Sometimes it’s hard not to feel the pressure of creating a ‘perfect’ Christmas. It’s very easy to get caught up in the craziness of shopping, eating, drinking and present wrapping. In amongst all of this, Christmas is a special time of the year to be around people you care about and to have at least a little time away from everyday work.
With a little organisation and a lot of smiles, Christmas can be a fun time of the year full of lovely smells, tastes and hugs. I suggest trying to make it a special and meaningful, rather than a ‘perfect’ day. Here are just a few simple tips to help you along the way:
1. Write festive lists (they’re not just for what you want from Santa)
I’m not sure if it’s just me that finds the process of list writing therapeutic, but it’s a good way to help you feel organised. A couple of days before Christmas write out what food and drink you need, ticking things off as you purchase or make them. It might also help you realise if you’ve planned too much: simple is definitely better as it will keep things manageable. Remember you can pre-prepare quite a few things like dressings, dips and puddings, so you only need to leave a few big things, like the turkey or roast potatoes, for Christmas Day.
For Christmas Eve and Day, it’s also worth have a piece of notepaper listing the food per meal and any cooking timings. This will help you keep on track. I’ve even found myself doing an additional task, adding it to the list to then cross it off, just to make myself feel on top of things!
2. Share the load
Don’t feel you need to do everything yourself! Even if you’re hosting Christmas, you can ask your visitors to bring a couple of items. Once you’ve written your lists in Tip 1, consider if you might be able to assign a few tasks to others. On the day itself, most people (as I’m assuming you’ll mostly have nice people with you at Christmas) will be happy to help with peeling potatoes, washing dishes, sorting out drinks – you just need to ask. Make sure you get to enjoy the day and don’t stay too chained to the oven (unless of course this is your way of avoiding any ‘less nice’ people).
3. Enjoy the seasonal scents – and breathe
Whether it’s Christmas baking, the fresh smell of Christmas tree spruce needles or the freshly roasted turkey coming out of the oven, Christmas is filled with soothing scents. Take some time to notice them. A deep inhale will keep you calm, but these lovely smells are also uplifting. Each day across the Christmas break take at least 30 seconds to just stop and pay attention to Christmas smells, and breathe deeply.
4. Make some gifts or decorations
I still get unreasonably excited about handmade gifts or decorations. This year I’m going to make some little personalised name tags for the Christmas table, plus chocolate thins for my family-in-law. There’s something incredibly satisfying about creating something with your own hands. It’s a very good thing to use your hands for something other than typing or texting. Whatever it is, and it really doesn’t have to be big or complex, something handmade will get a big smile from your guests.
Don’t just make your guests smile: make sure you have something to put a smile on your own face. Did you know that even if you’re not feeling great, turning up the corners of your mouth into a smile can help you feel better? The turkey didn’t defrost? Your roasties got burned? Old Uncle Jim has had too much drink? Just smile.
My first ever Christmas away from home was in a youth hostel on the Isle of Skye. Our family has always had a big celebration with incredible food and lots of people, so it’s a normally very special day. Being the only non-meat eater in the group, I had to cook my own solo dinner and the results really weren’t particularly spectacular given the hostel’s kitchen facilities.
At one point I remember being on the point of tears, but fortunately we’d purchased some mead while in Cornwall (yes, a few days before I’d been at the completely opposite end of the UK – don’t ask!). I decided to have a little sweet sip, and try and laugh about just how awful my Christmas dinner was. I’m not going to lie and say it was the most amazing Christmas I ever had, but just the act of a small smile made it much more bearable. Find something or someone on the day that will make you smile (I find a small piece of nice chocolate is a good place to start).
(A little bonus tip: although I’m a big fan of a Christmas tipple, I’d suggest avoiding too much booze on Christmas Eve. All the above will be a lot more tricky with a raging hangover!)
Wishing you a wonderful and tasty Christmas!