(Barely) Surviving the Christmas party season

They say Christmas comes but once a year. But what they fail to mention is that the party season lasts the whole of December, with countless parties, get-togethers and nights out until everyone collapses in a heap on January 1.

Of course, for every awesome festive occasion there’s at least one awkward encounter with a roomful of people you barely know. And for every cosy family gathering there’s at least an hour stuck in a traffic jam on the motorway as millions of others do exactly the same thing.

But fear not fellow technophile – for we have weapons in our locker that can brighten up those moments even better than Rudolf carrying a flashlight.

For me, this year’s Christmas fun began last weekend with a mini-reunion of former housemates. The ‘fun’ seemed a long way off as I shovelled away the snow from around my car. But, once free, I was soon on the train speeding to London, drowning out the sound of drunken businessmen and crying babies with my trusty iPod – essential for any journey on public transport at this time of year. Any suggestion I was listening to Now That’s What I Call Christmas! are entirely unfounded, though Fairytale Of New York might have made a cheeky appearance at one point…

Once down in London, a friend’s flat was invaded and we mucked about on his PS3 while he made dinner. For me, that’s what gaming is all about – getting your mates together and having a laugh while you blow each other to pieces, ram each other off the track or knock each other out, ninja-style. It set the tone for a cracking night.

Remember kids, someone will put your Christmas party pictures on Facebook

But the rest of the celebrations provide more than a hint of trepidation.

Office parties, on paper at least, are a great idea. After a year of hard work in a formal atmosphere, you get the chance to let your hair down and have a bit of fun with your colleagues.

All good. Except for the next morning when you remember just how many video phones and digital cameras were being bandied around.

So while that karaoke rendition of Jailhouse Rock seemed heroic at the time, there’s clear and incontrovertible evidence that if the King wasn’t dead before your performance might have finished him off.

At least only a handful of people witnessed it. It’s not like everyone you know was there… But switching on the laptop, Facebook is already full of the previous night’s fun – in glorious high-quality images and HD video. Ho, ho, ho…

Just as the friendly e-ribbing starts to subside, Christmas Day rolls around -and so do the family visits.

That means hours on end sat in a car as Mum and Dad argue about directions (get a SatNav and be done with it!) and siblings wrestle for elbow room in a car that seems way smaller than it used to. Time to whip out the DSi and get stuck into some hardcore Mario Kart action. Let’s go!

When you do rock up at your granny’s/auntie’s/cousin’s abode and dispense with the general pleasantries and gift-giving, it’s straight into dinner. Maybe it’s an alpha male wannabe thing, but the electric carving knife is just cool. It might not be a lightsaber, but you certainly need the Force to use it.

Of course Mum is less than impressed when the knife of power is wielded with consummate skill. A couple of minutes of carving steals the spotlight despite the fact she’s spent the best part of a week steaming, boiling and roasting. Still, mum gets her revenge – a game of Trivial Pursuit separates the Eggheads from the Dingbats…