Let’s be honest – Christmas isn’t really all it’s cracked up to be. It’s the most stressful, expensive, noisy time of the year, and it’s cold, too. While there are some people who love nothing more than carol singing, gift giving and wearing festive jumpers – for the rest of us, getting into the Christmas spirit means opening up a bottle of gin.
If you’re already dreading the manic shopping, the office parties and the tense family dinners, you are not alone. Thousands of Brits head for sunnier climes over the Christmas break, choosing to shun tradition and do Christmas their way. But you don’t need to spend a small fortune and travel hundreds of miles just to escape the hustle and hype of the run up to December 25th. Instead, why not give yourself a little breather by taking a couple of days to just chill out and enjoy the holiday season your way.
1. Retreat to the country
It’s not that people don’t celebrate Christmas in the countryside – it’s just that you don’t have to deal with the glaring lights and tacky store window displays when you leave the city centre. Find somewhere nice and remote that’s well away from the lights of the city, and treat yourself to a bit of good old fashioned peace and quiet.
To guarantee tranquillity, choose an area which boasts dark skies, for instance the South Downs or the Outer Hebrides in Scotland. In the far north of Scotland, you can even see the Northern Lights at this time of year.
At night, you can sit outside your rural cottage and drink in the silence while you gaze up at the stars and contemplate the vast emptiness of space and time. Not a sleigh bell or reindeer in sight.
2. Hit the water
When you really need to get away from it all, there’s no better cure than a night or two at sea. If you can sail, hire a yacht or a boat and head out to sea until you can no longer see the twinkling of the Christmas lights along the coast.
If you can’t sail, simply enjoy the tranquillity of the water from the comfort of the shores. Find a nice big lake or a quiet bay – the sort of place where you can’t see an end to the horizon. That’s better, isn’t it? Treat yourself to a nice fish supper and your seaside retreat is complete.
3. Just stay in
Sometimes the simplest ideas are the best. If you hate Christmas, and Christmas seems to be everywhere, just stay inside. No one’s forcing you to put on the Christmas telly, and you don’t have to have mince pies with every meal. Your house, your rules.
Except sometimes it isn’t quite that simple – whether it’s the bulb-tastic display on the house across the street glaring through your bedroom window and keeping you up at night; or the festive fervour of your flatmates or family – sometimes you need to take a break in a home away from home. Hire a holiday cottage or house so you can simply bed in, veg out and luxuriate in your indoor haven.
4. Catch up on your culture
While everyone else is off at the school nativity or carol singing in the town square, you could be off getting some real culture in your life. It’s the start of the Hollywood award season, so all the best movies of the year are being released at the moment. Treat yourself to a double bill at the local cinema; for extra Scrooge points, choose a horror flick or a psychological thriller.
Or you could spend the long dark evenings getting stuck into a good book – Wolf Hall should see you through December, and it’s a decidedly non-festive read.
There isn’t much on at the theatre at this time of year – aside from the local panto of course – but you could catch an experimental student production at a local college or uni as the end of term approaches. Oh yes you could.
5. Reach new heights
Take a tip from the Grinch: he moved to a cave on top of a mountain just to get away from the Christmas obsessed residents of Whoville.
There is nothing better than a mountaintop when you just need to be alone. The climb up is reassuringly tough, the air is clean and fresh, and the view from the top puts everything into perspective. Where better to indulge in a picnic, take in your surroundings and scream into the wind? Go on, scream away – it’s just you and the mountain – anything goes. You can even belt out a few verses of your favourite/least-hated Christmas carol if you like… we won’t tell.