Nicole Pilcher considers whether venturing out for Christmas dinner is a worthwhile course of action or a trivial pursuit…
Once the festive season launches into full swing, we are bombarded with sparkly, shiny merriment. Each jingly advert serves to reinforce the idea that our Christmas must be just perfect – we must find original, well-matched gifts that will have best friends squealing with excitement and little brothers joyfully nee-nawing around the living room. And of course, while fighting our way through the throng of marching shoppers, us girls in particular are to look our best; having treated ourselves to the mandatory pre-Christmas cut and highlights. And the mani and pedi to match.
With pressures from all angles, which seem to grow year by year, it’s not surprising that eating out on Christmas day has become an increasingly popular alternative option. Looking to eliminate worries about what to feed Aunt Ethel, and family fisticuffs, many a burnt-out Christmas co-ordinator has sought solace within the inviting recesses of pubs and restaurants in recent years. But with pros and cons to both staying in and heading out, which comes out on top?
An obvious advantage to dining out on Christmas Day is that your chef, most likely a long-suffering mum or dad, won’t have to spend half the day concealed in the kitchen. Neither will they have to negotiate festive fuss-pots and their dietary requirements, referee conflicts over veg chopping, or try and stuff a ridiculous jumbo turkey into an oven made for shepherd’s pie. Eating out means no-one has to perch on a rickety, old, emergency chair from the loft and, if a brisk family walk isn’t already part of your Christmas Day routine, it offers the opportunity for some fresh air rather than an afternoon of inertia in a stuffy room.
On the other hand, it could cost you an arm and a leg for a decent Christmas meal out, and even then the roasties probably won’t have been done the way you like them. Sometimes it’s better the devil you know, as a friend of mine discovered when she took her family out after the previous year’s kitchen disaster. On arriving at her local restaurant, which had bumped its prices up to mimic that of a top London restaurant, she was then told that it would be closing at 3pm and was disappointed to find there weren’t enough turkey dinners left for her whole clan. To be honest, the key is probably to do your research well in advance.
You’re probably more likely to feel pushed into picking somewhere posh if you’ve got relatives to impress, too. So, cooking at home could certainly be the more economical option. Alternatively, opt for the halfway option and have pre-prepared Christmas dinner components delivered to your door for the quite reasonable price of £395 for 6-8 people.
But if your family is anything like ours, then an integral part of Christmas day is getting a little tipsy and falling asleep to the sounds of the Queen’s speech, and Grandma snoring into her Snowball in the corner. For many of us, our own little family rituals and traditions – like dad carving the turkey – are what makes the day special and set it apart from other celebrations. And you certainly can’t belt out your best George Michael to ‘Last Christmas’ within the confines of a restaurant (without being politely asked to leave).
On Boxing Day we emerge blinking in the sunlight, having actually quite enjoyed some downtime with our nearest and dearest; silly spats resolved. While eating out may banish the stress that cooking for a crowd involves, it may not be the seamless solution you’d hoped, and it does sort of muddy the true meaning of our favourite annual holiday. After all, what is Christmas dinner about if not squabbles over spuds? With this attitude in mind, I will be joining Mum in the kitchen this year – armed with a good sense of humour and a large glass of wine. Or two.