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We wish you a nuclear christmas

The average Christmas Day is defined for the first time

The suspicion that everyone else is going to have a bigger, better, happier Christmas than you are, is a well-known British hang-up.

But this year, the truth can be revealed - because the average British Christmas dinner has been defined and quantified for the very first time by the family tree website Genes Reunited.

And it seems that the romantic ideal of the extended family Christmas gathering with grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends united around the tree is, for must of us, just another Christmas myth.

For most of Britain, Christmas dinner will be quite a low-key affair spent with just our immediate family. The snapshot of Christmas Dinner 2005 has been captured through a survey of 2,000 members of Genes Reunited, the family history service run by Friends Reunited.

Martine Parnell from Genes Reunited said: "Family Christmas envy strikes millions of us at this time of year.

"It's the old 'generations round-the-piano' syndrome, inspired by Victorian Christmas card scenes and Dickens costume dramas on TV. And it's a myth.

"We think that our small gathering of immediate family will be a modest affair compared to our visions of other people's fabulous family parties with houses full of relatives and friends. But small will be the norm this Christmas. We all know about the nuclear family - 2005 is the year of the nuclear Christmas."

This year, on average throughout Britain, seven people will sit down to the traditional turkey dinner. A third of gatherings will be of four or less people. Only 13 per cent, will have 10 or more.

The definitive Christmas dinner table will most likely be made up of the hosts - a middle-aged couple - their two grown-up children, one of whom will have their spouse there, and the hostess's parents. It's more than twice as likely that the hostess will have her parents over than her in-laws!

Another myth exploded by the survey is that every Christmas dinner table will include all those 'relatives from hell' you only ever see once a year. In fact, 90 per cent of the people round the table will, on average, be relatives we see regularly throughout the year.

The neighbours won't get much of a look-in either - less than three per cent of people will have their neighbours round for a Christmas drink and only 15 per cent will entertain friends.

Although only 25 per cent of us say we'll be watching the Queen's Speech this year, the Genes Reunited survey shows that tradition is still very much to the fore - especially among younger people.

Eight out of 10 of us say we like a traditional family Christmas and don't yearn to be able to 'do our own thing.'

Overall, around 40 per cent say they love Christmas Day and all that goes with it, 13 per cent say it's the best day of the year and only four per cent confess that they are 'dreading it'.

Some 30 per cent of people under 25 say it's the best day of the year, compared with only eight per cent of over 45s. Under 25s are also less likely to think that Christmas these days has 'lost its magic' - 47 per cent say it has, compared with 64 per cent of over 45s.

Martine Parnell commented: "You'd expect people in their late teens and early twenties to be cynical about the traditional Christmas and think of it as a symbol of parental authority.

"So it's interesting that younger people are most passionate about having a traditional Christmas Day with all the trimmings."

The survey also asked what people will be discussing around the Christmas dinner table and, perhaps not surprisingly, 'family tales' are the number one topic. The main topics of conversation around the table this year will be:

1. family history 36%
2. what presents they got 29%
3. what's on TV 19%
4. don't speak to each other 6%
5. real meaning of Christmas 5%
6. politics 4%
7. Queen's speech 1%

And finally, the six million dollar question: do you really like turkey?

Only eight per cent of us say we can't stand it and 43 per cent admit that 'it's ok' - leaving 40 per cent who 'love it' and the rest who are vegetarian!

Media Enquiries

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Notes to the Editor - About Genes Reunited

Genes Reunited was launched in 2002 as a sister-site to the Internet phenomenon Friends Reunited. Since then it has grown to become the UK's largest genealogy website.

It marked a revolution in genealogy and ancestry by combining them with Internet social-networking. Members are able to build their family tree by posting it on the site and investigating which ancestors they share with other members. They can also search historical records such as census, birth, death, marriage and military records.

It currently has over 11 million members and over 750 million names listed. One new name is added to the site every single second.