Dr Steve McCabe, Birmingham City Business School

Christmas Day is one day when we are expected to let our hair down and enjoy the fact that for most people, it is a day off work. For children up to a certain age there is the joy of playing with toys that have magically appeared overnight and, they believe, delivered by generous Father Christmas. Those who don’t believe in the largesse of the bearded old man on his sleigh, cite their belief that it would be impossible to achieve the objective of delivering toys to approximately 1.5 billion children. For starters, because of the time zones he has only 31 hours which means it is estimated that he is making over 5,500 visits per second and consuming 150 billion calories in milk and mince pies.

One of the major reasons for doubting the existence of Father Christmas is the argument that in order to carry a sleigh that would weigh in excess of 500,000 tons, his eight reindeer would need to fly at 650 miles per second which is 3,000 times the speed of sound or 0.35 per cent the speed of light. Such flight under normal circumstance would generate 13.4 quintillion joules of energy per second and, as a consequence, Santa and his reindeer would therefore be vapourised in 4.26 thousandths of a second. Thankfully, this problem is not insurmountable. A scientist, Knut Jørgen Røed, has suggested resistance to air pressure which would cause the heat issue could be solved by Santa having an ion-shield of charged particles held together by a magnetic field which surrounds his sleigh.

Back on planet earth there are the more mundane problems of coping with the need for the big day to match expectations. The amount of food and drink consumed on the 25th of December is phenomenal and the logistics of ensuring that supermarkets are stocked sufficiently to cope is a minor miracle, commencing with the producers including farmers and requiring a slick supply-chain.

The actual day for most families consists of the need to schedule a number of activities in the same way that is required for any major event whether it be a wedding, a major football game or, in extremis, an Olympics. As in any celebration, the target is to have the meal ready to serve hot at the same time; usually immediately before or after the Queen’s speech at 3pm. However, a traditional Christmas meal consisting of turkey with all the trimmings is no mean feat. The ability to organise everyone to be relaxed whilst at the same time cooking what is often a mammoth meal for all the family (often extended to include distant relations and partners) needs patience.

The ability to organise, coupled with patience and understanding, is something we expect at work. It’s not unreasonable to expect it at home. However, one thing that does not usually occur at work is the consumption of alcohol. Having attended one or two raucous office Christmas parties in my time I can attest to the fact that work colleagues and alcohol can be something of a combustible mix. Sadly, the incidence of domestic violence spikes over the Christmas period due to families being cooped up in a confined space with nowhere to go.

So, there are some tips for Christmas. Plan for every eventuality and have some back-ups should things go wrong. Don’t be over-adventurous with the food. Most people like the traditional meal and if you do wish to try something different, have a practice before Christmas Day.  I have seen a suggestion that buffets are good to ensure social engagement. Maybe, if that is what people feel happy with. It would also seem fair to involve as many people in the preparation as possible. The days of ‘mom doing everything whilst dad goes to the pub’ should be consigned to history. Perhaps the best advice is that once you have a plan stick to it; once you deviate you will, like the turkey, be stuffed!

A Happy and joyous Christmas to everyone.

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