Lifestyle: How to Stay Sane When Hosting Christmas Day
If the idea of organising Christmas at your house feels a bit daunting, read on for tips and advice on how to enjoy the big day
If you are hosting the day this year, a mix of forward planning and tweaked expectations can really help ensure it’s fun and memorable. So, before you deck the halls or order the turkey, read these 12 tips for hosting the day and enjoying it, too!
Work out what you want to get from Christmas and how you’d like it to be. Do you fancy a traditional celebration, with a big tree and a turkey dinner? Or are you more interested in swerving tradition and just enjoying family time? It can be helpful to sum up your intentions for the day in one word, such as ‘playful’, ‘alternative’, ‘meaningful’ or simply ‘merry’!
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Christmas takes up so much space in our cultural imagination that almost everyone has some opinion of how it should look, feel and be organised. So, before the big day, gently manage your guests’ expectations by letting them know roughly what to expect chez vous come the 25th.
If you have no intention of serving six different types of veg with the turkey, will not be having a tree this year, or are pretty sure your kids will be up at 5.30am, let them know, so they can tweak their vision of the day and get on board with your version.
Give yourself and your family a break on Christmas Day by bending or ignoring the rules you aspire to live by. Yes, your children will eat a lot of sugar and almost certainly ignore their sprouts. Don’t worry about it! Yes, your guests may all be tramping mucky shoes through your house. Fine! And perhaps today is the day to let the dog have scraps from the table, courtesy of Grandad. Let it all go!
Enjoy the chaos while it lasts. There will be plenty of time to get back on track afterwards.
It’s easy to get caught up with putting up decorations or shopping for titbits and then forget the essentials.
A week or so before the guests begin to arrive, check whether you have enough chairs, china, glasses and cutlery for all of them. Will they fit around the table or should you put up a small, temporary table, too? Is there space in the fridge for the fresh food you plan to buy or will you need guests to store and bring some of it themselves?
Get all this sorted in advance to avoid last-minute panics on the day.
Minimise catering stress on the day by cooking dishes in advance that can be frozen, or simply stock up on a selection of prepared morsels that will save you some effort.
When you are the host, it’s not expensive presents that bring the most festive happiness, it’s delegating! Assign guests a simple task, from peeling the spuds to lighting the living room fire or keeping glasses topped up, so you aren’t forced to take responsibility for everything.
Make sure the job is clear, though. ‘Help with the veg’ is too vague. ‘Peel the parsnips and cut them into batons’ is more like it. Most guests will welcome being given a role, as it helps them feel useful and breeds a feeling of sharing. So don’t become a Christmas martyr – treat the day as a community effort and get the whole family involved.
Turn off the voice in your head listing all the things you should be doing or criticising you for not making your own mince pies or not getting a bigger tree. Instead, take a minute to watch and enjoy what’s going on around you, warts and all. Try to see it all with an amused, ever-so-slightly detached eye.
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Think back to previous Christmases to remind yourself of family tensions, issues or flashpoints. Do board games bring your uncle out in a rage? Does your aunt prefer to sit in a high-back chair? Is Granny allergic to the cat? Will little Jimmy have a tantrum if presented with sprouts? You don’t have to pander to your guests’ every whim, but understanding and avoiding the most obvious triggers for tension can help avoid a lot of awkwardness.
Christmas Day can be so full and busy that it’s easy to forget to take five. So be sure to sneak away at some point during the day. Take a short walk (with or without festively clad pooch) or disappear into a quiet room to sit calmly for a few moments, before returning to the action feeling refreshed.
For many of us, the idea of viewing Christmas Day through an alcoholic haze may seem enormously appealing, but being too woozy to carve the bird or slice the pud is not ideal. Pace your intake – drinking water with every glass of alcohol will help you feel jolly and on the right side of functional!
Make sure everyone knows how long they are staying and when they are leaving. Guests outstaying their welcome or being hazy about when they may leave will push your stress levels up and stretch your generosity. Be up front about how long they can stay and don’t apologise for this!
Pulling off a great family Christmas creates powerful, positive memories for everyone gathered there, especially the children. So dig deep, remind yourself it’s only one day and do your best to make it a good one. The collective memories created on that day can nourish you all for years to come.
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Do you have any tips for hosting Christmas Day happily? We’d love to hear them in the Comments below.