The Struggles Of Festive Socialising

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**DISCLAIMER: If you are seeking festive cheer and merriment, this feature is not for you

The countdown to Christmas is on – hoorah! As the song goes, it really is the most wonderful time of the year, isn’t it? Delicious food, cosy nights in front of the fire, fairy lights twinkling and of course, gift giving – and receiving! However it’s also that time of year where, despite wanting to go into a state of hibernation you also have to socialise – a lot. If you’re like me, the thought of a night out is pretty traumatising at any time of the year, but even if you are somewhat of a general socialite, there’s no denying that Christmas socialising is exhausting and can be a bit of a pain for many reasons.  

Jordan Humphries outlines 25 of those reasons (to help to build your terror). One for each day in December that you have to endure the Belfast party scene before you can retire your party hat and lie in your onesie eating cheese whilst watching The Snowman


I’m talking see-your-breath, frozen-toes, chilled-to-the-bones cold. How on earth are you meant to dress for a night out in such conditions? Six layers of thermals don’t quite cut it as ‘festive fancy’ and pretending you’re full of seasonal joy when you think you may be contracting hypothermia isn’t easy. Hence dilema number one is selecting a suitably stylish sub-zero attire.


While we’re on the topic of what to wear – which way do you play it? Do you go full-on sequins, sparkles and glamour as you only can at Christmas time or do you trust the group chat’s general consensus of “jeans and a nice top” and risk showing up thoroughly underdressed?


The cold weather is not only unpleasant but a downright health and safety hazard. Navigating the cobbled streets of the Cathedral Quarter in a pair of high heels whilst tipsy is challenge enough on any night of the year, but throw in slippery black ice and you’re pretty much guaranteed to end up on an episode of You’ve Been Framed.


Since mid-November your phone has been pinging with messages from old friends and acquaintances saying how you must catch up over Christmas and annoyingly they actually proceed to make plans. Sure, I haven’t seen you all year and we never bother speaking, so obviously I’d love to sacrifice a night watching Home Alone with my family to make small talk with you in an overcrowded bar… bah humbug!


There are only so many Friday and Saturday nights available before Christmas rolls around and as the diaries filled up months ago, you now have to begin agreeing to midweek outings. As a woman in my late twenties who is very much past her student days, venturing out to drink Prosecco on a Wednesday evening really is just not something I want to do with my time any longer. I’ve got things to do on weekdays, I need to be able to fully function come Thursday morning!


If you’re hoping for a festive night out with your bestie but you haven’t got it in the diary by October, well good luck. She’ll have work Christmas dos to attend and random acquaintances to catch up with who all booked her in around mid-August. Ditto for any remotely nice restaurant you may wish to eat at from now until the end of December. They’re fully booked, sorry.


If you do manage to get a table at a restaurant you actually want to eat in 1) congratulations! And 2) good luck ordering your usual go-to favourites, as chances are they’re going to have a limited set menu with inflated prices as an accompaniment. I’m still not over the fact I couldn’t get my habitual order in Zen circa. December 15th 2012.


Even with all your careful fore-planning you’ll probably double book yourself somewhere along the line (or a better offer will come up). So be prepared for cocktails at 4pm with friend number one, dinner with friend number two at 6pm, the Christmas market for afters with friend number three at 8pm, dancing in a club with friend number four at 10pm. Followed by exhaustion, indigestion and possible prosecco-induced tears at 2am.


You’re already skint from buying Christmas presents and forking out for all the other expenses that stack up at this time of the year, but why not ensure you’re absolutely, completely flat-broke by the end of 2017 by going on 32 nights out? Yay!


Getting a taxi in Belfast is nigh on impossible at the best of times but at Christmas? You’d be better bringing a survival kit on a night out – complete with a flask of hot cocoa, a pop-up tent and a sleeping bag, with the plan to wait it out until morning because you haven’t a mission of paying a kind gentleman to deliver you to your door at a reasonable hour.


Food, drinks, cover charges, taxis, all the new outfits you have to buy for all these different nights out – why is everything more expensive at Christmas?


‘Tis the season to over-indulge in calorific treats, which is fabulous at the time but often leaves you feeling full up to the neck, squishy and sleepy. The thought of shimmying in to a party dress and having to go out in public in this state is not my idea of fun. You’ll need to call the emergency services to get a fireman round to brandish you into your most supportive Spanx. 1… 2… 3… HUP!


If you enjoy waiting 45 minutes to get served at the bar before having to stand shoulder to shoulder with strangers whilst hoards of others push their way passed, then you’re in luck. Everywhere in the city centre will be thrice as packed as it usually is, all with other miserable punters who would probably also rather be at home with a mince pie. Cheers!


Even with the verbal (or written in text message) agreement in place that you “aren’t doing presents this year” – some annoying person will definitely show up with a “wee gift” for you. Queue awkward excuses about how their gift wouldn’t fit in your bag or that you left it on the train… Followed by a trip to the shops (and more spending) you could have done without tomorrow.


You’re bound to get roped into the misfortune of partaking in a Secret Santa situation. Of course you’ll definitely choose the person in the group who you know/like the least and the budget will either be so little that you’ll have to buy them something pointless they’ll throw away anyway, or so high that you’ll feel massive resentment at having to participate at all.


When someone presents you with your Secret Santa gift (which will inevitably be fairly rubbish) you’ll have to excitedly gush about how much you love it for a good five minutes, punctuating it with fake laughter, an awkward hug and at least a dozen thank yous – because we’re Northern Irish and we’re polite don’t you know.


If you’re single at Christmas time you always feel 20 times more single than ever. You’ll bump into at least 16 newly engaged acquaintances who you’ll have to feign interest in as you listen to their proposal stories. You’ll see smug happy couples snuggling in the corners of every bar and in a moment of self-pity, actually contemplate a drunken snog with the tiny bloke wearing the ‘hilarious’ Santa hat with the sprig of mistletoe strategically attached to it.  


Given that there are a limited number of festive pop songs, you will hear each and every one, on repeat, all night. Complete with girls who think they are Mariah screaming to hit that high note in All I Want For Christmas and a circle of drunken punters on the dance floor shouting the lyrics of the Fairytale of New York at last orders, without fail.


Some enthusiastic individual will definitely suggest that you attend a ‘12 Pubs of Christmas’ night out. In turn you’ll have to pretend you’re delighted about having to make 12 journeys throughout the night, traipsing from crowded pub to crowded pub where you’ll just about have time to have a sip of your drink before moving on, due to the over-crowdedness of every establishment in the city.


To get into the festive spirit and show you’re not a total Scrooge you will purchase a last-minute ‘ironic’ Christmas jumper in Primark. Once out, you’ll discover that every other girl in the pub is also ‘ironically’ wearing the exact same Christmas jumper you are and you’ll wish you’d just worn a normal jumper and not one that brands you as a basic ‘Prosecc-ho-ho-ho‘.


Going to The Christmas Market is obligatory in December, although for what reason I’m not really sure. Not that it isn’t fun to wade your way through treacherous herds of people round a soggy, sodden trail of vastly overpriced stalls selling drinks that you would never, ever choose to drink if they weren’t passed off as festive essentials. Mmm, £8 for a plastic cup of strawberry beer, gimmee…


Every Christmas dinner is disappointing apart from your Mum’s. FACT. Which makes it very upsetting when you get dragged out to a (pricey) Christmas lunch or dinner where the only option is a traditional Christmas dinner “with all the trimmings”. Dry turkey, cold lumpy mash, watery gravy and boiled carrots anyone?


Inevitably you’re going to face chit-chat of “So what are you up to these days? What’s happening in your life? Are you seeing anyone?” barrage of questions, the answers to all of which will make you feel jolly… awful. Be prepared with a self-deprecating, witty response you can spit out before hitting the bar for three consecutive tequila slammers to save yourself from actually having to contemplate what you are doing with your life.


You will definitely get too drunk at your work Christmas do (just to make it through the night), which will definitely lead to some embarrassing and/or inappropriate behaviour, which will definitely lead to you contemplating handing in your resignation and moving to Tahiti the next morning just to save face. No good can come of getting legless and letting your guard down around people you have to see every day in a professional capacity.


I remember last year sitting in Ollie’s VIP at the end of a very long 12 Pubs of Christmas affair – wearing my Primark Christmas jumper, ready for bed and being surrounded by hot young things dancing on chairs in micro mini skirts, sequin bralets, Santa hats (that they managed to make look sexy) and just thinking “I am way too old for this”. Given that this year I am older (as tends to happen year on year) I can not imagine feeling any differently this festive season. BUT I am a humble woman and prepared to be proven wrong. So bring it on Christmas and the endless Christmas nights out I have booked up in my diary. I’m ready for you. I think. Maybe. Oh God, just roll on December 25th…

Jordan Humphries

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