For many of us, going to college means moving out. While this may bring its own set of challenges, the increased independence that comes with this first foray into adulthood can be great. However, it’s coming up to that time of year, when exams are over, twelve pints have been had (all before midnight, of course) and the last of the presents are being wrapped. It’s time to return from the hustle and bustle of the big city back to – insert rural county here – and deal with a concentrated, intense dose of family drama for a couple of days.

While COVID has made me increasingly thankful for the presence of family around me, sometimes it can all get a little bit too much. Here’s some advice to help you spend the Christmas period around your relatives.


Sick and tired of listening to your uncle rant about immigrants? Your parents arguing over the right way to cook a turkey? Your grandpa’s deafening snores from the corner of the room? Your little cousin who’s just played Last Christmas for the 45th time in a row?

Craft yourself a pair of handy earplugs – all you need to do is shove a couple of pieces of cotton wool in your ears and you’re ready to go. Be sure to sell the act though: nod and smile along to the conversation and your family will be amazed at how suddenly zen you are this year.

Shift Work

If your relatives’ indignant shouting is too loud for the cotton buds to drown out, and you know there’s only a certain amount of conversation you can take, why not take it in turns? Set an alarm on your phone for 40 minutes and when the buzzer goes off, politely excuse yourself to go to the bathroom and “swap shifts” with a nominated partner in crime. After all, a burden shared is a burden halved.

Company Emergency

If it’s all getting too much, feign a sudden work emergency and excuse yourself from the dinner table. Make sure it’s something convincing: you’ve been called in last minute to cover a shift and you’ll be paid double, your boss is sick and you suddenly have to take over the entire company etc etc. Hide out in your room for however much time it takes for you to solve the emergency (an hour, a few days etc). Your extended family will be too impressed by your resourcefulness to ask any questions.

Family Bingo (tried and tested by yours truly)

Finally, there’s no better way to spice up a Christmas day than to create a family bingo card. When your granny starts talking about the war, your dad swears blindly at the roast potatoes, or your aunt asks yet again whether you’re still single, just cross it off the relevant square. Rope in a couple of less irritating cousins/ siblings to play with you, and reward the winner with a prize.