*This is a collaborative post
Advent Sunday is almost upon us and with it the first socially acceptable time to start putting up your Christmas decorations. The shops are usually weeks ahead of us with decking out their stores in twinkling lights and pumping Christmas music through their speakers and whilst that is usually an irritation for those who are a little bah humbug or just jaded by the over-commercialisation of Christmas it really is a reminder for the rest of us to get a move on.
Christmas doesn’t have to be about lavish gifts and vain attempts to recreate Hollywood festivities where everyone comes together around a magically prepared food and sipping eggnog as the children warm themselves by the open fire watching the grown-ups merrily singing traditional songs around the piano majestically played by Uncle Joe aka Bing Crosby.
The essence, as clichéd as it sounds, it about family coming together and simply enjoying some indulgent nosh, swapping jokes and stories, and vegging out in front of the almost always excellent festive TV schedule. It supposed to be stress free and usually is if you’re the one doing the visiting but if you’re the host you sometimes need a three week holiday after just to recover and even more so if Christmas sneaks up on you as it always seems to do.
Fear not, Christmas can be luxurious, indulgent and fun with minimal stress with a little bit of preparation.
Shop from your sofa
The first thing you’ll want to sort out is presents. No-one wants to be trudging around in the last few days before Christmas desperately rushing from shop to shop trying to find the perfect gift and queuing up for last post. Aim to have your shopping done by the 14th of December so you can spend the next 10 days worrying about other things. Online shopping is a Godsend and many online retailers will have flash sales leading up to Christmas so you might just bag a bargain. If spending over £100 on an item think about putting it on a credit card, even if you plan to pay it off immediately, as the credit card company will be jointly liable for any refunds if the product is faulty and you’re having difficulty returning it.
Plan your guests travel
Once presents are out of the way you’ll have to think of the logistics of getting your guests to your home and where to put them. If you have relatives travelling from far away using public transport do a little bit of research yourself on train/coach/plane times so you can suggest what time they get to you. You know what the traffic is like where you live and you don’t want to be crawling through traffic for an hour if you know an earlier or later arrival time will be plain sailing on the roads.
Keep your guests comfortable overnight
Do a duvet and pillow head count so you know you have enough blankets and bedding for your guests and you don’t have to rush out the day before and spend three times more than you have to. You want your guests to be comfortable and ideally your couch to be for sitting on late into the night when you’re all having fun. Nothing puts the dampener on Christmas spirits like an early night because your couch-guest is tired. Camp beds are a Christmas staple but you can also opt for cheap temporary mattresses for your guests. Measure up long before your guests arrive and remember they are likely to have suitcases taking up floor space. Bedstar offer next day and Saturday delivery so you can focus on getting the house ready knowing your mattress will be delivered to your door.
Scent your home
You’ll likely want to blitz the house ahead of any guests arriving and there are some quick, easy ways to do this that will also give your home an extra festive feel. Before filling up your fridge with your Christmas big shop leave a bowl of lemon slices or baking soda in the fridge overnight to soak up any old odours (you can do this after Christmas too to get rid of that cheese smell). Deodorise the whole house with a home-made mulled wine potpourri. It’s as easy as boiling a pan of water with cinnamon sticks, citrus peel, all spice or nutmeg and cloves in it and leaving it to simmer for an hour (top up the water where necessary) and letting the steam permeate throughout the kitchen and releasing wonderful scents around the house. A few clove studded oranges left in the airing cupboard with your guest bedding will get rid of that cupboard smell and replace it with something really festive.
Prepare Christmas dinner in advance
The pièce de résistance of all Christmas preparation is doing as much of your dinner ahead of time. Quality Christmas gravy can be made well ahead of time and frozen. All you need to do is defrost it on the day and add in your meat juices to make it extra tasty. It’ll save loads of time and avoid ruining Christmas as the gravy can’t go wrong if you make it ahead of time. Stuffing freezes well, cooked or uncooked, and so does bread sauce. Both will heat up quickly in the microwave or in the oven if you want a crispy top to your stuffing. Your braised red cabbage is worth preparing ahead of time for the flavour if not the time saved. Cabbage improves in flavour over time so make it 2 or 3 days ahead and leave it in a container in the fridge. A few minutes on the hob and it will be reheated to perfection.
The key to a great Christmas is being present and enjoying the festivities and the easy way to do that is get as much done as you can ahead of time.