Sunday 18 March 2018

5 ways to have yourself a merry little 'Chrexit'

You can turn your back on overspending and gluttony - and here's how, says our Christmas refusenik

Bah humbug: Hanna Betts
Bah humbug: Hanna Betts

Hannah Betts

As December grinds into full-tinselled enormity, may I offer a simple reminder regarding Christmas: you don't have to do it... and now is the time to act.

Because, really, isn't the whole rigmarole utterly ghastly? What begins with taxi drivers asking, "So, what are you doing for it?" in October, continues with the unleashing of dismal Christmas ads in November, and ends in a mass of sodden self-recrimination come January 3 - and not one single second of it is compulsory.

Being an atheist, without children and with a nut-job family, for well over a decade now, I have been mistress of Christmas abstinence. But, this year I have been struck by how many other people are giving the whole thing the heave-ho. My lone anti-festive stance is threatening to become a full-on 'Chrexit' (or Christmas exit).

Increasingly, I learn of other people who are refusing to sally grimly forth. The single, the divorced, the empty-nesters, the parents with children too young to realise what's happening, the parents with children they don't want to turn into ravaging monsters...

Yuletide refuseniks are now a thing.

Blame Marie Kondo and her bestseller about ridding oneself of one's possessions, or blame post-recessionary malaise - but legions of us have developed a phobia about all the stuff that comes with Christmas, and don't like what it does to us. One might look ahead to the small talk, epic arguments and constant obligation to consume lard and baulk.

As my friend Aimee puts it: "I have felt like a total grinch for being so horrified by Christmas, with its constituent parts of cheap high-street tat, Quality Street diabetes tubs and collective calcifying in front of TV. The Chrexit is not a trend - it's a movement."

Nevertheless, extricating oneself from the festive onslaught takes work - work that must begin right here, right now. If you want to ensure a happy Chrexit, you must choose your escape route.

1 Plan your exit

The Chrexit offers the perfect chance to drop everything and flee the country.

One family I know is jetting to the other side of the earth so that, as the mother puts it: "I can avoid hating myself, my husband, my in-laws and my offspring".

Christmas spent abroad can act as a reminder that it's a wonderful life.

"I've done Yules in Prague, Latvia and Denmark," says one die-hard dodger, "seen art, watched opera, wandered snowy streets, sat in saunas, eaten pastries and watched Flashdance. Bliss."

Depending on whether one wants heat, culture or just to collapse, the options are legion. Veteran escapees recommend India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Thailand, Mozambique, Morocco, Egypt, the Caribbean, Puglia, Greece, southern Spain, even the "unexpectedly sunny and beautiful Outer Hebrides".

But getting away for Christmas is not without its unwanted gifts. I myself have arranged a Chrexit in Sicily - so, naturally, this means that Mount Etna has just exploded. I now await Mafia meltdown.

2 Go to work

Many Chrexit devotees choose to work over Christmas, triple-pay being something of an incentive, or use the quiet time to take pleasure in performing otherwise unpleasant tasks, such as their tax return, dog washing or oven cleaning.

I used to sign up for festive shifts, until, that is, it was put to me by a colleague that offering to do them all wasn't playing the game. "Look," confided my comrade, "a lot of us chaps use the excuse that our presence is required at work as our means of extricating ourselves from festive hell-holery. Kindly stop spoiling the fun."

3 Turn it into sex-mas

Source a Chrexit co-conspirator and spend Christmas Day, ahem, athletically entwined, pausing only for sustenance by way of finger food and pink fizz. Invitations need to be issued in the preceding 10 days, typically via text message, the decorum being to make a vague inquiry as to the other's intentions, then suggest "doing something together". Think of it as a festive take on "Netflix and chill".

The trick is to ensure that you can tolerate this person not only physically, but for 24 hours of pillow talk, given that there's only so far one can go with the injunction: "Don't speak."

A seasoned sex-maser reports that it's better to reheat a former flame than find a new one. "I once made the mistake of breaking in a new crush on the big day and had to leave my own house and wander the streets to avoid her post-match analysis."

4 Get cocooning

My most recent Christmases have been treated as the ultimate sybaritic Sunday, the duvet day that one yearns for but so rarely achieves. I would wake sans alarm clock, bathe, assume fresh nightwear, cook my favourite foods (a carb-on-carb macaroni cheese with roast potatoes and sprouts, say), while listening to Radio 4, down a bottle of good red while reading a novel, watch Doctor Who, post sarky tweets throughout the Downton Abbey Christmas special, while quaffing a saucer or two of champagne, then re-hit the sack. Even in the act of recalling it, my soul melts a little, every fibre of my being emitting a small sigh.

Paradoxically, Chrexit cocooning takes the most prep of all in terms of playing off kind offers against each other. For even the most passing and despised of acquaintances appear allergic to the idea that one might spend this day of days blissfully on one's tod, as opposed to having one's backside bored off at their dining table. This is mere jealousy, of course, and on no account must one allow one's glorious isolation to be sabotaged.

Inform X that you're with Y, and Y that you're with Z, while maintaining plan A: happy hibernation.

5 Be smug

The real point of Christmas is, of course, to colonise the moral high ground, and no one does this better than those sacred souls who renounce their own festivities in favour of the young, old, poor, homeless, or otherwise deeply patronised.

The charity Chrexit is the other way round, with the disadvantaged providing a means for Yuletide martyrs to thwart all about them with their shiny consciences. This is obviously a trial for all concerned - those on the receiving end, not least. As a gentleman of the road once told me: "The food's all right, and it's good to get spruced up. It's just the company that palls."

However, nothing is more successful at putting self-publicisingly happy families back in their box than being confronted by noble self-sacrifice.

This year, for the full sanctimonious simper, the cause of choice is obviously anything set up in the wake of Kids' Company.

Pull off one of the above and you can rest content until required to find an excuse to avoid New Year's Eve. Merry Chrexit!

Irish Independent

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