Chill out! Its only Christmas....
Here at Molly’s Guide, we appreciate what a magical time of year the run-up to Christmas is and we also know it can be pretty stressful, too. Sam Curtis, whose go-to mantra for all things festive is ‘I’m gonna wing it’ asked Facebook users for their top tips for a stress-free, or at least a slightly less stressful Christmas.
There’s no escaping it, the Christmas countdown has started. The new Grinch film has hit the cinemas, Kevin the Carrot is back starring in a cliff-hanger advert for Aldi and the rails in Primark are heaving with an array of cheesy Christmas jumpers.
It’s the same every year, so why does it always feel as if one minute it’s the end of the summer holidays, then, in the blink of an eye, children are rehearsing songs for their nativity and you’re Googling ‘where to buy a sheep costume’?
I should know the drill by now but somehow, the festive season and all the extra work that comes with it ALWAYS creeps up on me.
Because there is a lot of work involved. From the list-making to the gift shopping to the food-ordering and the writing of Christmas cards (your five-year-old will definitely want to send one to all 29 children in their reception class) it’s a busy time.
Not to mention the financial burden.
So, what can be done? Is there hope for me and people like me, who still need to get their head around the Christmas countdown? Will I be running around like a headless turkey on Christmas Eve or can my team of organised (and slightly smug) Christmas experts offer up some advice that will ease the pressure?
Don’t try to do it all
I’m guilty of this, in more ways than one.
Not only do I take on the responsibility for buying most of the gifts for the entire family, but I also try and experience as many of the Christmas activities around the region as possible.
My children didn’t always expect to go ice-skating, visit the Bauble Barn at Doddington Hall, make reindeer food, or ride on the Polar Express -
but they do now because I went big on activities one year and now it’s hard to scale things back.
The solution? “Quality, not quantity”, says mum-of-three, Emma Harding-Hubbard, from Lincoln. She adds: “I’m planning less this year. I always plan fun stuff to do but then I’m so busy that ironically it’s not fun and ends up being exhausting and stressful.”
Less is definitely more, it seems.
The alternative, if you are determined to throw yourself into lots of festive activities is to write everything down on a calendar. Mum-of-two Jennifer Wake says: “We have a calendar showing what’s happening during the run-up to Christmas. Things like: make snowflakes and salt dough decorations, attend the school play, put the tree up, go for a walk and have a hot chocolate. It makes the countdown more magical.”
As if she’s not busy enough, Jennifer and her husband Martin, hold their annual Lights Up party for friends and family in early December.
The event involves the couple decorating their house with hundreds of lights and preparing a yuletide banquet, as well as organising a visit from Santa himself. It seems like quite an undertaking but Mrs Wake says: “I’m always super busy but I love it that way. Christmas is my thing.”
Stagger gift and food-buying
The super-organised among you can skip this part - you’ve probably finished the bulk of your Christmas shopping, a bit like mum-of-three, Laura Allen from Lincoln who says: “I wrote my list in September, went shopping in October and will wrap everything in November. My aim is to be done for December so I can enjoy the festive season without panicking and thinking I still have things to buy. I also like to spend a couple of days doing some Christmas baking.
“With eight family birthdays in December, I have no choice but to be organised”. Laura’s not alone, Jennifer Wake echoes her sentiments, saying: “I’ve been buying bits in (both gifts and food) for a while now, so I don’t have to rush. I am one of those super-organised people every year!”
I actually enjoy a spot of retail therapy and like looking at things in the shops. Sometimes it feels as if I am single-handedly supporting the high street as sales figures continue to fall because sensible people tend to do most of their shopping online. Helen Smith from Lincoln, says: “I have a mad splurge of organisation mid-November which lulls me into a false sense of security. It can get very stressful but that’s when online shopping is a boon. I did most of mine last year while having a bubble bath.”
Well, that’s clearly going to be a lot easier than hitting the shops...
Make your own gifts
For those who are pressed for time, the thought of making gifts might seem like a stretch too far but according to those in the know, a couple of hours in the kitchen can be just as fruitful as the same amount of time spent scouring Amazon for a unique gift for Aunty Ethel.
Plus, if you make a gift, isn’t that getting back to what Christmas is all about - an act of kindness?
Debbie Robinson from Lincoln, says: “I make my own peanut butter fudge, then bag it up to make the perfect gift.” She adds: “Just don’t forget to check for any peanut allergies beforehand”.
And Jez Ashberry, also from Lincoln, has a similar idea, except he favours gifting a bottle of home-brewed sloe gin. You need to have picked your sloes back in October to ensure the gin is ready in time for Christmas. On the plus side, if the gin needs a bit longer to mature, you could always buy a bottle from a supermarket and keep the homemade stuff to see in the New Year.
Too many toys? Make some memories, instead
My friend and I always buy gifts for each other’s children but our houses are bulging at the seams with Nerf Guns and board games, so this year we have decided to take our children out together instead of exchanging gifts. I can’t be too specific about what we have planned - my teenage daughter often reads Molly’s Guide and I don’t want to ruin the surprise but hopefully, they will share lots of laughs and make some childhood memories.
The ultimate guide to being organised
If you are a planner, the excellent tips from mum-of-two Melissa Bentley will be like preaching to the converted.
On the other hand, for those prone to winging it, like me, it might be worth heeding the advice below for Chrismas 2019. Melissa says: “I buy all wrapping paper and cards in January. I keep a running list on my phone during the year with gift ideas for each person. I start shopping in the summer sales and I wait for Sainsbury’s half-price toy sale in October.
“I also keep a separate Christmas card list and include addresses.
“I make lots of jams and chutneys earlier in the year and label and pack them nicely. I also make fudge as a gift.
“I wrap and pack away by the second weekend in December then chill for the rest of the month because it’s done! I LOVE Christmas.”
Alright, Melissa, no-one likes a show-off...
I am joking, of course. I have nothing but admiration for anyone who can put their feet up by the middle of December and declare themselves ‘ready for Christmas’.
So, I wish you all a joyful season. I hope it’s not too stressful but if you do find yourself feeling overwhelmed, I’ll leave this thought with you, shared by mum and grandma, Lesley Joosub;
“Chill out. It’s just one day.”
She’s got a point.