I love Christmas, absolutely love all the preparation, the decorations, the choosing, wrapping and giving of presents, the partying, the laughter and the gathering of family and behind the scenes I have my very own rituals and routines that get me through in what some assume is a relaxed and capable manner.
Little do they know…. it is the proverbial serene effortless swan gliding up to the big day with ever so frantic hidden legs paddling furiously to keep moving forward and remaining upright! Sound familiar???
Over the years I have developed many rituals to help me along so I thought I’d share some with you.
My No 1 tool is ‘THE LIST’ – always on my phone so it is always with me.
- Gift lists
When my youngest sons birthday has been and gone in early October, I start the joyful task of gift planning. Most people find this a nightmare I know but I love it. Whenever I have an idea I pop it onto the list which to begin with might be a general list but quite soon it becomes person specific. Whilst I have 4 children I don’t have an army of other family really so perhaps that makes things easier. Great excitement this year when I discovered I can create a little unfilled dot in my ‘notes’ by each gift idea and then when it is delivered/purchased I can fill said dot with a tick – deep joy!
With 3 teenagers for whom present buying is a brain strain I have recently taken to buying tickets for ‘things’ e.g. theatre visits, chocolate making, U17 driving lessons, Escape rooms and when possible this will be for just me and the lucky child so not only do I get to share in the event but also I get a day with just one of my children doing something exciting which we both absolutely love and is hugely helpful to maintaining our sometimes fragile relationship.
- Food lists
Not just what I need but how much and when I’m going to buy. Ideally, I’ll make just one trip for food but sometimes it flows into 2 but that is the limit. I don’t rely on a food delivery because what if they have run out of sausagemeat stuffing and deliver you sausage rolls instead? Yikes! Also, timing is key – who wants to be playing trolley dodgems on Xmas eve? Better to head out at some ungodly hour whilst the aisles are empty and get the job done. Personally, I like to wear my Xmas Santa hat on these shopping trips but that’s just me!
- Events lists
Who is where and when? This I do on my vast family calendar with a back-up on my phone. I frequently remind the children to check the calendar as 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th pairs of eyes.
- Christmas dinner list
I do write an outline timing list (having one year written a very detailed one, put the turkey in late, attempted to then amend the timings accordingly and got myself in a right pickle and unnecessarily stressed and I had lots of guests and it was a tad embarrassing!). I don’t spend Christmas eve parboiling but instead, allocate an hour post stocking present opening on Xmas morning to chopping and setting and laying on of bacon. More activity ensues at putting in the turkey time and then another flurry once the turkey is out right up until sitting down. All hands on deck when it comes to getting things to the table but I am usually a couple of glasses of bubbles down by then so I let it all happen. One year I forgot the roast potatoes and parsnips, left them in the oven, nobody said a word, oh dear!
WRAPPING I do all in one go. One evening, with the children overnight elsewhere, I lay the presents all out in piles on the lounge floor, put on a good Xmas movie and open a nice bottle of wine. Sharp scissors, decent sellotape and a different wrapping paper for each child (MOST IMPORTANT – nothing worse than getting presents mixed up!). I only tag their ‘main’ present and presents to the wider family.
On Xmas eve night all presents are left downstairs, some in the stocking some buy the side, so no chance of being caught in the act sneaking into bedrooms and less likelihood of a 3 am wake-up.
We do have an Elf called Kelvin and he leaves a Christmas Eve box on his way out the door whilst we are at the Christingle service. PJ’s, hot chocolate, a game, silly glasses maybe, ‘Twas the night before Xmas book … which is lovely to come home to and once everyone is in the new pj’s, hot choc (with squirty cream, marshmallow, and flake) we settle down for a Christmas movie whilst I quietly get sozzled in the corner and feel proud and happy with my tribe around me.
Finally, it’s a Mince pie, a glass of Baileys and a carrot and the scene is set…