Stephanie Smith: Playing by the house rules at Christmas

Christmas – the season of giving and getting, peace and happiness, eating and drinking … and, if you’re staying in someone else’s (i.e., your parents’) home, rules. Lots and lots of rules that you have to bear in mind because it’s not your house and you’re not in charge. Of anything, not your own meals, not your own children, not even your own accessories.

Turkeys wore boots to protect their feet when they were being driven from Norfolk to London in the Victorian era.

Take footwear, or rather, take off footwear, because some people think that carpets and wooden flooring are more important than feet and fashion. I hate having to take my shoes off, chiefly because I feel clumsy, silly, out of proportion and actually undressed. I do not style myself an outfit without shoes or boots being an integral part of the ensemble. And, frankly, I am neither tall nor slender enough to do without heels, plus my feet freeze even if you have got underfloor heating, so tough – love me, love my heels. You let me keep them on and I promise not to wear anything remotely resembling stilettos, so your precious wooden floors will be fine. There.

Next, party sports. Really? Do we have to? A quiz is fine. Two quizzes are fine. But nothing too strenuous or competitive. At my family’s festive gathering, there is an annual Wii bowling tournament which involves every person, aged two to 74, taking part in at least one interminable round, trying and failing over and over to get the wretched controller thing to release the screen ball onto the screen lane to hit the screen skittles. It goes on for two days, with the grand final on Boxing Day, and it’s always won by a small child. I can’t wait.

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There are some rules I’m happy to comply with, the “keep out of the kitchen” and “keep your glass filled” rules being my two favourites.

And I do love the rule that we have to play the Hat Game at least once. In case you don’t know it, here goes: Everyone is given a long piece of page (half an A4) and writes down names of well-known people – sports players, actors, politicians, living and dead – tearing off each name as they go, rolling it up and placing it in a hat (we use a flat cap). Then get into teams, ideally of four or five players, and sit together, facing your opposing teams. The hat goes from team to team, clockwise, while each player in turn sees how many names they can unroll and describe for their team-mates to guess within one minute. Screw up and throw back any names they can’t guess. As the game goes on it’s quite acceptable to screw up the names tight so they take ages to open. At the end, when all the names are guessed, the team with the most name strips wins. Hurrah – drinks all round, ready to do it all again.

Have a happy rule-free Christmas!