Christmas has come hurtling around again like a joyous, warming, red-and-green, mince pie-filled juggernaut. But plans for Christmas Day to run smoothly still aren’t immune from going tits-up. Everyone’s had at least one year that wasn’t all light-hearted banter, tasty turkey and brilliant presents.

Christmas disasters often seem to find their fuel in alcohol. Tessa*, a 27-year-old secretary who now lives in Bethnal Green, was living in New York three Christmases ago. But instead of having a stateside fairytale Christmas, things turned messy after a day with her brother and friends descended into a drunken bender.

“My friend Katie had spent hours cooking an amazing feast but everyone was too wasted to eat it so we just pushed the food around our plates and carried on drinking,” Tessa says.

“Things got more and more chaotic and suddenly Kate’s boyfriend leapt on to the table, amid piles of food and wine bottles, and started dancing, trampling food and china. Then the table broke in two, sending a cascade of shattered glass, plates and turkey into a heap on the floor. But he continued dancing in the mess.”

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When Tessa’s boyfriend tried to comfort a distraught Katie, Tessa accused him of trying it on with her crying friend.

“We launched into a screaming, hysterical, fight and kept it up all the way home in the taxi. My poor brother was horrified and never came for Christmas again.”

Booze can also ruin Christmas when it makes you hungry. Late one Christmas Eve, journalist Cathy Adams, 25, who lives in London Bridge, got back to her parents’ house to find masking tape around a pot of chicken casserole her mum had cooked for Christmas dinner.

When she asked why it was taped up, it turned out her brother had been out drinking, and had wobbled home, ravenous.

“My mum had found a trail of chicken bones on the floor leading to his room and my brother asleep, holding a chicken leg. Christmas dinner was pretty much just sauce and a tiny bit of chicken on toast.”

But Christmas disasters can happen even if you aren’t tanked up on booze. Sometimes it just happens to be the day pent-up drama decides to unfold. And Petra*, a 29-year-old lawyer from Melbourne, knows all too well.

She spent Christmas two years ago with her boyfriend Tom’s* family at their pub in Wiltshire. They closed for the day and decided to eat in the bar. “We were having a great time and it was all going really well. Then Tom’s older brother Mark* disappeared upstairs with his fiancee and mother of his three-month-old child.”

A few minutes later, she came downstairs sobbing and saying Mark was moving out of their house. The next thing Petra knew, the family had erupted into a shouting match, and things quickly got violent as Mark’s dad started throwing punches at him.

“More fighting and yelling ensued so Tom decided to get his brother out of the house. I got my (still punching) potential father-in-law in a bear hug, dragged him to the floor and sat on him until they’d gone – I wasn’t small.

“Then I spent the rest of the day looking after the baby whilst calming everyone else down. Tom and Mark came back three hours later, totally wasted, and promptly started throwing up everywhere. It was then I decided I didn’t want to be part of that family anymore!”

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And what’s Christmas Day without a trip to A&E? Anna* from Highbury was sitting round the table with her family, tucking into some turkey when – trying to be helpful – she went to pass her mum a leaflet she’d picked up about pet insurance for her new dog. “I frisbeed it across the table, thinking mum would catch it. But she missed and it went straight into her eye. Blood trickled down her face and she couldn’t see for the rest of the day. Not my finest hour.”

At least things didn’t take an embarrassing turn. Analyst Penny Roberts, 24, who lives in Richmond, bought her boyfriend a novelty willy warmer as a private joke one Christmas. After he opened it on Christmas morning, he bounded downstairs to tell her entire family what a hilarious gift it was, while she sat squirming in the kitchen watching her mum’s face.

Top festive tips

With all these things that could go wrong, it’s no wonder that 18 per cent of people dread Christmas Day. But how do you manage not to screw things up?

We’ve compiled a list of festive rules to make sure things go as smoothly as possible.

1.    If you go out on Christmas Eve, stop drinking at midnight. Waking up on Chrsitmas morning still drunk in a Santa hat isn’t a recipe for a magical day.
2.    Talk out any beef beforehand. If you think something’s about to blow up when you spend too much time with a family member, try to get it out in the open before the big day to avoid any spats.
3.    Be thorough with your present buying – you don’t want to forget anyone important or scary. There’s nothing more unsettling than being death stared over a table when there are carving knives around.
4.    If you’re giving a partner sexy presents, keep them on the down-low in front of anyone’s parents.
5.    Check your furnishings are flame-resistant. If they’re not, don’t light the Christmas pudding anywhere near them.
6.    If any of your family/ housemates like a drunk nighttime feast, keep your turkey locked up tight.