It may be the season of goodwill, a time for family, present-exchanging and pausing to count our blessings, but a huge part of Christmas – rightly or wrongly – is getting blind drunk.
Lacing tea with brandy at 9am, throwing back a Buck's Fizz before breakfast, heading off to midnight mass with a hip-flask – Christmas is a licence to behave in a way that may very well get you admitted to a drying-out clinic at any other time of the year.
While there's probably a separate argument to be had about the rather sad way we all suddenly act like alcohol is about to be banned straight after Boxing Day, there's no denial that most of us love to kick back and enjoy an extra tipple at Christmas. For years it was an unspoken rule these antics would be written off as festive excitement and seldom mentioned again other than subtle blackmail when trying too secure a decent Christmas present the following year, but now – with social media profiles gasping for content and news websites with pages to fill – letting loose at Yule has become headline news.
Along with university freshers' week and Ladies' Day at Aintree, the Christmas and New Year period is now one of the favourite events for the easily shocked – and no doubt abstemious – middle-classes to clutch their merino-cashmere mix rollnecks in horror and marvel at the boozing habits of the "proles". You've seen the articles, sometimes with upward of 100 pictures, so you know the drill.
Women in short dresses balletically handling skyscraper heels, a bag of chips and two vodka and cokes; men with neck tattoos and a serious steroids problem squaring up and bawling in each other's faces; someone crying into a kebab; a man unconscious on a bench on the high street with a dick drawn on his face; any combination of the above being manhandled into a police van in various states of undress. It's the modern day equivalent of the Victorians taking a Sunday trip to the lunatic asylum and poking sticks through the bars at the inmates.
But while these snapshots into how the other half live may give brief amusement to the chattering classes, it can have further-reaching effects for those under the glare the lens. Take the famous picture taken last year of police dealing with a drunken New Year brawl in Manchester city centre.
Thanks to the composition and content of the pic, the image quickly went viral – as anything even vaguely diverting tends to, so starved are we of excitement – but the main subject, seen lying on the floor reaching out for his bottle of lager, doesn't even remember being there. He looks a picture of drunkenness and what the mealy-mouthed might call "everything that's wrong with society", sprawled on the floor – but according to a friend, he was knocked over in a scuffle that had nothing to do with him. But all we have is that one particular moment, captured forever, free of context. Luckily for him, he felt only mild shame for a couple of days and moved on, but it's highly likely there are still people out there, in some far-flung corner of the globe, judging him.
Another festive boozer who's probably wishing all cameras would disappear into the sea is Katie Price, who quaffed a little too much of the complimentary fizz and found herself at the mercy of an amateur paparazzo. Following a rambling speech that would've made your tipsy grandma proud, Katie was filmed getting changed in the toilets. A lapse of judgement thanks to the free booze, certainly – but that doesn't mean she was fair game for anyone with a camera. The incident has put the usually indomitable Katie in reflective mood, resolving to quit drinking for the whole of 2017. We're sure there'll be plenty of cameras waiting to see whether she sticks to it.
Coverage of stories like this is, usually, good old-fashioned class snobbery. You don't often see double-page spreads about moneyed drunks swinging from chandeliers at ambassadors' receptions – and if you did, they'd be more likely to be labelled as amiable eccentrics rather than drunken louts. Like most things national newspapers get antsy about, bank balance, social status and your appearance are all key influencers when it comes to the level of bilious coverage you'll attract. Pay them the attention they deserve: none. Vote with your clicks, or lack thereof.
But we also need to look closer to home and check whether we're putting our mates in compromising situations when we share updates of how pissed they are. With the eternal quest for "numbers" and the race to find new viral content, we're putting internet notoriety and likes over our friendships. Most of us have posted videos of our mates wasted, or pics of them embarrassing themselves after one too many glasses of vodka and Lucozade. It's come to the point where some events, like weddings and Christmas parties, request guests agree to a "no social media" clause, so that any drunken antics can stay in the hazy memories of those who saw them with their own eyes – rather than burned onto the internet's subconscious for all eternity.
Let's be real, we've all had a bit of a nightmare in 2016 – and if there's one thing we could do with over the festive period it's the opportunity to cut loose and get absolutely blitzed without fear of recrimination. Don't be the one hovering with the camera, putting everyone on edge. And those friends of yours showboating in the hope they'll become the next internet sensation? Don't enable it – you're doing them a kindness in the long run.
Put down your camera, raise your glass and keep your hands free to hug whoever is coming your way for a Christmas kiss. Let's rely on our own brain, not Facebook, to tell us what we should remember and – crucially – what it's best we forget.
The Guyliner is a writer from London who talks about dating, relationships, LGBT issues and popular culture. He writes regular columns for Gay Times and GQ. Follow : @theguyliner