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A Man's guide to Christmas

Christmas – a time of joy, laughter, and some of greatest challenges known to mankind.

A Man's guide to Christmas
07 December 2015

Christmas is here once again – a time of joy, laughter, and some of greatest challenges known to mankind.

Forget all the booze and chocolate for a second, and think about what’s actually in store for you. Shopping. Cooking. Families. Wrapping. Socialising with people from work.

Yes, it might be the most wonderful time of the year, but it’s also a battle of wits – a mental, physical and emotional test that only men with baubles of steel will survive.

To keep your festive spirit(s) up, we’re offering the greatest gift possible – a trusty guide to help you through this Christmastime.

Christmas Shopping

Chin up and brace yourself for the horror. 

What To Do: This is all about organisation. Scope out the shopping area first, map a route, and hit the stores with military-like precision. And like all military operations, get up at the crack of dawn to hit the enemy as early as possible. You’ll be celebrating victory with a mulled wine by teatime. Or, you know, order the lot on Amazon and save yourself the trip.

What Not To Do: Don’t leave it until Christmas Eve – that’s a one-way ticket to actual hell.

Planning your Christmas TV

Get out that Radio Times and do it old school.

What To Do: Christmas is nothing if not a time of tradition. As a man it’s your duty to keep alive the greatest manly traditions ever – obsessively sifting through the Christmas TV guide and circling everything you want to watch. One of the most satisfying man-tasks in the history of, well, man.

What Not To Do: Don’t forget to Sky Plus the lot. It’s easy to forget that by Christmas evening you’ll be so incapable of movement you won’t be able to reach the remote control, let alone get up to change the channel. 


A special Christmas moment and rite of passage for any man.

What To Do: Terrible at DIY? Then take this opportunity to redeem yourself by doing a bang-up job with the decorations – and showing some serious skills. All you need is a ladder, some drawing pins, and trimmings. And some Christmas music turned up to eleven, naturally.

What Not To Do: Other than falling off the ladder, try not to go over the top with the decorations. A bit of gaudiness is what Christmas is all about, but if you end up with tinsel wrapped around the TV screen you should be asking yourself some pretty serious questions.

Christmas Dinner

There’s a reason they call in the most wonderful time of the year.

What To Do: We know these days men have to worry about trivial things like their waistlines and general health, but c’mon fellas, this is no time to mess around. Get your festive five-a-day – mince pies, nuts, Quality Streets, meat, and leftover roast potatoes – and remember this is a marathon, not a sprint (albeit a marathon during which you pop a Ferrero Rocher in your mouth every three minutes).

What Not To Do: Eat so much on Christmas morning that you genuinely can’t stomach another morsel by Christmas Dinner, missing out on lashings of turkey and gravy while you clutch your freshly rotund stomach in convulsive agony.

Putting up the tree

Man’s annual battle with nature/artificial foliage. Either way, it’s hard bloody work.

What To Do: To offset the calorific Christmas pummeling your body is about to receive, turn this into a mini workout while you can still move. Whether you’re lugging a tree home from B&Q or getting the fake one out of the loft, keep your back straight and get a few crafty reps out of lifting it.

What Not To Do: Wear a short sleeve t-shirt (or kilt) unless you’re a fan of the ailment known as Jesus-Christ-look-how-red-raw-my-arms-are-itis.

Surviving the office party

Yet another opportunity to look a right plum in front of your boss.

What To Do: Prove you’re a proper adult by demonstrating restraint beyond what you ever imagined possible (in a room full of free booze). Show you’re game for a laugh by joining in the fun, busting a few of your less controversial moves, and reciting some PG-rated jokes.

What Not To Do: Don’t get smashed beyond all recognition on cheap wine and dance on the buffet table with your shirt off. And don’t use the “Secret Santa” as a chance to give that girl from accounts you like a Snowball ornament engraved with a poetic declaration of love. 

Wrapping presents

Don’t feel bad – it’s scientific fact that men are completely rubbish at wrapping.

What To Do: Modern man might be expected to throw off the shackles of outdated masculine stereotypes, but the truth is, the majority of men are simply incapable of wrapping without making a right pig’s ear of the situation. But it’s the effort that counts, showing you care so work it. Embrace it. Buy the cheapest possible paper. Apply with Sellotape with ham-fisted gusto. In short, be the best at being terrible.

What Not To Do: You might be a naturally terrible wrapper, but at least try not to cock-up the nametags and get the presents jumbled up on Christmas morning. Imagine the look on your girlfriend’s face when she unwraps your dad’s new screwdriver set.

The Christmas movie marathon

So you thought that Game of Thrones box-set all-nighter was the making of you. Think again…

What To Do: It might sound like a bit of frivolous festive fun, but there’s a stack of Christmas films to get through, so you’ll need to get serious and knuckle down if you’re going to cram them all in. Recommend starting with a bang (Die Hard), before easing yourself in gently with some nostalgic classics (Gremlins, Santa Claus The Movie), and then move on to the hard stuff (Home Alone).

What Not To Do: Completely hog the TV schedule. Nobody really wants to watch Jingle All Of The Way but, for the love of god, think of the children.

Enduring the family

It’s a time for your nearest and dearest – and doing your absolute best not to strangle them.

What To Do: Family time at Christmas is enough to push any sane man to the brink of madness. Just take a deep breath and remember little baby Jesus. Ask yourself what he’d do if his drunken father-in-law wouldn’t shut up for five minutes, or if his Uncle Brian insisted of making everyone watch Mrs Brown’s Boys. He’d swallow it and smile on like a trooper.

What Not To Do: Forget Christmas is a time for peace and goodwill to all men (even your Uncle Brian). Save your drunken fall outs for another occasion… like Uncle Brian’s next wedding. 

Making the drinks

Because who doesn’t want to be lord and master of the drinks cabinet?

What To Do: The festive drink is an art of its own – thick, warming, and seriously more-ish. Impress everyone by learning a repertoire of Christmassy tipples: eggnog, the snowball, apple brandy hot toddies, proper mulled wine, and the chocolate orange cocktail to name a few.

What Not To Do: It might sound like fun now, but emptying every bottle into a giant bowl of “punch” is literally a recipe for disaster. If you make yourself too sick to enjoy Christmas dinner – the year’s greatest roast – no amount of leftover turkey sandwiches will compensate. 

Opening presents

We hate to break it to you, but Santa doesn’t always get it right.

What To Do: Show world-class patience and let everyone else open their presents first, resisting the urge to tear into your measly stack of gifts like the already-drunken man-child you probably are. When it is your turn, nod politely and feign enthusiasm with every inevitable disappointment.

What Not To Do: Don’t make a scene. Don’t go upstairs for a sulk. And don’t take it out on younger relatives by getting overly competitive on their Scalectrix. So you got lumbered with pants, socks and a hideous shirt you wouldn’t even line the dog’s basket with. Join the club mate.  

The Christmas jumper

Festive knitwear has been belittling us men for generations – time to own it.

What To Do: It’s not big (unless it actually is a size too big, of course), it’s not clever, and it’s certainly not attractive, but just do what everyone else does: kid yourself and pretend it’s the height of fashion.

What Not To Do: A real man should be able to laugh at himself. So no matter how ugly or obscene that Christmas jumper is, never make excuses and try to hide it. Wear the jumper with pride, safe in the knowledge that British men everywhere are united in doing what they do best – being a bit awkward and embarrassed.

Cooking the turkey

Like the BBQ during the summer, expertly cooked turkey is a matter of manly pride.

What To Do: Everyone knows the measure of modern masculinity is how much artery-troubling man-food one can cook and consume. So all those badass roasting skills you’ve been bragging about since you first saw Man v. Food? Prove it’s not just a fad and put them to the test.

What Not To Do: Don’t forget to defrost the turkey the night before. Don’t forget to turn the oven on. Don’t get so pissed on Christmas morning that you get the timings wrong. You’ll never live it down. Ruining the Christmas turkey is worth at least 25 regular man-fails.

Building the lego

You’re a man now. Which means it’s your turn with the toys

What To Do: Whether they’re your own kids or nieces and nephews, chances are there will be children in the house. And if they’ve got any sense they’ve asked Santa for a sack-load of LEGO. Step up and accept the challenge on their behalf. And most importantly, start ahead of time and give them the LEGO fully made.

What Not To Do: Only a fool would leave the actual building until Christmas Day itself. Unless, of course, he wants “Is it done yet?!” screamed at him every 10 seconds for the rest of the day, or to lose important pieces amidst the chaos, or a full-blown nervous breakdown while sat in a sea of tiny plastic bricks. 

Christmas afternoon

Time to relax – you’ve bloody well earned it

What To Do: For some, this is the biggest challenge of all – battling unconsciousness after indulging a triple helping of food, booze, and over-excitement. But you’ve handled the festive season like a man and now’s your time to enjoy it. The shopping’s over. The tree is up. The parties are finished. And the awful presents already forgotten. Get the telly on, smash in those chocolates, and wear that paper crown to the bitter end.

What Not To Do: In your drunken, over-stuffed stupor, don’t agree to any kind of shopping in the Boxing Day sales. It’s incredible how one afternoon of complete relaxation can be undone by a mere 30 seconds in Topshop.