We hosted Christmas for the first time last year. With six adults and two toddlers to entertain and feed, it was a bit of a learning curve, and on Boxing Day I wrote down my list of tips. So, if you’re hosting Christmas this year, have a read, and then, have a brilliant time.
1. Planning is (almost) everything
My planning was old-school: a notebook, a pen and a whole load of recipe books. Early Christmas planning starts somewhere around September and involves setting budgets, inviting guests and working out logistics. Mid-distance planning starts in late November and involves making the cake, the pudding, and ordering the Turkey. Short term planning, for me, meant planning each day’s meals and tasks or activities. This led naturally in to a shopping list and even a step by step timed list for Christmas Day.
2. Do as much as you can on Christmas Eve.
I started making the cranberry sauce at around 8am in Christmas Eve. Mince pies, cinnamon rolls, winter coleslaw, chocolate roulade, Christmas ham, all were done that morning. Even the vegetables for Christmas dinner were peeled and prepared that afternoon. I bought stuffing and pigs in blankets from the butcher but I’d have done them on Christmas Eve too.
3. Time Christmas Day
Work out when you want to eat (2pm for us, to work around nap times) and work backwards, giving the turkey long enough to cook. If you write them down on paper, others who want to assist with the cooking will know what to do.
4. Don’t drink too much
Ahem. One to remember for next year. At least, not too much before dinner. Or before the children go to bed.
We had two sets of guests: my parents, and Ben’s godparents and their son. Both my mum and Carina, Ben’s godmother, love to cook. So Mum was allocated the pudding to do, while Carina did some savoury nibbles. Everyone brought extras with them, which was great.
6. Clear space in your kitchen.
Basically, you don’t want anything on a surface which doesn’t have to be there. When the food is ready, you need a lot of space for serving, carving and making gravy. You will probably have a couple of helpers who don’t know their way around your kitchen well. Get everything as tidy as possible.
7. Stock up on tin foil, cling film, kitchen roll etc.
I don’t know what the collective noun is for these things, but I know you don’t want to run out of them at Christmas. Also, other people may like to use things differently to you. My mother in law always needs kitchen roll in her kitchen; when she’s noticed I’ve run out, she has often popped out to the shop to get me some. I could probably go a week without noticing it was empty. In the words of Elsa, let it go.
8. Plan for some down time, and some fresh air.
At some point during Christmas Day, I’ll get completely overwhelmed: the house will be too busy, hot and stuffy. My clothes, which were comfortable earlier, will start to itch. Everyone will start to annoy me. This is the cue to get outside and go for a walk. Even if it’s only for 15 minutes between the Queen’s Speech and when it gets dark, do it. You’ll feel so much better.
9. Tools for toys
If you have children in the house, the chances are that one of their presents will require batteries. More annoying than batteries, however, is the tiny screwdriver that you need to unlock the battery compartment. Have one handy. And spare batteries.
Additionally, don’t feel that you have to open all the presents at once. We like to stagger the present opening, especially for Ben, so that he actually enjoys and plays with some of his new presents on the day. You can, to a certain extent, choose how your children open their presents!
10. Try to have some time for your husband/wife/partner.
One of my favourite Christmas memories from recent years is of sitting with Tim at 9pm on Christmas Day, drinking Baileys and watching Downton Abbey. Tim has since got over his love of Downton, so I may be watching alone this year, but I will still try to find some time for when it’s just the two of us. Last year, we managed a few drinks in thee village pub while my parents babysat, and I’m hoping for the same again this year.
However your plans turn out, please remember that it’s only one day, and that the things that seem disastrous at the time can actually go on to make the best stories and the fondest memories. Ultimately, Christmas isn’t about the food, the presents or even getting together with you or friends and family, even though that’s wonderful. Of course, Christmas is truly about celebrating and remembering the birth of Jesus. So my last piece of advice is to take some time, in the midst of the busyness and madness, to remember the first Christmas.