Countdown to Christmas
“It might still seem a long way away but how prepared are you for the festive season? These tips will ensure your Christmas is a cracker.”
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We can almost hear your cries of horror. “An article about CHRISTMAS? It’s only November! We’ve only just had Halloween…”
Yet for those of you single-handedly organising Christmas for family or friends, the next eight weeks or so will fly past at the speed of Santa’s sleigh. Some people have already started to make their Christmas cakes. Scary, hey?
“We buy ours from Marks and Sparks,” we hear you retort. Okay, you win. But stop for a moment to consider everything else you have to do. Buying presents, digging out decorations, ordering the turkey, writing Christmas cards and letters, organising Christmas dinner, arranging parties,
decorating the Christmas tree, wrapping piles of gifts… are you panicking yet?
Having just filled you with fear, we’ll now proceed to make it all better with our handy countdown to Christmas. Grab a pen and paper, put the kettle on and keep reading…
Lists, Lists, Lists
If you only use one method of organisation in the run-up to Christmas, make it the humble ‘To Do’ list.
Whether you choose to hastily scribble on Post-It notes, plan with military precision on an Excel spreadsheet or turn to technology with a Blackberry memo pad, lists have numerous benefits at this time of year. Not only will a list remind you of every tiny task, from buying stamps to ordering the turkey; it will also help you prioritise and stay focused.
But whatever you do, don’t forget the most important list of all – your wish-list. Santa baby…
Organise your diary
Noting down dates goes hand-in-hand with making lists. From the mundane (the postage deadline) to the exciting (that glitzy Christmas party), jot down every single date that flies your way.
For many, the festive season involves travelling. Whether it’s a long-haul flight to Oz or a coach trip to see your great-aunt Mildred, book your tickets well in advance to ensure the best prices and peace of mind. Start to look around 12 weeks in advance – oh, that’ll be now, then.
Plan Christmas dinner
Make a comprehensive shopping list, from appetisers to after-dinner mints.
While fruit and veg should be picked up a few days before Christmas, buying non-perishables well in advance will take the burden off you mentally, physically and financially. If you live with sticky-fingered children, put all Christmas goodies in a big cupboard marked ‘NO’ – then make sure they’re nowhere in sight when you crack on 24 December and tear open the Milk Tray.
Many people also plan their cooking with military precision – ‘Put spuds on 12.45pm’, that sort of thing.
Feel free to have a go, but after necking a few glasses of sherry in abject panic you probably won’t stick to it.
If you haven’t the time or inclination to prepare dinner from scratch, book a table at a restaurant well in advance. Our region boasts some fantastic establishments, many of which are taking bookings now.
If you can hold your nerve, many shops will reduce their prices just before Christmas. Unless you’re willing to risk being confronted with shelves barer than Old Mother Hubbard’s cupboard, however, it’s probably best to start thinking about your gift list now.
November is the perfect time to begin a leisurely hunt for those comedy jumpers, angora socks and impeccably-timed celeb autobiographies. The shops won’t be as crowded and you won’t feel under pressure to panic-buy. Furthermore, starting your Christmas shopping early means you won’t leave your poor credit card weeping in a corner somewhere nearer the time.
If you’ve ever known a small child (or been one), you’ll know that every Yuletide brings with it a ‘must-have’ toy. Find out what it is this year and prepare to sharpen your elbows. Finding a Tamagotchi circa 1996 was harder than finding a part of Jordan’s body that hasn’t been surgically altered.
Other top shopping tips:
• If you’re buying online, check final delivery dates. Some companies stop delivering as early as mid-December.
• Don’t forget to ask for gift receipts and check each store’s return policy.
• Find out people’s clothes and shoe sizes in advance. If you’re not sure, always buy the smaller dress size. You’ll thank us for it.
Send out your Christmas cards
Ah, Christmas cards. A wonderful tradition or the now-defunct ancestor of the e-card? The debate rumbles on. Still, to appease your mum, it’s probably best to send a few out (although anyone who claims the card is more important than the gift is definitely fibbing).
Have your Christmas card list (there’s that word again) ready well in advance, along with addresses. Keep your postman on side by including a postcode, and send off all cards and packages in plenty of time. The final deadline for overseas delivery is 11 December, and you have until 21 December for first-class post to UK addresses. To keep costs down, send your cards by second-class post before 18 December.
Dig out your decorations
Picture this – the final bauble is hung on the tree, the star is placed proudly on top, you switch the fairy lights on and… nothing happens. Avoid tears at bedtime (mainly your own) by checking your decorations well in advance and replacing any duds.
Order the turkey
Work out how many guests are coming for dinner and order accordingly. A 4kg turkey will feed roughly six people, with not much in the way of leftovers. A 7-8kg bird will feed up to ten people. Turkeys are usually abundant at this time of year so there’s no real need to worry, but why risk it? Two words to hammer the message home – Turkey Twizzlers.
Stockpile wrapping paper and Sellotape
Newspaper-wrapped gifts do not look edgy/arty – they look naff. The flour/water combo, on the other hand, does effectively hold wrapping paper…if you want your carefully-chosen gift to end up soggy, lumpy and smelling a bit like a baker’s apron. Consider yourself warned.
If you want to keep Santa and Rudolph sweet, don’t forget to buy sherry, mince pies and carrots to leave out on Christmas Eve.