Dublin: 7 °C Tuesday 20 April, 2021

How to survive a Bank Holiday weekend with your family

A quick guide to family gatherings.

TIME TO PILE into the car and visit your ‘country cousins’. It’s been a while since the extended family got together? Well surprise surprise… it’s Bank Holiday barbecue time.

You love your family and all, but spending too much time with them is a recipe for disaster.

Whether it’s a visit down to the schticks or an excursion to the city, here’s a quick guide to surviving the holiday with the relatives.


Ah, Aunt Bríd and Breeda. They mean well. Between banter about the blessing of the graves and asking each other “didn’t he die?” every time a name is mentioned, they’ll make various attempts at showing an interest in your life.

It can be helpful to prepare a reel of answers for those that haven’t seen you for months.

  • I’m studying/working ___.
  • Oh, that’s fine. Most people don’t know. It involves ___.
  • It’s going well, really enjoying it.
  • No no one yet/yes still with the boyfriend|girlfriend.
  • Yes, I’m one of those career women, he will be making his own dinners.
  • No, don’t be buying a hat just yet. Har har har.

Throw in an ‘ah, we’ll see, we’ll see’ every now and again or if all else fails, immediately start talking about the weather.



An Irish mammy can never fill her offspring enough, and one of the advantages of going home means you can take full advantage of this. So what if it’s a barbecue in the rain? Sure it’s the last of the summer.

However, the big marquee in the back is soon as soggy as your spirits. The men in your family wolf down all the meat because weren’t they brought up with nothing. Did they ever tell you about the time they all had to share an orange for Christmas and there were 10 kids in the family so you were lucky if your bit wasn’t peel.

Yeah, grand. The best advice for survival here is eat much and often. Maybe bring an extra few chicken wings in your overnight bag.



Cousin Siobhán makes ‘the best’ Irish coffees you’ve ever tasted, you’ll have to try them.


Don’t wait for the evening boozy coffees that are more cream less whiskey, nor should you let your Aunt pour you drink. You know that isn’t a full measure, and that Guinness has a bigger head on it than the Tallafornia lads.

Nip to the kitchen every time you’re empty, making sure to ask around if anyone needs a refill. Now you can indulge yourself under the guise of a caring and courteous human being. Sure weren’t you brought up very well.


Leisure activities

There will be many. Pool tournaments, charades, belittling you in front of your cousins of the same age – it’s all happening.

These are tricky to navigate, and your drunk uncle will loudly jeer you if you don’t get involved. Not to mention, you’ve to let the kids win each time.

The best way to survive such ‘banter’ is definitely to busy yourself at some other activity, such as helping clean up from dinner or blowing up the blow-up beds. It will eventually be safe to return to the group once little nephew Tommy is encouraged to ‘get up there and do a song’, taking all onus off you. Ahh.


First you’ll be forced to hear all about baby Sinead’s bronze medal in the Irish dancing competition. Then you’ll have to entertain the little ones.

Then you’re gonna have to pretend to have things in common with the ones a similar age to you, while your parents compare you amongst themselves in the kitchen.


Never bring up anything good you’ve done for fear of getting an awful head on yourself. The youngest in the family will always get the most attention, so whether it’s a cousin or your child, comment on ‘the cut of him’ while your aunts coo that he’s ‘been here before’ after everything he does.

The distraction will be enough to take any spotlight off your many, many inadequacies.


Why does your in-laws’ dog always take a dislike to you, just you?


Discreetly feed the dogs under the table. Best friends for life.



You won’t be used to the pitch black or luminous lights depending on the city/country situation you’re putting yourself in. This will be all the more evident as you cling on to your nephew’s 4ft car bed.

Enjoy the peace though, you know in the morning it’ll be all “Sleep well? Sleep OK? We weren’t too loud were we? So what time did ye get to bed at? Did the dog on it, did ye?”


Bring a blow-up bed. Grab a floor space, go there asap. The next morning offer to help out with the fry, claim you can’t hear any questions over the sound of sizzling Denny rashers. Everyone loves the frier.



The tension was building up to this very moment. Uncle Joe has had a canned Guinness too many and is now mouthing off about everything he dislikes about everyone in the family, the government, and the wider world.

But things don’t really kick off until eco-warrier cousin Margaret takes loud offense to his use of pesticides on the farm and that pork sausage you had off the barbie earlier.

Leave the site of conflict. Enter the television room, where the elderly ladies in the family are snoozing or watching their stories–Fair City or ‘Emmerdale farm’–while nursing their sherry in their lap.

Calm until Joe and Margaret eventually make up over their Bailey’s fuelled rendition of Sonny and Cher on late night karaoke. Peace at last.


Enjoy the weekend!

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