Normally by this stage of a long and demanding season, the heady optimism of the summer months has become a distant and wistful memory for supporters of many of the Football League's 72 clubs.
Dreams of promotion have died long ago, with the uninspiring comfort of mid-table suggesting the season will be over in any aspirational sense long before it actually finishes.
For others, their clubs cut adrift at the bottom of the table like a motorist on a Scottish motorway, the Christmas turkey provides but a momentary distraction from the already inevitable relegation.
Last Christmas, Darlington were 11 points adrift of safety in League Two, Stockport were nine short in League One and Plymouth six shy of fourth-bottom in the Championship. All three clubs were relegated.
This season, no team is more than six points adrift as we go into Christmas, with that dubious honour falling to League One Yeovil. Hereford are four points short in League Two and Preston only two points shy of safety in the Championship.
QPR are top of the Championship but have suffered successive defeats. Photo: Getty Images
No supporter in the Football League should feel that his team is doomed. Yet it would be foolhardy for any fans to think that promotion is in the bag.
Last Christmas, Newcastle had a seven-point lead over the third-placed side in the Championship, Leeds were eight clear of the play-off places in League One and Rochdale were 10 clear of the team in fourth in League Two. All were promoted. This season, all the leaders going into the festive programme are only four points above the play-off zone in their respective divisions.
"Nobody seems to be running away with the Championship," said Coventry skipper Lee Carsley, who could have easily been talking about League One and League Two.
"You can lose a couple but then you win a couple, Suddenly you are back where you were. It is what makes the league so exciting."
The three divisions are more congested than a departure lounge at Heathrow, with teams in the lower reaches of each table still very capable of pushing into the play-offs.
None is tighter than League One, in which there is already an almighty tussle for a place in the top six. There are only eight points between Bournemouth, who lie fifth, and Bristol Rovers, who are 21st and currently in the relegation zone.
Given that we have not quite reached the halfway stage in the 46-game campaign, it is more than feasible that the Pirates, who sacked manager Paul Trollope last week, could make the top six if their new boss can bring the best out of a squad that has some real quality but which has been maddeningly inconsistent.
The two most attractive teams I have seen are Swansea, fourth in the Championship, and League One leaders Brighton. I watched Swansea win at Cardiff and Brighton brush aside Exeter. Both the Swans and the Seagulls played a patient brand of possession-based football and attacked with flair and pace.
Championship leaders QPR are in the midst of their first blip, having lost back-to-back fixtures at the end of their long unbeaten run. Every Championship manager and player that I asked about Rangers over the last six weeks reckoned manager Neil Warnock's team will end the season celebrating.
But for all that the likes of Norwich and Coventry have also done very well so far, the story of the Championship to date must be the rise of Leeds United. They lost 4-0 to Cardiff, were on the wrong end of a 6-4 defeat by bottom club Preston and shipped five at Barnsley earlier in the season.
Those dark days seem a long time ago now for Leeds. Second in the table at Christmas and top of the form chart over the last eight games, it will be fascinating to see whether Simon Grayson's team can last the distance. As things stand, the Yorkshire club are living the dream once again.
Leicester are 16th after a poor start that resulted in boss Paulo Sousa losing his job but they have brought in quality loan signings since Sven-Goran Eriksson as manager arrived and, only six points off the play-offs, look increasingly dangerous.
There have also been definite shoots of recovery for Bristol City after their atrocious start but there is scant evidence of such a recovery at Middlesbrough, who are 21st in the table. Form has not really improved since Tony Mowbray succeeded Gordon Strachan in the hot-seat and only goal difference separates Boro from the bottom three. Too good to go down? Not at the moment.
I think League One has so far been the most exciting division. Brighton have been on top for their last 12 games but the activity underneath them has been frantic. Take, for example, Huddersfield. They have twice led the division this season and had a brief spell in second but, in between those highs, have slipped as low as 10th, 11th and ninth.
At one point in late October, Huddersfield were second in the table but numerically closer to the relegation zone than leaders Brighton, who have since experienced a dip in form.
I asked in a blog at the start of the season whether anybody could stop Southampton. I guess I had not factored in the Saints themselves. The unexpected sacking of manager Alan Pardew at the end of August, days after they thrashed Bristol Rovers 4-0, undoubtedly resulted in a destabilising period for the club. They are currently two points off the play-offs but I still believe they have the ammunition to do some serious damage.
Port Vale supporters have not had a promotion to celebrate since they went up to the second tier in 1994. Since then, the only way has been down, with the club finishing 20th in League Two in 2009. This season, manager Micky Adams has instilled a winning mentality into his players and his side are second in the table. All their fans want for Christmas is Adams to resist the attentions of managerless Sheffield United.
A mention, too, for Chesterfield. They are top of the table and clearly enjoying life at their new b2net stadium, where they have won eight of their 11 league fixtures. Bradford, pre-season favourites but lodged in mid-table, are in the midst of another underwhelming campaign, while another nail-biting battle against the drop appears likely for Barnet.
It is impossible to predict what is going to happen as we approach the second half of the season. For me, it is an essential part of the charm and attraction of the Football League.
But, with most teams set to play four games in nine days starting on Boxing Day - weather permitting of course - and the transfer window opening on 1 January 2011, there is no doubt that we are about to enter a crucial phase of the season.