I know I’m a grown up now because I’m the default Christmas Day host. The run up to Christmas and especially the week before can be a really stressful time (although to be fair the pale shadow of the stress involved of being the primary organiser of a wedding) if you’re the one that’s responsible for making it happen so here are some tips for getting ahead.
We’re just at the start of November now so most of these are still doable!
- Buy your wrapping paper first – now!I buy Christmas wrapping paper as soon as it comes in the shops. All at once and not as part of a Christmas shopping exercise. I usually go to John Lewis ‘cos then I can pick a theme and they have everything in one place with matching tabs, ribbons etc. Buy decent tape at the same time. This way, it’s done and you don’t have to make a special trip to buy some 3 or less days before Christmas, because, believe me, you won’t want to go find the wrapping paper department at 8.30pm at night on late night shopping when you’re actually buying your presents. The down side of this, is that you have to anticipate how much you’ll need before you actually buy the presents but if you do buy from a store with an online presence then, having chosen in person, then you can order extra online safe in the knowledge that you’re going to like it when you get it.
- Do your Christmas Cards by the end of NovemberDon’t post them until the 1st (a non December post mark might look a bit manic) but then they’ll arrive nice and early so that everybody knows they need to send you a card! I know this tip could just be covered by – ‘do everything really early’ – but this one will take so much stress out of the first couple of weeks of December allowing you to focus on things that are much more interesting. When you buy your stamps, if you post them this early you can use all 2nd class but always buy a handful of 1st class because there’s bound to be some people you’ve forgotten or some addresses that have changed and have taken you time to get.
- Choose your Christmas menu and then do the same thing every year
This is how traditions are made. Plus it saves you time pouring over various cookbooks and magazines trying to put together a menu. I have a 3 day menu now that I do year in year out. Nigella’s macoroni cheese and a ham on Christmas Eve, turkey and all the trimmings on Christmas day and a leftover buffet on boxing day that includes left over macaroni cheese, turkey and ham from the last two days. It also means you’ll know what you can make in advance – for example, you can make and freeze bread sauce, cranberry sauce, stuffing, chipolatas in bacon etc all in advance – even the macaroni cheese for Christmas Eve! To be honest, I do change the odd thing – like I have yet to find the best stuffing ever – so I tend to do a different one each year but that’s about it.Oh and those boxes of Panettone are your friend; if you can, buy a few. They last forever, you can use them as presents for people and they are great for breakfast on Christmas morning. I quite like to serve kippers on Christmas morning too but if I run out of time, I don’t bother with the kippers and eat this. They also make the most fab eggy bread!
- Start buying Christmas stuff as soon as it comes in the shops
So the minute I see Quality Street in the supermarket, in it goes into the trolley, along with stollen, those little bags of pfeffernuse, Christmas pudding, chocolate biscuits etc, etc. This is primarily to spread the cost but it also gets it out of the way. It’s also handy to buy the chocolates before Halloween because that way if you run out of Halloween chocolates (like I did this year) then you can dip into them to avoid the tricks. I do this with Christmas food, Christmas decorations, and I’m also on the look out for kids stocking presents all year round, because I am never, ever going to Hamleys in December again! In fact if you see anything you like such as a wreath or table decorations buy them straight away (if you can afford to, obviously) because if you leave it too late they’ll be gone and you’ll have to rush around looking for something else, that isn’t as nice as the first thing you saw and you’ll end up still in the shops at 7pm on the Saturday before Christmas a complete stress ball.
- Do a countdown plan
I’m a project manager by trade, so I would say this, but it will help if you sit down around now and work out what you need to do in each of your weekend in order to get ready – so work out which weekend you’re going to do your Christmas shopping, when you’re going to see Father Christmas, decide who is going to peel the potatoes or prep the sprouts on Christmas morning. Work it all out now and you won’t start to feel that dread or get overwhelmed as you get closer to the day – plus, you can think about how you share the load.
There’s always some one in a household who end up being the default for this sort of thing but it doesn’t mean you have to actually do everything. Plan ahead, get people used to the idea that they will be responsible for this or that – even if it’s just warning your father in law that they’ll be doing the sprouts. It’s your Christmas too!