The big day is looming but if you’re feeling more festive fear than cheer, follow our handy advent calendar to get organised throughout the month and you should still have time for a stress-free mince pie.
Grab an organiser (Photo: Getty)
It’s time to plan! Grab a Christmas organiser, write a list of who you need to buy presents for, send cards to and have over for drinks. Draw up a budget and stick to it.
We like Robins Christmas Organiser (£18, cathkidston.com ) or Busy B Christmas Shopping Organiser With Receipt Pocket (£11.92, Amazon ).
Apps like GiftProfessor and Santa’s Bag are great for pressie ideas and tracking your shopping and spending too.
Bag a coveted Christmas grocery delivery slot and make the food shopping as painless as possible. Asda, Waitrose, Ocado and Morrissons Christmas bookings have been open for some time.
But Sainsbury’s and Tesco release the majority of their slots today. Once you’ve booked you can amend your order until a day or two beforehand (and the money doesn’t come out until then).
Brexit, shmexit. There’s nothing like a Christmas market to kickstart your shopping and leave you more festive than a robin in a tinsel hat, such as Manchester’s award winning five-week long European market in Albert Square. Find one at www.christmasmarkets.com/location/uk/.
Many National Trust properties run Christmas trails alongside local food and crafts; www.nationaltrust.org.uk/features/christmas-markets-and-winter-fairs.
Pudding day, don’t delay. Ian Stansfield of The Ultimate Plum Pudding Company says: “There’s a traditional Stir Up Sunday at the start of advent, which is the last weekend in November.
But if you’ve missed that get cracking. Soak your fruit then ‘feed it’ with whatever your favourite tipple is. Traditionally it’d be brandy but we design lots of bespoke puds, depending what you like.” (ultimateplumpudding.co.uk)
How does Santa get down the chimney when the fire guard’s up, what if Rudolph is allergic to carrots and why were there no wise women? Your little angels full of questions? whychristmas.com is a great site.
Founder and Christmas fan James Cooper says: “We answer your Christmas questions! Everything from the Christmas story, to why we have Christmas trees, send Christmas cards.”
There’s jokes, online advent calendars, colouring and puzzles. Your child can even email Santa and get an instant free, personalised reply (emailsanta.com). Which might just free up an hour or two for you. Result.
The early bird catches the worm. He/she also bags the best turkey. “Don’t leave it any later,” says John Charles, a master butcher from Blackheath, London.
“We specially source ours and people travel from miles around. Nothing beats a fresh turkey. Find a good local butcher and collect on the 23rd or 24th, that way it won’t take up space in your fridge.”
Avoid the “it’s lovely” Grimace Face when you hand over your gift. Make it personal.
Sally Bendelow, Creative Product Director at notonthehighstreet.com, says: “Consider hobbies, colours or memories that remind you of them. Have you got a memory, a location or a date you could weave into a gift? Functional as well as meaningful can be perfect.”
Does juggling online deliveries make your brain hurt as much as ours? Never mess up with Christmas gifts that arrive too late again.
An app called Deliveries (available on iOS and Android, £2.29) is a package tracker which keeps a watchful eye on all your parcels, no matter where they’re ordered from.
It’s time to book a panto – oh yes it is… The Big Panto Guide lists pantos by area. http://www.bigpantoguide.co.uk. And squeeze in a visit to the Big Man before he gets tied up.
Check out your nearest grotto http://www.netmums.com/christmas/best-places-to-see-santa.
It’s now or never to get your goodies to those relatives Down Under: it’s the last posting date via airmail to Australia and New Zealand. You’ve got five more days (the 15th) to post to Canada and the USA.
All dates can be found at royalmail.com/greetings.
Tree Day! In days gone by Christmas trees were not allowed in the house until Christmas Eve, let alone decorated. But when you’re paying on average £35-£40 for a 5-6ft tree you want your money’s worth!
Buy too soon and you’ll have a furry carpet and a tree balder than Donald Trump in a gale. The British Christmas Tree Growers Association says the third Sunday after advent (which starts on November 27) is a happy compromise.
Which variety to buy? Norway Spruce smells great but can be quick to drop its needles. Nordmann Firs are pricier but shed less.
You can buy Christmas tree sprays, such as Christmas Tree Saver, £4.99, Amazon, which help slow down needle drop.
The Royal Horticultural Society suggests chopping off 2.5cm from the bottom of a real tree and standing it in water to make it last. Pour a mulled wine and get creative with the decorations…
If you’re planning on big purchases, consider a cashback site like topcashback.co.uk or quidco.com.
Moneysaving expert Martin Lewis says: “Cashback websites pay you when you click through them, go to retailers or product providers and spend. You can make hundreds of pounds a year using them correctly. The amounts range from pennies for retail items to – at the top end – more than £100 for some mobile contracts. You’ll have to sign up to the cashback site, which should be free. If it’s not, avoid it.”
More info at www.moneysavingexpert.com/shopping/cashback-websites.
Write your Christmas cards. As well as the tried and tested wrist aching method, apps, like Inkly Cards or Touchnote, allow you to send personalised cards from your phone or tablet.
Or turn your family into dancing elves (ElfYourself.com) in a round-robin greeting video.
DontSendMeACard.com is a great website that lets you make and send e-cards and instantly donate what you would have spent on cards and stamps to charity. There are 40 to choose from, from children’s charities to mental health, wildlife and animal charities.
Declutter and jazz up the guest room. “You want to make your guests feel as autonomous and comfortable as possible,” says Alison Holberton of Airbnb, the home hosting network.
“Lay out nice towels and toiletries. Clear out a few drawers and make some hanging space. Flowers or some fairy lights can make a room feel special.”
We’re liking the George Home range, such as Brushed Cotton Tartan Duvet Set, from £13; Stag Digital Print Cushion £6. www.direct.asda.com/george/christmas-shop
Christmas parties demand a Christmas hairdo.
Hannah Benjamin of Fresh Lifestyle Aveda Salon recommends blowdrying your hair in the morning then putting it up until the evening: “It will make your blow dry last. Roll your hair around your fingers into tight curls, then hold it with pins and clips. Or keep a travel hairdryer in your drawer at work, add styling product, then blast your hair upside down. I love dry shampoo to give volume even if your hair’s not dirty!”
Aveda Shampure Dry, £22.50, aveda.co.uk
Christmas Jumper Day is fast becoming a national tradition. Last year trying to bag a lastminute jumper was like an Olympic sport…
Every workplace, school, nursery, Scouts group and doggy daycare will be dressing up in aid of Save The Children (suggested donation £2 for adults, £1 in schools). See christmasjumperday.org.
If wrapping presents makes you want to poke yourself in the eye with a sharp stick, tackle a few gifts a night. Plonk yourself in front of X Factor or put music on.
Justine Manuel, a gift wrapping associate for Harrods says: “Keep it simple. If it’s clothing, wrap in tissue first or put it in a box, it makes it easier. Ideally use double-sided tape so no messy tape shows. Remember a wide ribbon hides all sins! For children stick a chocolate coin or candy cane on rather than a bow.”
It wouldn’t be Christmas without a bit of carol singing. You can check your council website for local venues and dates – these will often tie-in with town events and markets – or you can find a church at https://www.achurchnearyou.com.
It’s a perfect day for ice-skating or a Christmas film. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is not strictly, urm, Santa-related but is THE big release of the festive season.
’Tis the season to be poorly, tra-la la la laaa. Don’t leave it too late to request prescription-only medicine from your GP. Add children’s Calpol to your shopping list.
If you run out of medicines and need some urgently over Christmas call NHS 111 who can look up an out-of-hours pharmacy or point you to the right service. More info at nhs.uk/Livewell/Pharmacy/Pages/Medicinesoutofhours.
Think of others. StreetLink (iOS and Android app) lets members of the public inform local authorities about rough sleepers in their area and help get them off the streets.
Last year there were 11,000 alerts to local services and in its first year 4,000 rough sleepers have been directly helped.
PS. Today is the last UK posting date for sending gifts and cards by second class mail. First class is tomorrow.
Her name even sounds like Christmas.
Try Mary Berry’s Mulled Wine: 4 lemons; 2 large oranges; 2 bottles of red wine, 16 cloves, 2 cinnamon sticks and 5oz caster sugar. Method: Peel the zest very thinly from 3 lemons and 1 orange, and squeeze the juice. Thinly slice the remaining orange and lemon. Quarter the slices, put on a plate, cover and reserve for garnish. Pour the wine, 2 pints water, citrus peel and juices into a large pan, add the cloves and cinnamon sticks. Bring to simmering point, cover and keep at simmering for about an hour. Stir in sugar to taste. Strain and serve hot with the reserved orange and lemon slices floating on the top.
Truffles are a dead-easy last minute gift – fab for neighbours or impromptu visitors. Heat 100g of chocolate drops and 25g butter over a pan of water, sift in 25g icing sugar and mix in 50g cake crumbs.
Roll teaspoonfuls of the mixture into balls, dip in chocolate strands and put in paper cases. Wrap the lot in cellophane, add ribbon and surreptitiously write a handmade tag in the kitchen. We won’t tell.
If you’re the DIY (Do -it-Yuleself) kind, items like cranberry sauce, bread sauce and sausagemeat (fresh not previously frozen) and chestnut stuffing can all be made early and frozen.
Check out bbcgoodfood.com for recipes. You can even peel, parboil and freeze your veg, saving you Christmas morning stress. After all who wants to be chained to the kitchen when there’s top telly on!
If you’re of a sound mental and physical disposition today’s the day some shops start their ‘January’ markdowns. We say, pour a Bailey’s and settle back to wait for Santa flying overhead.
NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command) defends US airspace but every Christmas Eve, from 8am GMT, it does another important job – helping us track Father Christmas’s journey from the North Pole. Noradsanta.org Merry Christmas!