guide to Christmas

It’s the last stretch til Christmas. has some suggestions to get you through the next week.


It’s that time of year. The good news is school’s over so there are no more costumes to make, cakes to bake, teacher presents to come up with or card writing activities to do for the whole class. Work Christmas parties are probably over. You may even have bagged yourself a hangover day. Apparently these are on trend, even though your whole life may feel like one long hangover. You’re on the home straight. There’s just last-minute urgent stuff to do for work and all the home stuff. Just hang on in there. Here are some last-minute things to remember:

1. Presents: If you haven’t got anyone a present yet, don’t panic. The best ideas – or at least what seem like the best ideas at the time – can come in the final seconds before deadlines.  Select a theme, preferably one related to a particular shop, and go big on it. It will seem like you planned it all along.

Remember, vouchers are always popular, often more so than presents for teenagers. Never buy clothes for teenagers unless they have handpicked them.

Also, bear in mind that babies and toddlers often prefer the box to the actual present. Therefore pay more attention to the packaging than the actual present. And consider the consequences of investing in one of those flashing, musical toys. Superficially they may seem attractive, but be aware that they are wont to start playing loudly at 4am just as you have got the baby to sleep for the fourth time. You have been warned.

Don’t forget your partner, if you have one. This is a general comment which is applicable throughout the year.

2. Wrapping: Make sure you have enough paper and that it is not that glossy stuff that sellotape doesn’t stick to. This can totally destroy any Zen spirit you may have left on 24th December.

3. Essentials: Remember to buy batteries. Picture the disappointment of a toy that doesn’t work on Christmas Day. Save yourself hours of sobbing and guilt.

4. Santa duties: Try to get some sleep in on 23rd to prepare for 24th, particularly if you are on Santa duty and you have teenagers and/or small children. Teenagers will never go to sleep while small people will be up at 3am and on a sugar high. You only have a small window for manoeuvre and may find yourself struggling to make it to Christmas lunch. Santa power naps could be the way to go.

5. Emotional stuff: At the best of times the role of a parent is in large part about emotional support, about keeping people happy, and much of that role seems still to fall on women. Christmas quadruples the pressure at the very least. Everyone is tired either due to work or partying, expectations of jollity are high due to all those Christmas films and adverts…the chances of failing to meet them are high and those of people having meltdowns or coming to blows are also exponentially higher than at any other time. Sibling rivalry is on steroids.  Consider creating a conflict resolution strategy and get people to sign up to guidelines. Create a court of justice to oversee said guidelines, preferably with you as judge. Consider it an educational experiment. Also make sure you have a good after Christmas plan for de-stressing. In fact, if anyone asks you what you want for Christmas, a duvet weekend may be a good suggestion.

6. Cooking: Keep it simple [ie a roast with added crackers] or turn it into a Masterchef game so everyone joins in. Bagsy being judge and delegate cleaning up to the first person to defy the Christmas Conflict guidelines.

7. Seasonal illness: You know it’s coming for you. You may have dodged the winter norovirus, colds and the flu so far, but it’s only a matter of time. The moment you stop work, you will succumb. Just give into it and make sure you have a packet of Strepsils and a sturdy bucket available.

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