Christmas is the time of year at which strange family traditions are at their most extreme and powerful. This applies no matter how normal you believe yourself to be: the weird is simply guaranteed to emerge if you partake of the blend of paganism and Christianity that is the festive season.
This, I think, is because it’s got so many bizarre traditions attached to it in the first place (sprouts, anyone?!), so most people are tempted to add their own irrational little annual rites. I’m from an atheistic, fairly non-traditional family with very little emphasis on holiday routine; we don’t have a set schedule of what to eat, wear, do and argue about. Nonetheless, each of us is somewhat eccentric, and when the holidays bring us all together, weird traditions do tend to develop.
Yesterday, we decided to have Family Quality Time before Duncan went back to uni. After failing to choose a single board game we all enjoy, we discovered a large number of Airfix models squirrelled away in the cellar. Four of them were almost identical, which somehow led to the conclusion that we should probably have a race to see who could make a model train the fastest. We spent the rest of the afternoon gluing pieces of plastic together in frenzied silence. It was surprisingly fun.
Another quirk of Lyster family life is my parents’ tendency to willingly opt into severe discomfort, primarily in the form of going mountaineering in hideous weather conditions. I’m gradually coming round to the concept of the outdoors, but Mum’s frequent suggestions that we go for a walk don’t always go down well. This is particularly so in situations (like yesterday evening) when it’s dark, rainy and gusting at 90mph outside: