Festive Joy On Christmas Eve

New study reveals rollercoaster of emotion Brits experience in the Christmas season

  • Sunday 24th December revealed as the point joy peaks over the festive period
  • The 12 rows of Christmas revealed - from money worries to in-laws' behaviour causing spats
  • Brits will eat four turkey dinners and eight mince pies on average in December
  • Study released by free TV on demand service UKTV Play to launch its festive schedule

Brits' festive joy peaks on Christmas Eve according to new research, suggesting the build-up is enjoyed more than the big day when it comes to the holiday celebrations.

The survey of 2,000 UK adults, specially commissioned by free TV on-demand service UKTV Play to launch its festive schedule, was led by psychologist Emma Kenny and provides a fascinating insight into the emotional rollercoaster that the nation experiences over the festive period.

The research suggests that for most the build-up to Christmas is better than the day itself, with the majority of festive traditions over by the 25th. Nearly half of Brits (46%) said decorating the tree was one of the reasons for their festive joy, with over a third (36%) cheered by Christmas shopping, and 30% boosted by visiting seasonal markets and listening to festive music.

Top 10 activities that give Brits joy in the run-up to Christmas:

  1. Decorating the tree - 46%
  2. Going Christmas shopping for presents - 36%
  3. Watching Christmas specials on TV - 31%
  4. Hearing Christmas music playing in shops - 30%
  5. Visiting a Christmas market - 30%
  6. Doing Christmas food shopping - 29%
  7. Seeing Christmas lights / going to a lights switch on - 28%
  8. Decorating your home - 28%
  9. Finding the perfect present for a loved one - 26%
  10. Writing Christmas cards - 25%


Three quarters of British adults (76%) also credited a lack of money worries to their positive pre-Christmas boost, compared to the burden of debt that often contributes to the post-Christmas blues.

Conversely, the study revealed that on Christmas Day the jollity starts to plunge. One in six (17%) admitted they experience feelings of frustration and even rage towards others once the festive period gets going. Over half (55%) of Brits have at least one argument, and 4% have a staggering 10 or more arguments.

The 12 rows of Christmas, according to Brits, are revealed as:

  1. Money worries thanks to over-spending on presents and entertaining - 15%
  2. Behaviour of the in-laws or other family members - 14%
  3. Tidying up ahead of having family or friends over - 14%
  4. Spending time with the in-laws - 12%
  5. Remote control wars over the TV schedule - 11%
  6. The forgotten food item in the 'big shop' that turns out to be a crucial ingredient - 10%
  7. What to watch on the TV and what to record - 9%
  8. Who does the washing up after Christmas lunch/dinner - 9%
  9. Disappointment over presents - 8%
  10. What time to have Christmas lunch/dinner - 8%
  11. When to open presents - before breakfast or later in the day - 7%
  12. Having the in-laws over (whose turn it is and who gets invited) - 7%

Brits experience an exhausting rollercoaster of emotions on Christmas Day, including fatigue, joy and happiness. On average, seven minutes are spent crying, 10 minutes are spent feeling bored and six minutes are spent arguing. While the majority of these disputes will be short-lived (74%), over a quarter (26%) admitted they have experienced a serious argument with a loved one over Christmas that has lasted into the New Year or beyond.

Psychologist Emma Kenny said,

We're all familiar with the excitement that comes when we hear our first Christmas song of the season, which only builds as we near Christmas Day. However, it's still surprising to learn that our joy peaks before the big day, when we descend into all too familiar family dynamics and arguments following a month of turkey dinners and mince pies!

The survey was commissioned to celebrate the launch of the festive scheduling on free TV on demand service, UKTV Play, which will feature brilliant programming such as box sets of Taskmaster, The White Princess and Red Dwarf plus a whole host of Christmas specials including Top of the Pops and Steptoe and Son.

Food also unsurprisingly plays a big part on Christmas Day too, as Brits spend an average of 1 hour 25 minutes cooking and even longer eating, at 1 hour 28 minutes. Christmas fatigue may also be prompted by overindulging weeks before the 25th - the nation eats four turkey dinners on average and at least eight mince pies during December. Brits consume six units of alcohol per day on average, the equivalent of around four glasses of wine - or a total of 21 bottles in December.

Technology also has a big impact, as Brits settle down to watch TV for an average of 2 and a half hours on Christmas Day and spend 47 minutes posting festive highlights on social media.

If Christmas Day were a minute long, Brits would spend on average:

  • 16 seconds sleeping
  • 8 seconds watching TV
  • 4 seconds eating
  • 4 seconds travelling
  • 4 seconds cooking or helping to prepare food
  • 4 seconds cleaning
  • 3 seconds playing games or playing outside
  • 3 seconds napping
  • 2 seconds shopping in the sales online
  • 2 seconds on social media
  • 2 seconds going for a walk with the family or the dog
  • 2 seconds doing sport or exercising
  • 2 seconds arguing or sorting out disagreements
  • 4 seconds doing everything else (brushing teeth, making phone calls etc)

Enjoy hours of festive shows with free TV on-demand service UKTV Play's Christmas scheduling

Follow UKTV Play on @UKTVPlay on Twitter and UKTV Play on Facebook

Notes to Editors

About UKTV

UKTV is a commercial broadcaster reaching over 40m viewers every month.

The award-winning independent has eleven imaginative brands - UKTV Play, Dave, W, Gold, Alibi, Yesterday, Drama, Really, Home, Eden and Good Food. These include the two most popular non-PSB channels in the UK and account for nearly 10% of the British commercial TV market.

The network delivers inspired channels to audiences through Freeview, Sky, Virgin Media, BT, TalkTalk, YouView, Freesat, Amazon Fire and UKTV Play, and distributes its highly valued original programmes to 200 territories.

Now celebrating over 20 years at the forefront of digital television, UKTV - an independent commercial joint venture between BBC Worldwide and Scripps Networks Interactive, Inc. (SNI) - is proud to be the first British television broadcaster in The Sunday Times top 100 companies list.

corporate.uktv.co.uk / press.uktv.co.uk / @uktvpress