Written by Anneka Harry


The magic (tricks) of Christmas dinner

Anneka Harry‘s got some Christmas traditions. Does it matter that they’re not traditional? OF COURSE NOT.

1944 ChristmasTraditionalism is not my middle name (I don’t actually have one but if I was going to pick one for myself, I’d certainly avoid it).

Past their sell-by date values make me uneasy; old-skool thinking makes me queasy; I find big white weddings cheesy. Alongside my apparent preference for traditional rhyming structure, my only other traditionalist exceptions are the daft, strict traditions of my family’s Christmas dinner table. This week, my mum texted me to excitedly announce she was planning a ‘new twist’ to the family Christmas party hats this year. I’m only praying it’s not willy-boppers.

Aside from the potentially ominous headgear, some other annual family favourites include:

Thing Gravy-gate

One fateful Christmas back in ye olde 2011, my poor stepdad’s Christmas dinner gravy was neither joyful nor triumphant. This particular bad batch of gravy wasn’t hopeless, it wasn’t tasteless; it was, however, sadly as thin as Scrooge’s shrivelled scrote.

Now the gravy is presented to the table with a trepidatious table-bashing, foot-stomping, group drumroll. Once plonked centre stage, we lean in, inspect and then hopefully cheer the improved density. It’s all a bit rowdy – but it suits us well.

Roast potato duel

Without fail, my cousin Lauren and I will bully each other into eating more roast potatoes than is right, or probably proper. The Ghost of Christmas Past might remember a time whence the fucks we gave about our waistlines amounted to zero and we would compete by the plateful, and still have room for a partridge in a pear tree.

golden roast potatoes
These days Lauren usually bobs out after about three of the goose fat swaddled beauties and I continue like a trooper regardless – proving nothing to nobody – but still clutching on to my imagined title of ‘The-Roastie-Spud-Goddess-Superhero-Sexy-Champion-of-the-Universe.’

Twinkle while you shake it

No Yuletide feast goes by at my house without someone performing the spooky floating napkin trick. Without doubt whoever gets there first will deliver this time-honoured classic as if it was the most ancient, respected and mystifying illusion the Magic Circle has ever known.

I particularly enjoy this moment because it sets me up a treat to bring out my (equally crap) ‘I Can Turn My Napkin into an Amazing Chicken’ extravaganza, which never fails to get a round of applause. You gotta have a gimmick, if you wanna get ahead – and it seems that poultry based visual puns have catapulted me there thus far in life.

We all like a figgy pudding

Not satisfied with the levels of buffoonery or bad jokes over mains, my granddad will pretend he has found money in the Christmas pudding. Recessions and the continuing economic decline in our country do not appear to affect Granddad’s wallet, or indeed this priceless prank.

Over the years we have witnessed inflation before our very eyes as he ‘chips a tooth’ on ever weightier, sparklier, coins. The obligatory lighting of the pud and the round chorus of We Wish You a Merry Christmas has nothing on his moment. Although one year we did set fire to Aunty Sue’s centrepiece (table not euphemism) and on that occasion he found he shared his time to shine with a chargrilled tablecloth.

We also all like a Baby Guinness

Talking of Auntie Susan (by the way, is it me or does everyone have an Auntie Sue?), she takes charge of making the revered Baby Guinness. For those of you who have not had the pleasure, this little sexpot in a shot glass requires the pourer to float Irish cream over coffee liqueur to resemble a teeny tiny pint of Guinness. What could possibly be more festive?

“There was a time when ‘the adults’ used to secretly exchange ‘adult’ gifts. Luckily for everyone, this tradition expired – there’s nothing like your uncle in a Rudolph posing pouch to ruin a party.”

For some reason they have wheedled their way into our table merriment and for another, Auntie Sue is the only one who has the power to prepare them. We watch her pour the pint head over the back of a spoon (with tongue out for extra concentration power) before shouting the odds when it unfailingly proves disastrous.

The present course

Alongside our place cards (pointless because we always sit in the same seats, but cute all the same) my mum wraps and presents everyone with a ‘table gift.’ The opening of these extra gifts becomes a race because the ‘kids’ (an accurate description of how we behave when we are together, despite all actually pushing 30 and beyond) usually get the same.

Over the years these gifts have become more and more practical – if the mini screwdriver kit from your cracker wasn’t handy enough, the table gift will certainly reignite your ‘pa rup pa pum pum’. On that note, there was a time when ‘the adults’ used to secretly exchange ‘adult’ gifts. Luckily for everyone, this tradition expired – there’s nothing like your uncle in a Rudolph posing pouch to ruin a party.

Nan’s ‘special’ game

Despite the creepy sounding name, Nan’s Special Game is sweeter than an over iced gingerbread house. Our Nan is a wonder and a jewel and her games have ignited the imaginations of us all for our entire lives.

Her Christmas dinner table game equally never disappoints. It is usually something she has made up and the rules often change midway through, but we all sit back and enjoy the moment – not least because once we have left the table and the real games come out we will be burning instruction manuals on the lounge carpet and dislodging Articulate cards from each other’s skulls.

Ooh, who’s for a snowball!

Although supposedly once thought of as ‘posh’ (albeit back in medieval times) I am aware eggnog is now deemed about as classy as a Viennetta after a TV dinner. It may look like snot, it may taste like spit, but once a year we all force a snowball down and it is quite the Royle Family moment in my house.

Just when you think you couldn’t possibly lift your hand to mouth, never mind consume another morsel, Mum will remember we’ve not done snowballs, throwing her hands in the air and exclaiming, “Ooh! Who’s for a SNOWBALL?” Nobody likes them but everybody suddenly wants one – they’re the liquid brussels sprouts of Christmas day.

The snowball excitement will (ahem) snowball and soon everyone’s oohing and cooing over a glass of fizzy bile. It’s an unwritten rule, absurd and bizarre, it makes zero sense, but – it’s a tradition.


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Written by Anneka Harry

Anneka Harry does comedy and hustling for a living. She smells like thrift shops and ambition. Stalk her here http://www.vivienneclore.com/artiste/anneka-harry/ and @Annekaharry.