Move away from the decorations, Mummy,” said my eight-year-old in the holidays. To clarify, these weren’t the holidays where Santa toasts us with a can of Coke on the side of a jingling lorry. It was August, we were in America and I’d just spotted an all-year-round Christmas shop in the seaside town we were staying in. Abandon beach towels, bring on the tinsel!
As a self-confessed Christmas-a-holic, my festive switch is never off. I plan at least six months ahead, stockpiling Scandinavian stockings, buying up baubles and stowing away string lights. Every year my long-suffering husband says, “No more!” My argument? How else will I recreate seasonal family scenes worthy of an M&S ad?
By September I’ve bought the stocking fillers, completed our Christmas table plan, designed the theme (this year it’s Winter Wonderland) and started the food list. October is for Christmas drinks, family events and final Christmas shopping. By November I’ve nailed the Christmas cards and wrapped most of the presents.
All that’s left to do is access the (meticulously packed and labelled) decorations from the loft and bedeck the entire house.
This probably sounds like a nightmare before Christmas, but for me it’s a simple equation: maximum sparkle for minimum stress. By mid-December, with all the dull stuff ticked off, I can have some relaxing me time. Cue mince pies, roaring fire and circling my must-sees in the Radio Times. It’s also when I indulge in favourite hobbies like baking with my six-year-old daughter. She’s as Christmas-crazy as I am and has even given us elf names (I’m Holly, she’s Pinkie) for when we’re making truffles and iced biscuits as gifts. Forget fighting my way through the food aisles: come Christmas Eve you’ll find me snuggled up on the sofa watching The Snowman with my babies and a Baileys.
But “What about Christmas Day?” I hear you cry. “Surely that’s still stressful?” Not if you’ve written your husband’s name against the “Cook Xmas Day lunch” on your to-do list. So go on, join me in planning ahead. I promise the only thing that’ll be strung out this Christmas are all those fairy lights.