It's Christmas! The annual one-week interval in which we all have carte blanche to sentimentalise our family relationships, wear novelty hats, eat with a brazen disregard for health and etiquette and spend economy-reviving amounts on goods we don't need or want. It's the time of year when our instincts, both good (showering one another in presents) and bad (getting drunk, watching films with no merit), are allowed to overwhelm the rules of decency and common sense that bind us for the other 51 weeks of the year. In a single phrase, it is, as the old song says, the most wonderful time of the year.
You'll now be bracing yourself for the comic reversal of that first paragraph, in which I reveal that I hate the festive period. But in a sort of pre-emptive strike against the cynical gloom some people adopt at this time of year, I'm using my final pre-Yule column to urge everyone to at least try to have some bloody fun this Christmas.
All right, all the jollity can be a bit cloying, the sight of an amateurishly wrapped jumper can make the heart sink, and even the most fervent admirer
of the Home Alone films has probably seen enough of them by now. But really, if there isn't some member of your family, or a friend, or someone you can look forward to pulling a cracker with over a glass of port, you are either so lonely I'm tempted to invite you to my house (tempted, I said, don't push it) or you're just not trying.
It's not as if there is a better alternative. We all know December, January and February are lousy. It gets dark shortly after breakfast, the sky is grey for 112 days in a row, and my football team are normally knocked out of the FA Cup around the third day of the new year. Do we really want to fast-forward to the early days of 2010? What else are we meant to do in the last week of December anyway - watch daytime TV and long for death?
And, yes, Christmas these days is ridiculously overhyped, hyperactive, voracious and exhausting. But guess what? So is the whole of modern western civilisation. Don't blame Christmas for how capitalism has run roughshod over our traditional values and how it's near-impossible to go through a day without seeing an image of Kerry Katona. Let's bemoan the shortcomings of our trashy society for the rest of the year. Christmas is the time to make the most of the madness.
It's your one chance to play Twister, eat sausages wrapped in bacon (meat stuffed with more meat: as good as food can get), and kiss people under the pretence of irony. So get to it, people. I'm now about to throw myself into celebrations, and I strongly suggest you all do the same. If I hear anyone complaining that it's all a bit much, I shall drown it out by singing "Good King Wenceslas". And I warn you, that thing has a lot of verses. And I know them all. Ho ho ho!