The eight inevitable stages of St Stephen's Day
The day after Christmas is a little like the day after a wedding. The gifts have been passed over, the laundry list of rituals and traditions have been ticked off and, after a build-up that seemed to go on forever, we can all begin to properly wind down.
Well, that's the general idea... How the day unfolds, however, is something else entirely. Here's your timely introduction to the eight inevitable stages of St Stephen's Day.
1. The rude awakening
The first part of St Stephen's Day is blissful. With no work to go to and no turkey cooking times to agonise over, you can wrap the duvet around you and sink further into the pillow.
The trouble, however, is that you can't get back to sleep. You're supposed to be enjoying the first lie-in of the festive season but instead you're wide awake, piecing together the hazy details of the night before.
Did you really make an after-dinner speech about global warming? Did you actually debut your fantasy party piece? A cursory glance at your phone confirms that you sent 'goodwill to all men!' text messages to acquaintances new, boyfriends old and - oh dear God no! - your boss.
2. The split in the camp
Bleary of eye and dizzy of head, you decide to stay in your pyjamas and settle into the sofa with a giant box of Quality Street.
Unfortunately, the Weekend Warriors have other ideas. They want to "blow off the cobwebs!" and "work up an appetite!" with a gentle hike through a local forest trail. Any takers?
The short answer is "no chance" but in the spirit of the season you muster up an excuse about heartburn, smile sweetly and send the smug forest ramblers on their merry way.
3. The waiting game
With the fitness fanatics out of sight, the renegades can get around to the serious business of doing absolutely nothing. They're a laidback bunch whose St Stephen's Day deliberations are limited to three key questions: what's on the telly; what's for lunch; and at what time of the day is it socially acceptable to pour the first alcoholic drink? (11.59am).
4. The carb coma
And now the moment we've all been waiting for - the annual platter of turkey, ham and stuffing sandwiches. Or rather, the annual attempt at wedging as much of yesterday's dinner as possible in between two slices of white bread.
Spare a thought for the people who have sworn off white bread and pasta for the better part of the year. They'll sink into a highly-processed, post-prandial stupor and fall asleep on the first available horizontal surface within approximately six minutes.
5. The second wake-up
It's dark and you have no idea what day it is when you wake up a few hours later. All you know is that there is a half-eaten turkey-and-stuffing sandwich beside your bed and a small army of children playing with Nerf guns on the landing.
Right, that's it, you tell yourself. The gluttony is over and it's green leafy vegetables from here on in.
6. The food inventory
It's around this point that you start to come to terms with just how much food you've bought. Did you really need to buy three 20-pack boxes of Tayto, six boxes of water biscuits and a whole wheel of Brie de Meaux? As for the entire leg of Serrano ham from Lidl - it seemed like a bargain at the time but you're now wondering how long it will hang around on the counter-top before someone does the honourable thing and puts it in the bin.
7. The FOMO
You were planning on settling into the sofa to watch a period drama but the sweet siren call of festive distraction has other ideas. A telly ad announcing 'SLASHED!' prices makes you fixate on all the electronics that you don't need but probably should buy. A text from a gallivanting friend makes you contemplate getting out of your pyjamas and into your gladrags. Who knows, you might even try out your new heated rollers.
8. The great escape
Eventually, the collective hangover and cabin fever collides and the idea of spending even one more minute indoors becomes unbearable. You don't especially like the pub that your friends are in but, right now, it's better than watching Titanic for the 37th time.
"You'll never get a taxi!" says your uncle. "You won't be able to move!" warns your mother, who seems to think that there's a zombie apocalypse on her doorstep.
You ignore all of them and make your escape. It's for the best.