Paul Scholes: Christmas is always the best time for playing and watching football
At Manchester United there is an old Christmas tradition that the apprentices - as we were known in my teenage years - put on a pantomime show for the first team full of jokes at the expense of the senior players. You could say it was a formative experience for me: I was one of the seven dwarves.
When I look back at it, the other dwarves included Gary Neville, David Beckham and Nicky Butt, although sadly I cannot recall which of us was Dopey.
In charge of the production every year was the former physio Jim McGregor, who would oversee every detail, from writing the scripts to rehearsals, and it was Jim who instructed us dwarves how to walk on our haunches, as per his stage directions.
The point of the exercise was to make a bit of a fool of yourself in front of your team-mates, no bad thing when it comes to breaking down the insecurities and rivalries in a group of teenage boys.
We also loved the wicked jokes about the first-team players. That tradition continued right up to my retirement and I always enjoyed the reaction on the faces of some of the biggest names at United when they realised it was them being sent up by the young lads.
I love football at Christmas and New Year. At United we had a routine that never changed under Sir Alex Ferguson.
He would always give us Christmas morning and lunchtime off to be with our families, even if we were playing a game away from home on Boxing Day. Having three children, that was always a big factor for me. I loved that time with my family.
By all means have a winter break for football in England, but if we are to do so then let's make it in January and not disrupt the great tradition of Boxing Day football.
It is only my second year out of that Christmas programme now. It was this time three years ago that I was training and preparing to come back out of retirement, so I am getting used to Christmas without playing.
Like most fans, I am looking forward to watching games over the next couple of weeks, savouring the experience of watching matches at the best time of the year for football.