A word that brings joy to so many but can equally can strike fear into the strongest, bravest most courageous grown-up, especially when that grown-up has agreed to have everyone round to their house for Christmas dinner.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re having two guests or twenty, the fear of things going wrong is just the same. I know because I go through this every single year. For various reasons, everyone comes to us for Christmas and very often people stay until New Year so I can safely say I have tons of experience with house guests over the festive season and I’ve also had more than my fair share of mishaps and disasters.
And so I thought I would write my Christmas Survival Guide and, if I can help one person to stay sane throughout the festivities, my job here is done.
Do what you will with this little guide. Follow it to the letter. Pick and choose the bits that suit you. Read it then ignore the advice. I really don’t mind. But hopefully there will be something in it that will help someone in some small way.
And so…without further ado, here is…
The Cupcakes and Cadenzas Christmas Survival Guide
1. Make a List (or Lists)
I am one of life’s list makers. If I don’t have a list for whatever it is I want to do, it doesn’t get done and I know there are lots of you out there who simply don’t make lists but believe me, for Christmas, lists are life-savers.
How you do it is up to you, of course. You can have one massive list with everything on it or you can have many small lists relating to each thing that has to be done (my preferred way). I suggest keeping your lists(s) in a nice notebook that can easily fit into your bag, rather than on scraps of paper which are liable to become lost. Keep it with you at all times and check the list, add to the list and tick things off the list as they get done. You could use your phone in exactly the same way but, as I’m a pen-and-paper kinda girl, I always use notebooks.
Types of List
Christmas Cards – sent and received
Ideas for Presents – list all your ideas under the name of each person you have to buy for (don’t forget your pets)
Presents Yet to Buy
Food and Drink – a Christmassy list and an everyday list
Menus – what you’re going to eat and when
Extras – cards, paper, tags, crackers, candles, flowers, batteries, etc.
Cleaning – what needs to be done before the big day?
2. Emergency Spares
I don’t know about your house but here at Cupcake Cottage I can guarantee that in the rush to buy the bigger gifts, something small always gets forgotten. It might be a tin of biscuits for the neighbour who always brings our recycling bins along from the end of the road or something for the postie. It might be that someone may unexpectedly turn up with a small gift and I want to give them something in return. Or it could be that one of your guests turns up on Christmas day not realising that Great Aunt Martha was going to be there and they have nothing to give her.
So that no-one is ever embarrassed I always buy a few extra boxes of chocolates or tins of biscuits and an extra roll of wrapping paper (different to the paper I use for my gifts) and some ribbon so that unexpected gifts can be made up at the last minute and no-one feels left out.
3. Pre-Prepare Food
Try to pre-prepare as much of the food as you can. If veg can be parboiled and stored before the big day, do it. If they can’t for any reason then at least peel them, chop them and store them in the fridge in bowls of cold water so that they just need to be rinsed and cooked on the day. Make cakes, biscuits and puddings in advance if you can. You really don’t want to have to spend the whole of Christmas Day slaving over a hot stove in the kitchen with your guests wondering where on earth you’ve got to.
The last thing you want to be doing is wondering what you’re going serve up at mealtimes so my advice is to make up a menu for each important day – Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day. Decide what you’re having for breakfast, lunch and dinner and write it down in a list. It doesn’t have to be set in stone and other things can be made but, at least if you have an idea of what’s available it’s easier than having to decide on the spot. Snacks don’t matter as there’s always plenty of sweet and savoury bits and pieces lying around at this time of year.
At Cupcake Cottage, Boxing day is leftover day. That means that anything left over from Christmas Eve/Day is used up on Boxing Day. Sometimes we make Leftover Soup and sometimes all anyone wants is turkey sandwiches. To be honest, if our guests just want to eat mince pies and Christmas cake all day that’s fine by us but no great effort goes into cooking in this house on Boxing Day. It’s a day for everyone to sit back and do as little as possible.
5. Stock Up Your Store Cupboard
Make sure you have a well-stocked store cupboard so that you can throw a quick meal together or bake cakes or biscuits if the need arises.
My store cupboard essentials are:
Various flours including strong bread flour
Various tins of beans including borlotti and cannellini
Jars of olives
Seasoning, herbs and spices
6. First Aid Kit
At Christmas there’s bound to be mishaps of various kinds and for that reason it’s always useful to have an accessible first aid kit.
At the very least have a supply of:
Andrew’s Liver Salts (really old fashioned but I swear by them when you’ve eaten and drank a bit too much) *remember to follow the instructions
The NHS have a comprehensive guide as to what should be kept in a home first aid kit. You can find it HERE
Don’t be afraid to give people tasks. I’m a bit of a control freak and find this quite hard to do but it really does stop you from becoming stressed and overwhelmed. Not only that but people like to feel useful and are usually more than happy to be given little jobs to do whether that be setting the table, helping to clear the table, clearing away Christmas wrapping, helping to serve food, and so on. Don’t take it all on by yourself.
8. A Guide for Guests
Let your guests know what’s expected of them.
If you plan to have your meals at a certain time, make sure they know the times in advance.
Let them know that they’re free to amuse themselves. If they want to go out for a walk, that’s fine. They want to spend all day reading their Kindle? That’s fine too. And if they want to go to church on Christmas day and no-one else does, that’s also fine.
Also, if you’re happy to go along with this, let them know that they are free to help themselves to tea, coffee, cake, sandwiches, etc., whenever they want. That way you won’t feel that you’re constantly running after people. Remember, it’s your Christmas too.
9. Order Repeat Prescriptions In Advance
This one is pretty self-explanatory but I do think it’s worth mentioning.
Remember that your doctor’s surgery will be closed for several days over Christmas and New Year and will only be open for a few days in between so make sure that, if you need medication, you order it well in advance.
10. Change Your Mindset
This is a biggie!
Most of us are already panicking…
Will I get it all done in time?
What if I don’t have enough food?
What if I forget someone’s present?
Is the turkey big enough?
Have I missed anyone off the Christmas card list?
There’s less than two weeks to go!
Breathe…because you will cope. Everything will be fine. Everything will work out. And if it doesn’t, you’ll still survive.
I was a Christmas panicker up until a couple of years ago but then I realised that the world doesn’t end if something isn’t perfect. People aren’t expecting perfection. No-one will be disappointed if they turn up and your house is less than immaculate (if they are disappointed, you’ve invited the wrong people). What people ultimately want at this time of year is to spend quality time with friends and family. And if that quality time includes a bit of burnt turkey, the fact that the sausages wrapped in bacon were still sitting in the fridge, uncooked at the end of the meal and you got three copies of the latest Alfie Boe and Michael Ball CD, that’s ok. It’s fine. It could have been a lot worse. And at least you’ll have given everyone something to laugh about in years to come.
And there it is! My little Christmas Survival Guide.
Do you have anything else to add to the list?
Is there something specific you do at Christmas to help you survive?
If so, I’d love to hear what it is so please feel free to leave a comment in the comment section below.
Until the next time,