Let’s face it: Christmas isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. The Hallmark ideal forced upon us – log fires, jingle bells and shopping happily for presents – smacks of a smart marketing department cashing in on the millennia-old fable about a man who just wanted everyone to be good.

Add a fat gent who creeps round your house while you’re asleep, gives children presents and then invites them back next year to sit on his lap and alarm bells start ringing.

This is the perfect time to remember that Christmas Day doesn’t necessarily have to be the traditional cocktail of disappointing presents, too much food and overly camp television variety shows – read on for some of our alternative ideas for the day.

Channel 4 alternative Xmas message

Guaranteed to be interesting – and perhaps even expand your world view. Previous guests have included mincing writer and raconteur Quentin Crisp (The ‘Queen’s’ message, geddit?), ageing sex-bomb Bridgette Bardot,
lisping kitchen-guru Jamie Oliver and moralising cartoon mom Marge Simpson.

Most controversial was Holocaust-denying homophobe Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, also the Iranian president. His 2008 message blamed problems in UK society on the rejection of the message of the prophets of God, including JC himself.

This year’s guest hasn’t yet been confirmed but they’re sure to be more entertaining than Old Liz. Get into it.

» Check out channel4.com/programmes/alternative-christmas-message

Hold an anti-christmas party

Get all your mates around for a piss-up but stipulate that Christmas is out. No green, no red, no eggnog, no turkey. No Jingle Bells, no Good King Wenceslas and definitely no naff TV Christmas specials.

It’ll be cold so why not crank up the heaters and have a Caribbean cocktail party with bikinis and boardshorts.

No one brings a present but everyone leaves with great memories. Feeling a bit grinch after all that? Alright, we’ll let you watch Bad Santa when everyone’s gone home.

Where: your house
Dress code: optional, but fun
Limits: your imagination

Hold an anti-Christmas party.

Laugh at idiots

Wrap up and head down to Hyde Park for the Peter Pan Cup and have a look at those brave (read ‘idiotic’) souls who think they’re proving something by jumping into the Serpentine in below-zero conditions.

Maybe you’re crazy enough to want to give it a go yourself, but be warned: you have to be a Serpentine Swim Club member and have taken part in three winter events already.

Still, plenty of time to sign up for next year … provided you never tire of ‘shrinkage’ or ‘full-beam’ jokes.

» 9am Christmas Day.
See: serpentineswimmingclub.com

Serpentine Swim CLub.

Think of someone else

You think you’ve got it hard with your tiny bedroom, shitty housemates and useless landlord? Some people would love to be where you are. These poor souls are found at Crisis, the nation’s shelter for single, homeless people.

Crisis always need volunteers, especially at Christmas, so give them a call and make someone else’s day.

Roles include serving food, organising bedding, and logistics. More specialised roles call for advice practitioners, hairdressers, alternative therapists, caterers and dog handlers.

» See: crisis.org.uk

Form a santa flashmob

Santacon is an underground movement sweeping the world. Groups dress up in Santa suits and form flashmobs spreading good cheer on city streets.

You can either join the official Santacon team or organise it yourself. But think about how Santa would act: Santa would not get too pissed, Santa is inclusive and Santa loves everyone. No one wants to spend Christmas sobering up in a police cell while dressed in a dirty Santa suit.

» See: santacon.co.uk

Go for a bike ride

Cycling England runs a bike training scheme on Christmas Day, when the roads are least busy. It’s free and caters for a varierty of levels. Santa hat-covered helmets optional.

» See: bikeability.org.uk

Explore a new religion

Many religions don’t celebrate Christmas, so in the lead-up to the big day, seek some of them out. Try the Seventh Day Adventists, Jews,  Buddhists and Muslims. Make new friends and discover how others view the world. Remember, though, respect and acceptance are key here.

Take a walking tour

The streets will be quiet so take the 1660 Samuel Peppy’s Walking Tour or the Charles Dickens London Walk. The two-hour walks cost about £6 and often finish with Christmas dinner and a few festive pints.

» See: walks.com


– Jahn Vannisselroy