There’s an up and down pattern to most of our Christmases. Throughout December, we’re likely to go from feeling festive and jolly to a little bit stressed and overwhelmed as we juggle present-buying, food-planning and the logistics of hosting or visiting loved ones.
Every year, we tell ourselves that this is the year we’ll make a better plan of action so that we avoid the rush, but life has other ideas, and inevitably, we end up resembling the Road Runner on more than one December occasion. But, isn’t it rather all part of it? While the cool, calm and collected ideal we have sounds appealing, we think we might miss the busyness and the buzz if it were to disappear completely.
The key, as always, is balance. So, this year, we’ll be putting an afternoon aside (at the very least) before Christmas Day arrives to do, quite simply, some lovely, last-minute festive things. They don’t require much pre-planning other than to block out the time in your diary so you don’t let other stuff get in the way – from another load of washing to an inbox pinging with just-received emails to a few people you suddenly remember you didn’t write a Christmas card for. We’re hoping that when the run-ragged moments arrive, we’ll be able to look back and be happy that this was the year we were able to fit in some of the Christmassy happenings that we never quite get around to.
Ideas to make time for
Here are a few suggestions that we’re looking forward to most of all. You’ll see that they’re all actually rather simple; the more complicated, the less likely you’ll actually get around to doing them.
We thought about writing a list of creative ideas that you might read and think ‘I wouldn’t have thought of that’, but when we stepped back and thought about what are the things that we really want to do in the last few days before Christmas, we felt that the ones below were a far better fit. New ideas they certainly aren’t, but seeing them written down and explored rather than having them fleetingly flit through our minds will make them far, far more achievable.
Baking. Such a classic activity, especially at Christmastime when the things that you might bake are all the more charming. Many of us have a certain something that we hope to bake every Christmas, whether that’s a traditional gingerbread house or home-made and piped snowflake biscuits or a recipe you’ve seen on one of the many Christmas cookery programmes, but time runs away with itself and they don’t always happen. Baking on Christmas Eve is the time that we like to do it most, with Christmas carols playing in the background, or our Christmas playlist. So, find one or two things that you’d like to bake, make a list beforehand so you can be sure to have the ingredients in and ready, and indulge yourself.
Walk. Again, such a simple suggestion, but time means we tend to make compromises and that walk we’ve wanted to go on gets shortened, or pushed back another week or two. You might like to go on your own for a bit of ‘you’ time, with your family in tow, or get together with a few close friends and agree a time and date to step outside. Christmas is a special time, so do things properly and get an OS map and explore your route beforehand. If everybody feels up to it, dedicate a few hours with either a convenient pub stop for lunch along the way or take a packed lunch for a chilly winter picnic whenever you come across a pretty spot that you want to linger in for longer. Walks are at their best when time is truly on your side and you can wander along as slowly as you wish.
Read. There’s a common thread in our ideas – they’re the things that we always seem to run out of time to do. And, they’re things that feel even better when they can be done in a festive way. Sitting down for an hour or two with a good book, with the newspaper, or with a stash of magazines, in front of the fire, with a mug of something warm and a little bowl of chocolates or a fresh-out-of-the-oven mince pie, and fairy lights twinkling from the nearby Christmas tree gives new meaning to the lyric ‘it’s the most wonderful time of the year’. Try to have the house to yourself a short while, or, sit down with children and split up the day and agree that from 3–4pm, it’s downtime where you’ll all sit and read together, or they can play upstairs while you have some time to yourself. Of course, that can be more tricky with toddlers, but you could try to buddy-up with a friend where you have their little one for the afternoon and then you swap so you each have a window of time.
Forage. This is something that we often read, and that we mention in our own articles, but we appreciate that it’s not always easy to get around to doing. So, whether you do this on your pre-Christmas walk, or on a separate occasion, why not visit a nearby woodland in search of foliage that you can bring home and add to your Christmas decorating scheme? Take a pair of gloves to protect your fingers from splinters and holly spikes (never mind the cold!), a pair of strong scissors or small clippers for snipping, and a bag that’s big and sturdy enough to carry your foraged findings, and get searching. It’s wise to think about your space beforehand so you don’t come home with things that you won’t use, or that you might have cut too small. Pine cones that you can fill a vase with; holly, ivy and pine that you can drape over ledges or around mirrors; chestnuts and hazelnuts that can sit with your pine cones; berries and twigs that you can wrap fairy lights around in a tall vase or incorporate into your garlands, are all things to look out for.