Although Christmas only comes around once a year, it seems to start earlier and earlier every year. Ensuring we are ready for the big day can require logistical planning with military precision. In this article we aim to give you some great hints and tips which will allow you to enjoy the big day rather than dread it.
One of the best aids we can suggest is to make a detailed plan of everything you need to do and by when, this needs lists, lists and more lists! Whilst we aim to help you with your plan and what needs to go into it, don’t forget to tailor it to suit your needs.
We all have different views on when to start preparing for Christmas but the earlier you start the more organised and less stressful you will find the run up to the big day, especially if you have a large family, work and have a plethora of school Christmas events to attend. Don’t forget that there will be a frenzy the closer you get to the 25th and shops might start selling out of stock. Our advice is anything that can sensibly be done now, do it! First mark in a calendar all of the “Events” you need to prepare or attend in the run up, that might be trips to see Santa, planning shopping days, school events, club events, work do’s, salon appointments, local town events, visiting family dates etc. Now we know what we are working to!
Christmas Card List
Write a list of everyone you need to write a card for. They might be neighbour’s, friends, relatives or work colleagues. Single out those who need a “special card”: your spouse, children mum and/or dad and other close loved ones. Count the number of non-specialist cards and buy the appropriate amount, now set aside an hour or so, without interruptions and get the cards written. Ideally, we need to do this early in December so that your stack of cards can sit in a handy location. Every time you leave the house, think who you might see on that day and make sure you take their cards out with you. Alternatively keep the entire stack with you (if feasible) to dish out as you encounter the people on your list.
Make a list of who you need to buy for and plan what you want to get them. Try to avoid going shopping hoping you might spot something, this is probably the most stressful way to do your gift buying and you can end up feeling quite frustrated, or worse desperate to find them something. Don’t be afraid to ask people what they want and hopefully avoid the forced smile we have all either received or given, when a gift hasn’t been a match with expectations. Put a bit of thought into each present and then buy them bit by bit. Make sure you set a sensible budget and as you buy presents write in your list what you have bought for whom to help you keep track of everything. Lastly do as much as you can online and have it delivered, that will save you circling endless car parks trying to find that elusive parking spot at the busiest time of the year.
The first thing to do is make a list of who is coming, when they are arriving and what type of food they can eat and what they like to drink. Often relatives can stay for extended periods and arrive a few days before, friends can pop in at odd moments so make sure you take that into account. Use the list to work out how many meals you need to buy for and how many per meal. Once you have your list, order anything you can as soon as you can, especially the Turkey, to make sure you aren’t popping into shops with bare shelves. We would recommend you start this process at least 3 weeks out from the festivities. You can buy all the items which won’t perish at the start of December such as Turkey foil, napkins, jars of condiments and drinks (if like me you find will power at Christmas on short supply, it might be best to leave any Christmas chocolate buying to the last week in December) and then ensure all the other items are purchased throughout the month. So that the last few days before the big day you are just left with a list of perishables. Clear out your freezer and fridge as much as you can before you start ordering as you’ll need as much space as possible for all the festive food.
Deck the Halls
One of the most enjoyable things to do is decorate your home. Don’t leave this to the last minute and try to get the kids involved to ensure everyone is in the Christmas spirit. Doing this early will allow you to see what decorations you have and whether you need more to complete the look you want. Check the tree lights to make sure they all work! Reminder: Do not forget to buy the Christmas crackers.
If you’ve followed our advice, then you’ll have been buying presents quite early. Start wrapping them early too. In that last week or so before Xmas you will be busy with a million and one other planning actions and you don’t want to consume hours and hours wrapping presents in one sitting. Wrap presents as you buy them and don’t forget to label them! This will free up so much valuable time, of course make sure any gifts with batteries have them included and don’t forget to make a note of what you have bought and for whom.
Preparing your home for guests
Throughout December you are going to have to start sorting the house. Get guest beds ready, have a good clean, sort all your laundry and ensure you have all the chairs you need to seat all your guests as well as enough plates, glasses and cutlery. Make sure you have enough roasting tins and serving dishes so you can cook and serve everything you want.
Make sure you are familiar with the last postal dates for international and UK based post to ensure you know when you have to post your cards and presents to folk who won’t be with you at Christmas. You really don’t want to miss the posting dates and disappoint those who won’t get their gifts or cards
Cooking all the various treats on Christmas day can be a logistical nightmare. Plan your menu ahead of time and sort out what needs cooking and when. We recommend making a time schedule for what goes into the oven and their timings. Do not be afraid to get some willing volunteers to help you out. Prepare as much of the food as you can over the days running up to Christmas, the veg prep alone can take hours. Make it fun: One of our favourite Christmas Eve tasks is preparing the veg for the next day – we all sit with a veg and an empty pan on the living room floor (with a protecting towel or mat down) and we watch an old Christmas movie whilst peeling veg and sipping on a festive tipple. For more tips check out BBC good food, who gives a good example of how you can prepare ahead of time to make the day run more smoothly.Top tip: If you have a frozen Turkey, take it out to defrost 2 days ahead of time or at the very latest Christmas eve morning. The last thing you want on the day is a frozen turkey. Safety Advice: Do not cook a turkey which has not been fully defrosted.Timings: Make sure everyone knows when each meal is going to be served, so they are prepared. You don’t want your lovely dinner to be ruined by grandad still being down the pub for his traditional Christmas pint. Bear in mind that preparing the Xmas dinner can take up to 5 or 6 hours, mainly to get the Turkey cooked to perfection. Stress Free Tip: Cook the Turkey Christmas Eve! That will free up some much-needed oven space and be one less thing to worry about on the day. Depending on the size, the Turkey can take hours and hours to cook, by doing this Christmas eve you will be able to enjoy so much more of the day. Don’t forget to defrost the Turkey earlier if you go this route.
An odd suggestion for this time of year perhaps, but why not start buying next year’s presents in the post-Christmas sales and save yourself a fortune? There will be lots of stocking fillers and small items which will make great presents (for next year).
With some careful planning, doing all you can ahead of time and enlisting some help, even the most hectic Christmas can be a wonderful time of the year. By getting ahead of the game you can give yourself lots of time and freedom to crack open the Christmas morning bubbly and enjoy a wonderful day with your loved ones.