There’s no denying that the Christmas period can get a bit hectic. In between present buying, Christmas drinks, preparing your house for visitors or fighting off winter colds, things can feel overwhelming. But it’s also a wonderful time of the year, particularly when the kitchen fills up with festive aromas or you find that perfect gift you know will make someone smile.
I’m an unashamed Christmas lover: over the top lights, mulled wine and a bit of Christmas baking all rank high on my happy scale. Last year we even hosted my family-in-law at our house for the first time and it was lots of fun. We kept things simple. And tasty. (And I even wrote some of my tips for keeping it calm if you’re feeling it’s all a bit too much.)
This year I’ve been even more conscious about looking and asking for gifts and moments with meaning, rather than collecting more stuff that ends up in the back of the cupboard. I’ve actually still got most of my gift buying to finish off, but I know it will get done and I really like the process of thinking about what each person will like. I also really enjoy making edible gifts so my UK family will be getting a little chocolate in with their other gifts.
If you’re not quite feeling in the festive spirit, just pause for a moment and have a little think about those Christmas feelings you most enjoy. What are the aromas, activities and foods that make you feel most happy? These are what I’ve been calling my festive feelgood moments, and I try and remember them when I start feeling like I have a bit too much to get done before the big day. Even just a little waft of nutmeg can lift my spirits.
I also love having the time to stop, spending a long time over chatty meals, munching Christmas chocolates next to an open fire (a little risky!) and going for frosty walks on Boxing Day. And I think about my family back in Australia and the delicious meal my Mum will have made for lunch. No shrimps on the barbie in case you’re wondering – but lots of seafood and one of the few Christmas puddings I actually enjoy (I think it’s a special Mum touch).
If you need a bit of inspiration or spirit-lifting, I’ve collected a few feelgood festive moments from other people. These are moments to make you stop and smile, and, allowing myself to get a little cheesy (it is Christmas after all!), they what this time of the year is really about.
So grab yourself a gingerbread cookie, put on your favourite Christmas CD or just pause to look at some Christmas lights, and make the most of this special time of the year.
Festive Feelgood Moments: what makes you feel good at Christmas?
I bake and decorate about 300 healthy Christmas cookies (Cocoons, Cranberry, Italian, Scandinavian, Spritz) with my three children. We enjoy them through the holidays and in the American tradition, bring mixed plates of cookies when visiting friends and family.
Renée Elliott, Founder of Planet Organic
I grew up in a family where Christmas was always a big deal: we would make gingerbread from scratch, decorate the house and a massive tree, make ice lanterns – I’m from Finland and back in those days it was often -10C during Christmas time. I still love everything about the smell and taste of the holidays: cinnamon, clove and ginger mixed with anything slightly sweet. Though, after weeks of Christmassy food I mostly just want to make an Asian stir-fry or anything green for balance – often already a week before Christmas Eve.
Stephanie Seege, Helpings
Pomanders! I love making pomanders, the smell of the orange and the cloves. Plus the making of them is really therapeutic!
Lorna Hall, Eat Myyy Thoughts
My mum makes the best mince pies in the world. As a child I used to “help” her, and my favourite aspect of the process was the rolling and cutting of pastry, then scrunching together the leftover bits into a ball before rolling and cutting again, and again…. I’m from Yorkshire, we don’t waste anything!The other thing I need, in these dark days, is to sign up for physical and creative workshops, food or non-food related, to make myself move and give me ideas. I’m about to book for Luca Silvestrini’s “May Contain Food” workshop in the Spitalfields Music Festival and Andrew Morrish’s Solo Improvisation Workshop.Kay Scorah, Have More Fun
We never had a real tree at Christmas because my brother was allergic. And I grew up in the 80s, so our tree was a giant silvery confection (I swear it had shoulder pads). Consequently, it is no small pleasure to be able to smell an actual Nordic pine in our living room throughout December. Last year we discovered a local Christmas Tree Farm with a small market for tree decorations and mulled wine, and local primary schools taking turns at singing carols. Just the thought of it turns my inner eight-year-old giddy with excitement.Sas Petherick, Coach & Mentor
Christmas in London is twinkly and exciting. From the top deck of the number 7 bus, as we inch along Oxford St, I enjoy Selfridge’s window displays through the steamy windows. A stroll along the Southbank wrapped up warm, creamy flat white in hand, makes me feel alive and the flow of the river is a reminder not to get too caught up in frantic festive fun. Incense and candles, hugs and eye contact bring me back to myself at this time of year.Clare Barry, Urban Curiosity
Cardamom and all the wintry spices that go into mulled wine instantly draw me into Christmas memories, gluhwein or glöggi as it is called in Finland and spiced buns in front of an open fire. Add woodsmoke to that list!Making Christmas stars (Joulutähti) – placing the aforementioned spices ensuring lots of cinnamon, into a prune paste and spreading in the middle of puff pastry squared with the corners diagonally cut. Carefully turning each corner in to create a small star, baking in the oven and munching whilst still warm with a glass of mulled wine/cider/apple juice. Perfect Christmas afternoon familiy fare! Here’s an example recipe but it’s lacking all the spices I see as prerequisite, it shows a nice picture at least. Or the cheat way.Natasha Blok, Multi-Sensory Food Expert / Food At 52
Mulled Wine / Cider: the heavy sweet smell is so festive and comforting. Anything cinnamon I find just evokes that Christmas excitement. Stilton is also just great and I indulge at Christmas with some red wine.I love looking at the lights: all the beautiful lights in the trees and the decorations in towns and cities. Especially when there seems a distinct style of decoration / lights that sort of brings an identity to that borough, town or village and a lovely community feel.Sam Miller, Life + Me