How To Avoid Christmas

I love Christmas. There are endless supplies of chocolate and good films on the telly and presents and games and girls dressed as elves and, apart from the fact that the shops will soon start playing carols in the middle of bloody June, I really don't see a downside. But some of you, I know, are averse to the festivity for one reason or another - cynicism at the commercialism, perhaps, or loathing of having to embrace strangers, or dislike of being forced to fake a jolliness and excitement you just aren't able to feel on cue, with which I sympathize. For anyone who can't whole-heartedly enter into the spirit of things, it can be a nightmare, particularly in office party season - go around with a curled lip or an unmirthful face and you will be branded a Scrooge and a misery-guts by every man and his plastic reindeer.

What you need is a good excuse to hate Christmas. What you need is a traumatic story like Phoebe Cates in Gremlins, who, you will remember, bummed Zach Galligan out with an excellent tale of her father dressing as Santa and suffocating while trying to climb down the chimney. You need a poignant anecdote that can plausibly end 'I've hated Christmas ever since'.

Below are some suggestions. Whenever some drunken oaf asks, 'Where's your Christmas spirit?' recite one of the following in a solemn voice. Not only will it justify your own lack of festiveness, but delivered with the right degree of pathos it will bring everyone else down too.

1. As a child I visited a department store Santa. I asked him, humbly enough I thought, for some plasticine and a box of crayons, whereupon he screamed, "You grasping little bastard! I can't take the greed any more!" and hurled me against the wall. Then he pulled out a gun and started shooting at people.

2. As a child I was fingered by an elf

3. During my gap year I backpacked round the Middle East with my boyfriend. I was eight months pregnant and one night as we reached Bethlehem I realized I was going to give birth prematurely. All the youth hostels and hotels were full and we ended up having to spend the night in a stable next to an inn. I gave birth on straw surrounded by cattle and laid the baby in a manger. In the morning I found the animals had eaten it.

4. When I was a child my brother suffocated in a big tin of Quality Street

5. When I was a child my brother was crushed to death beneath the collected works of Charles Dickens, in a freak library accident

6. When I was a child my brother smothered to death in an oversized jumper knitted by a well-meaning old relative

7. When I was a child my haemophiliac brother died of a paper-cut inflicted by the envelope of an After-Eight mint

[The following two only work in Britain, where, as I've noted before, the showing of the film 'The Italian Job' is an integral part of the festivities, and rightly so]

8. The day before I was due to get married my fiancee was crossing the street and was run over by red, white and blue Minis

9. On a trip to Italy the bus I was on spun out of control and ended up balanced on the edge of a cliff. It fell off and exploded and everyone died apart from me

10. In adolescence I had my heart broken by someone called Noel

11. Or Carol

12. Or Doug Yule out of the Velvet Underground

13. As a child I was kidnapped by crazed terrorists who tortured us by making us open gift-wrapped boxes which might contain a bomb, deadly scorpions, or a weasel

14. When I was in the SAS, a mission in the Balkans went badly wrong and a deranged warlord hunted down my platoon with a pack of radio-controlled Attack Reindeers. I can still hear the screams of my comrades echoing through the night as the brutes finished them off. They had infra-red noses.

15. When I was a child, my father's paper party-hat slipped down over his eyes while he was carving the turkey with an electric carver and he sawed my fingers off by mistake. They sewed them back on, of course, but the ambulancemen made a mistake at first and took sausages to the hospital instead of my fingers, and the doctors sewed them on, and for an hour I had sausages for fingers.

16. I was once in a plane that crashed in a mountain range above the snowline. For three weeks we were trapped there with nothing but snow and ice for miles in every direction. All I remember is the snow and the ice and the cold, the endless cold, people dying by inches of cold, and there was no food and we ended up eating the dead. So stick your fucking 'Winter Wonderland' up your arse.

17. I was raped by Perry Como

18. As a child my hamster was squashed by a falling Christmas tree

19. One Christmas during the Queen's Speech, my father grabbed the remote control to turn over to Deep Throat on Channel Five, and it somehow switched my grandmother's pacemaker to a Bossanova rhythm. She flailed around energetically for a bit and then died, face down in the Christmas Pudding

20. One Christmas as a child when I was pulling a cracker, just as it went bang a gas-main exploded and demolished the house. I was trapped in the rubble for several days and was forced to eat my mother, who was covered in cranberry sauce.