It sounds so easy in theory; a plan to keep the festive season simple. However, I have found that over the past few years that our Christmas celebrations have been far from simple, and have actually been pretty stressful. They have been enjoyable of course, but not the most restful! Two Christmases ago I volunteered to ‘do’ Christmas Day for my extended family, despite the fact that I had a tiny teething baby who slept 3 hours each night, a home with hardly any dining space and work commitments right up until Christmas Eve.
Last Christmas I thought I had it sorted, and offered to host Christmas again (?!) I booked a few extra days off work before and arranged for my other half to take our little ones out for the day on Christmas Eve. It was all on track, if not exactly relaxing…and then we got the flu! Not just sniffles or man flu, proper full-blown influenza…and I’d even had the vaccination! So my partner A spent Christmas Eve in bed with a fever, eating paraceteomol and drowsily muttering about how he never gets sick. Whilst the two little ones ran riot through the house, I tried to make gravy and prep the sprouts (and complete last minute batches of homemade biscotti, and fudge, and paint little clay tree decorations..and prepare the house for family arriving that evening.) I *may* have cried and phoned my mum to come and rescue me. She whisked Mia off for a festive afternoon somewhere, and somehow Christmas happened and was lovely. Predictably I then caught the flu Boxing Day and spent most of the following week in bed.
So, that brings us up to this year, and begins to explain why I am craving a simple Christmas. I am hoping that these ideas will lead to a cheerful and peaceful celebration, and will allow our family to spend time together, enjoying lots of laziness, days in our jamies, good food and bad films on tv.
Less focus on shopping and buying ‘stuff’: The Christmas adverts, especially for children’s toys drive me crazy, it is like a form of brainwashing. Mia sings the advert jingles constantly and tells me that she ‘really needs’ the Barbie Dreamhouse, etc. I buy gifts for just children and make something small for the adults. In turn I also ask family and friends not to buy me anything, so hopefully simplfying things for them too. Shifting the focus away from the present side of things at this time of year has got to be a good thing.
Select just a few Christmas events to attend: I love December and all of the many Christmas events, and usually feel the need to attend absolutely everything. Christmas markets, ice skating, pantos, lights night, craft events, school and nursery performances, I sign myself up for everything with the fear on missing out on some of the Christmas spirit somehow if I don’t do them all. This year I plan to just choose my favourites, and allow a little downtime in between.
Prepare in advance: sounds like common sense, but I’m not the best forward planner. Within my extended family there are four birthdays during December, including one big one this year, so I am preparing gifts and cards in advance…well that’s the plan anyway! To get ahead for Christmas I have bought mincemeat rather than making my own, and have added a little brandy and extra dried fruit, so that it is extra yummy. I’ll be buying the pastry too…shhh…shop bought all-butter shortcrust is really good! I do love festive baking, and will definitely allow some time for this too, but making everything from scratch is time consuming and not always necessary.
Offer help and accept it too!: Whilst I’m not cooking Christmas Day lunch this year, I certainly will be helping! Knowing how stressful it can be to cook a feast for lots of people, I will be on veggie duty, willingly washing the dishes or whatever else is required! And if anyone offers to look after my little ones for an hour or two over those Christmas weeks, I might say yes to that too.
PS: the photo above is from this Christmas post, from back in 2011. Look how cute just-turned-3-year-old Mia is!