For some, Christmas means time with the family. You sit in a higgledy-piggledy mix of chairs around a large table overflowing with overcooked food and pass parsnips to mad aunts and drunk uncles, pulling crackers with grandparents who are convinced this will be their ‘last Christmas’ (despite saying that for the last 15 years)!

After a few arguments, a couple of card games and an in depth discussion on whether vegetarian pigs in blankets taste the same as ‘normal’ ones… we will sit round the telly and watch the King’s speech.

I think the only reason we do this is to remind ourselves that however dysfunctional our family is, at least we’re not as crazy as the Windsors.

In betwixtmas, we’ve got family outings to see the panto at Shanklin Theatre, a muddy dog walk and we’ll eat our body weight in cold meats and pickled onions.

Some will make trips to the mainland to see family, and there might be zoom calls to cousins on the other side of the world.

But for many, family isn’t this chocolate box image of the festive time or the romanticised vision we see depicted in nostalgic TV adverts.

Family can be a complicated concept that can dig up all sorts of memories, tricky conversations, and a time when we particularly miss those no longer with us.

There have been times where Christmas has felt a bit like that episode of The Vicar of Dibley when Geraldine is invited to four Christmas dinners and she doesn’t have the heart to turn them down so goes to them all.

The obligation to see every single relative on one day, spreading your time equally between all corners of your ever expanding family can be tough. And there might be tables you would love to be invited to sit at but never get the chance.

Traditions are great for as long as you enjoy them, but the second they become a chore or you don’t love doing it, change it up! Make your new traditions with the people you want to do it with. Do Christmas your own way.

For example, many people I know are turning to Friendmas! This is where you spend time over the festive period with those absolute heroes of your life who inspire you, make you laugh, are there when you need them most and have always got your back.

The family you got to build yourself. Mad traditions emerge from this, friendships grow stronger and it can give you the Christmas joy without any of the difficult bits.

It reminds me of one of the greatest films of all time, The Tigger Movie. Tigger is in search of his family but he discovers that, just like the song, he is the ‘only one’. He’s upset to find that he doesn’t have a family network around him.

But, in an attempt to cheer him up, his friends dress up as tiggers. Sometimes, when you don’t have that traditional idea of family, that group of friends, those people at the pub, your five-a-side football team mates or your closest colleagues, might feel more of a family. That’s an amazing thing you should celebrate.

If there are empty chairs at your table this year, for whatever reason, raise a glass and reminisce. Do them proud but do it your way.  

I’m very lucky to have a wonderful adapted, extended, amended, expanded family full of the most awesome human beings, but I am also insanely grateful to be surrounded by the most incredible friends you could ever imagine. Beautiful people who make me smile every day.

This Christmas, enjoy it with the ones you love (whoever that may be) and do it your way.