As the only child of two teetotalers, my first Christmases were not riotous affairs. We would get up at seven o'clock, eat a bowl of cereal and wait for the electric fire to warm up the 'lounge'. Like many working class people of that time, my parents had a strange habit of only using their front room on special occasions.
After our perfunctory breakfast, we would change rooms and my father would put his 'Christmas with James Last' LP on the stereo.
The music was pure kitsch, but I still have a soft spot for it:
Every year, my presents would be stacked underneath a formica coffee table with wobbly legs. I could barely contain my excitement. In contrast, my parents treated their presents with the dogged professionalism of someone cataloguing a crime scene: "Soap on a rope from Chris and Lesley".
In spite of being very religious and patriotic, my parents didn't attend a church service or watch the Queen's Christmas Broadcast to the Commonwealth. I've no idea why.
At 11.30, my father would collect his parents from Twickenham, a mile away. It would be an understatement to say that my grandmother was not the most cheery of souls and for the duration of their visit, we felt as if a dark spell had been cast over the day. Christmas 'dinner' - always served at midday - was consumed in semi-silence.
There were no games.
But if my recollections sound rather melancholy, I should add that I always enjoyed Christmas Day. The misery of being with my grandmother was a minor distraction compared to the excitement of having a new train set, or a box of Lego.
In my naivety, I assumed that most families had similar Christmases to mine, following the same routine. However, when I spent my first Christmas away from home, with my wife's family, I had a rude awakening.
My wife's family were the polar opposite of mine in every respect and teetotalers were regarded with the same horror as child molesters and trade unionists. If you wanted to be accepted in their solidly upper middle class world, you had to show that you knew how to drink.
At mid-morning, a succession of visitors arrived, while the grandparents held court in the bar of their sprawling Tudor house. Everyone became increasingly drunk and my memory of the period between 11.00 and 3.00 is almost non-existent, but at some point we must have walked back to my mother-in-law's, as I remember waking up there in the afternoon.
In the evening, we returned to the grandparents' home, where more guests arrived and the drinking resumed. By nine o'clock, the grandfather walked over to a grand piano (which had weeds growing underneath it) and a singalong session began, with a medley of music hall favourites and songs from the 1930s and 40s. A rude version of 'These Foolish Things' was the highlight.
Christmas dinner - a well-hung pheasant - was finally eaten at 11.00pm (apparently it got later every year) in a large hall, warmed by a roaring inglenook fire. More bottles were opened.
After the main course, it was apparently traditional to have indoor fireworks. By this point in the day, everyone was so drunk, they barely noticed when one of the fireworks rose from the table and set fire to the Christmas decorations. I felt as if I had entered a madhouse.
The contrast between the two family Christmases couldn't have been greater: one, a sobre, muted affair; the other, a fun but exhausting bacchanale. Since those days, my wife and I have aimed at having a Christmas that is somewhere between the two extremes.
However, as a homage to our dear departed, there will be five minutes of James Last, accompanied by the carcinogenic smoke of an indoor fireworks display.