eve out on the razz told me she's going to her boyfriend's place up the country this year.

"We have to grow up sometime!" she texted when confirming her plans. And I suppose she's right.

I'm still allowed my Indiana Jones duvet day, though, right?

Day & Night

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