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Bah Humbug!

You can’t escape Christmas on the coast. Or can you?

For many people Christmas is a magical time of year. A time for family, feasting and merriment and the often forgotten reason of the celebration the birth of Jesus Christ.

For a heathen such as myself it is a living hell. A grim travesty of fake bonhomie, mindless consumerism and gluttony, plus the inevitable reruns of Morcambe and Wise. And although those of you who have witnessed my kamikaze-style attacks on the bar and buffet whenever there’s a freebie going might not believe it, but the two week overindulgence frenzy that is Christmas in Spain is not my favourite time of year. As I’ve said before, the festive period is full of amateurs getting out of their tiny skulls at the office party whilst wearing silly hats, and I pride myself on being a professional lunch guest.

But – love it or hate it – one thing is certain. You can’t avoid it. Christmas screams from every shop window and if you turn on the TV and you are assaulted by Christmas specials. Step outside and your neighbours have turned the street into a Christmas wonderland of fairy lights and tinsel.

Well, maybe you’re just not trying hard enough, so here, with apologies to those already high on festive spirit, is the essential guide to avoiding Christmas.

I’m often in favour of going into Christmas denial. Blank it out and let everyone know that you’re considering working on the 25th. Then make it clear to everyone you know that they will not be receiving a gift this year or a card. Not that the Spanish postal system has a hope in Hell of delivering your Christmas card to the old country much before Easter. And don’t even think about buying a tree. I’m still trying to work out in which Gospel Christ told his followers to kill trees for Christmas. Apparently the custom was brought to the UK by Prince Albert, that royal Germanic pioneer of private piercing.

Forget the fizz and festive fare and fill the fridge full of salads and soft drinks. That certainly stops the neighbours popping by for a seasonal slurp.

The trouble with trying to blank Christmas out is that there is always bound to be at least one elderly relative who fails to understand the beauty – or indeed the point – of your scheme, leading to hurt feelings and unwanted knitwear.

It might also be a difficult one to get away with if you have children, as will be hard to avoid the suggestion that you are just being tight, miserable or both.

Plan B involves getting yourself arrested. A drastic solution perhaps, but nevertheless a solid gold way to avoid carol singers, mulled wine and most other seasonal trappings. Prisons routinely ban inmates from exchanging gifts or trading possessions, to cut down on bullying and extortion, although the rule is often relaxed a little at Christmas. This is great for avoiding the run up to the big day, but, as any long timer will tell you, Christmas Day inside can be very grim experience indeed.

It’s all very well moaning about Christmas but what about doing something a bit more worthwhile and occupying the moral high ground at the same time?
There is always plenty of scope for good works at this time of year and you don’t even have to get off the sofa. The Methodist Relief Development Fund encourages people to donate the money that they would spend on a Christmas tree to a tree-planting scheme in Africa and Asia. This will, the charity says, help small scale farmers produce the affordable food they need. And that will really give you bragging rights at the next post-Christmas dinner party discussion. Especially when the chap on your left has to sheepishly admit to treating himself to a boxed set of Jeremy Clarkson DVDs.

But not observing Christmas as a religious festival is only half the battle. For really hardcore Christmas avoidance there is really only one answer. Flee the country.

Few corners of the world, however, remain untouched by Christmas. Communist Cuba, where Christmas was banned until a couple of years ago, goes mad, and even Vietnam and Thailan,  largely Buddhist countries, get in on the act.

To avoid Christmas altogether you’ll have travel to strict Muslim countries, such as Libya or Iran, or pop over to everybody’s favourite nuclear renegade, North Korea.

Otherwise my advice to avoiding Christmas (In fact my advice to avoiding most things, such as your ex, hacienda and your impending mid-life crisis) is to head to Las Vegas. They are all far too busy gambling and playing poker to even notice Christmas, or even what day it is.

If you haven’t got the cash to travel – and most people who owe you money disappear around the second week of December, resurfacing about a week after Three Kings – then the best way to avoid Christmas just tell everybody that you are going to a fabulous house party in the hills, then stock up on your favourite meals and DVDs and don’t answer the phone.  You can get away with this for up to a week, then people start worrying. Normally about the cat.

If this all seems too much, then the only way out is to take the opposite approach and try to go to as many Christmas parties as you possibly can, without paying for anything over the period. The coast is awash with successful companies all trying to outdo each other over the festive season, so it is the perfect time for the professional blagger to get to work. Don’t worry if you haven’t got an invitation, if the event is on a large enough scale just smiling nicely will normally get you in. And once inside the venue you’re bound to spot the familiar faces of fellow blaggers with whom you can compare notes about the standard of canapés, the quality and quantity of alcohol and the possibility of a leaving gift.

You’re extremely unlikely to be asked for any formal I.D. When compiling the social pages of a Marbella magazine several years ago, I sent the hostess of a very ritzy gala photographs of the event and asked her to identify her guests. “My dear, I don’t have any idea who these people are” she replied.

So there you have it. Wear a decent suit and don’t cause any trouble and you can wine and dine your way through Christmas without paying a bean! Bah, humbag to you all!

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