I can hear my readers screaming: Gag that woman! Christmas 2017? Noooooo – we’ve just staggered away from December 2016. Please! Enough already!
Keep calm. Don’t panic. Make a nice cuppa tea and when you’re feeling calmer, continue reading. Okay. Everybody take a slow deep breath and we’ll analyze what makes (most) Festive Seasons less than ideal.
There’s so much to do isn’t there? The shopping, the decorations, the enormous lunch, the gifts, the hordes of relatives; the washing up; the clean-up; the family rows that sometimes last for decades. And, last but not least, Uncle George. Every family has one. I can see you nodding your heads. The awkward relative your conscience prods you to include. And then you wish you hadn’t.
Where to begin? Here’s my #1 tip:
- Shopping: start now in January at the January Sales. I’m pretty sure every country has them. Big money-saver. Bung your bargains into a plazzie bag, write the names of the recipients on the plastic with Magic Marker, and stow in a dedicated, secret carton in your garage.
- Failing the January Sales, make a big diary note around September to start attending monthly Craft Markets and keep a sharp eye out for Church Bazaars. You will discover unique handmade items, often at very reasonable prices.
- Immediately after Christmas scoop up markdowns of gift wrap, tags and bags . Pop into that box in the Garage. Ka Ching! Saving money!
#2 tip : Decorations. Buy a Christmas wreath, attach to the front door and when somebody moans about the lack of decorations, tell them firmly that if they want more decorations, then they’d better get cracking and provide some, because this is the year you’re on strike. Trust me, the world will keep on turning without tinsel.
#3 tip: The Enormous Lunch. Announce around October that this is the last year you will be hosting The Christmas Lunch, and furthermore, this year, it will be a Bring & Share Banquet. Circulate the menu and insist that the diners commit , in writing, to one major item e.g. the turkey. You will provide the venue, crockery, cutlery, one edible item, plus coffee/liqueurs/choccies afterwards.
AND, the cherry on top – once assembled around the festive board, hold a lucky draw , the winner of which will be the host of next year’s Bring & Share Banquet. Propose an enthusiastic toast to the lucky winner.
#4 tip: Buy a dishwasher. Yes, you do need one. Don’t listen to anybody telling you they use a colossal amount of water, they don’t. Or that they will ruin the family silver : actually, yes, they will, which is why you will use perfectly good stainless steel cutlery. Ditto the same dire effects on the bone china. Take that heirloom 60 piece Royal Albert dinner service to the nearest antique shop and flog it. You have other crockery, for goodness sake. The proceeds will help pay for the dishwasher.
#5 tip: Secret Santa : Hold a draw around October where your Xmas Lunch guests will draw the name of one person, for whom they will bring one gift, to the value of … Fill in the magic number: not more than X. End of story. Your garage trove of gift bargains is for your nearest & dearest, or people like your hairdresser. You cannot live without a good hairdresser. So give him/her a prezzie.
#6 tip: Uncle George/Aunty Maud: Using part of your loot from flogging the heirloom silver and the EPNS gravy boat, cunningly book a table for the old fossil for a slap-up Christmas dinner at a local hotel. Naturally you will book taxi transport. You will of course break the good news in the form of a fictitious Raffle prize? Anonymous Benefactor? This way he/she can’t possibly totter through your front door on December 25th. Fingers crossed.
#7 tip: Buy a large diary now, yes, on 2 January, and map out your Defense Plan for the next Christmas jollies. Work out your strategy, diarise, execute, and relax. Oh, and a P.S. Don’t think you can get away with running your diary system on your mobile phone. Bad idea. They tend to get lost, stolen, dropped and broken. But your hardcover diary stays safely at home, and the Magic Strategy is preserved.
#8 tip: One last essential pointer. At the next mammoth bottle store sale, stock up on a couple of bottles of your favourite relaxant – sherry? (very seasonal), brandy? (warming and cheering) gin? (good for cooling G&Ts for those of us in the Southern Hemisphere) . Hide your haul in the Garage Box, and start medicating around 15 November. You should be in a relaxed frame of mind for the upcoming festivities.
Finally: for mercy’s sake, do not lose that Diary!