We’re asked it every yuletide and the answer is always the same and simply: apart.
Despite many years together and a wedding on the way, it remains the easiest answer to the Christmas conundrum to just spend it separately with our respective families, reuniting as soon as the Pringles run out.
Now, I realise that couples the world over find their way around this dilemma, as could we. But instead we have decided to approach this in the same way as we do anything else challenging – such as DIY or defrosting the freezer – we opt out.
We can compromise about pretty much every other part of your lives. We navigate his love for leaving blocks of cheese open, tepid and alone on the kitchen counter by ensuring I always have a strong supply of tin foil on my person. He keeps his cool after I have fallen asleep on the sofa in an overheated mess yet again by gently reminding me that though I may think that I just want to stay there all night, our bed is actually much more comfortable. We fit. But Christmas is a trickier beast.
You see, Christmas is not about being open minded and considerate of other people’s ideas, it is about sharing age-old traditions with a very specific group of people, and woe betide anyone who dares suggest alterations.
For example, in my house a central tradition is watching A Muppet Christmas Carol on Christmas Eve. My beloved, on the other hand, likes to spend this time going out drinking until he can no longer see. Both great traditions but they don’t hang together. I fear that looking at the muppetised Marley brothers after a few pints could push a man over the edge.
And so it goes on. The time we get up on Christmas Day – me, early; him, only when forced; our choice of Christmas telly – me: Coronation Street and Downton Abbey; him, anything involving zombies; our capacity for festive booze – me, any more than a glass and I won’t be able to participate in the annual Reeve family Christmas quiz; him, just keep bringing booze until he says stop – it helps take the edge off the man-eating dead.
But this doesn’t mean that we’re not together in spirit. We have developed traditions of our own, built around our festive separation. The main one being the annual competition to see who can make the other’s journey home more difficult by giving them the most unwieldy gifts. I think I won this year but it was a close call.
But surely things will change when you’re married, you cry. Well, we’ll see about that. We (I) joke hilariously about how we’ll just have twins immediately and take one each for Christmas (he does the same nervous laugh he does when I mention anything about procreation) but beyond that we don’t have a response.
So for now we’ll carry on as we are, holding onto the one shred of childhood that signing for a mortgage didn’t take away. And though it brings a tear to my eye when we say our goodbyes each December, it won’t be long ’til we’re back together and ready to face another year.
I can only hope that my Christmas presents go down as intended. Being apart means I won’t see his reaction to the double buggy I’ve wrapped for him first hand, but never mind. I’ve got a pretty good idea what that’ll look like.