What’s that, I hear you ask? A STRESS-FREE Christmas? What is this sorcery she speaks of?!
It’s true, there IS such a thing as a stress-free Christmas. And when I say Christmas, I mean the festive period, the days leading up to and including Christmas Day (“the holidays” as my North American friends would call it).
If you’re panicking right now, I may not be able to help you with everything (for example, if you haven’t started Christmas shopping by now then you might be a lost cause, LOL!), but I can throw a few ideas into the mix that may help ease the stress which inevitably happens on the 25th.
Whilst Christmases* (Christmasses? can Christmas be plural?) with my family are usually super-happy, fun affairs, there are always things that we’ve looked back on and thought, Oh gawd I wish we’d done x instead of y and not let z happen.
Here are my top four tips to ensure you have a happy, stress-free Christmas – and that no one misses out on the fun…!
*I looked it up, the plural of Christmas is Christmases. I was right first time 😉
(Reading time: 5 mins)
This post was originally published in December 2018 and has been updated.
1. Wrap presents as you buy them
I only started doing this a few years ago, and I don’t know why I didn’t do it before. I’ve always tended to do my Christmas shopping throughout the year (more so in the second half because the majority of my family have birthdays in the spring and early summer), and up until recently I’d always left my wrapping till a few days before Christmas – or even late on Christmas Eve, ughhh.
It’s almost as if my brain is telling me You can’t be THAT organised, woman!! If you’ve bought all your presents early you now have to suffer and wrap them on Christmas Eve! Why should you be relaxing in the days before Christmas when everyone else is last-minute panic-buying…
But a few years ago I had the brilliant idea to wrap each present as I bought it. I’m pretty sure many of you are reading this and thinking, Er yeah – why WOULDN’T you do that? Doesn’t everyone shop and wrap?? and ermahgerd, it’s a game-changer. No Christmas Eve panic or emergency trip to the local Spar because I didn’t have enough wrapping paper.
No, my gifts are all wrapped and under the tree at the time of writing. I’m Smuggy McSmuggins with my feet up and a glass of Baileys this year.
2. Plan in advance who does what on Christmas Day
This, for me, is the most important thing to get sorted in advance. My best tip for ensuring there are no arguments, cross words spoken or stressed-out hosts (or guests!) is to ensure everyone knows their role on the day and who is responsible for what. Treat it like a military operation and avoid the conflict altogether. It especially helps if you have kids coming: it’ll get teens off their phones (for some of the day, at least) and make the younger ones feel like they’re contributing.
There’s nothing worse than arguing over whose job it was to buy cranberry sauce or brandy butter because bugger there isn’t any. Or who’s doing the washing up and who’s loading the dishwasher (or NOT doing the washing up or NOT loading the dishwasher). Or who’s left all the wrapping paper in a big mess in the corner of the living room. To avoid all this chaos, divide jobs up between everyone who is coming on the day and make sure they all know EXACTLY what jobs they, and everyone else, are doing and responsible for. Getting everyone to agree to the jobs in advance makes life so much easier as they then can’t moan about it on the day.
And just as important: make sure they know what they are NOT doing. The hosts [often AKA Mum and Dad] shouldn’t be doing ALL the prepping and ALL the cooking and ALL the clearing up. There should be at least one of those things they’re exempt from – and if you still go to your parents for Christmas (like we used to before my parents were elderly and downsized to a small bungalow), then they need to understand that they shouldn’t be doing absolutely everything.
(Though if your parents are anything like mine used to be in their younger years, good luck trying to make them understand they won’t be doing one particular aspect of Christmas Day and that it’s obligatory they sit down at some point. And if that’s YOU, then make sure that YOU sit down at some point by allocating all the jobs that need doing..!)
Examples of jobs that can be split up:
- Everyone coming to dinner can bring pre-prepped or part-cooked veggies in ready-to-serve dishes (unless you’re a sado-masochist and actually like cooking that amount of different foodstuffs by yourself)
- Decide in advance exactly what time presents will be exchanged so everyone is showered, dressed and ready (unless you do Pyjama Day Christmases of course – but stick to the agreed time)
- Younger children can collect cardboard, wrapping paper and plastic packaging after presents have been opened (teaches them good habits about recycling too), we find that the little ones love doing this
- One or two people can be designated to lay the table
- One person can be in charge of getting drink-drinks, and someone else can be in charge of making teas and coffees
- Split the family into two groups: one group does all the cooking and prepping, the other does the clearing away and washing up/loading the dishwasher, etc. Everyone gets a rest this way…!
3. Bite your tongue to avoid conflict
Nothing spoils a Christmas more than squabbles or petty arguments, though they’re hard to avoid in a boiling hot, busy kitchen or when kids have gifts (or each other) to play with and fight over. Christmas isn’t the time for doing that “Well I’m just being honest” thing (I can’t bear that type of thinking at the best of times!), so if someone is really getting on your nerves I always think it’s best to bite your tongue if at all possible, have a private word or at least THINK before you speak.
Granted, depending on the circumstances, it isn’t always possible, but my thinking is: Was their behaviour/what they said REALLY that bad? Can it be put down to the stress of the day? Could that be said another day – and/or in private?
Unless you can sort things out straight away then don’t bring it up at all. Nothing harbours bad feelings in a family more than a grudge that has gone on too long. Unless it’s behaviour that repeats itself it’s best to put it down to the stress of the day and not bring it up again. Family conflicts that are borne out of pretty much nothing are not worth holding onto forever: It can destroy relationships and potentially destroy a family.
As I already mentioned – think, was it really that bad? Is the memory of a bad Christmas (something that can be applied to ANY family gathering to be honest) worth those petty squabbles…?
4. Rethink gift-giving if you or your loved ones are struggling
Oh, the cost of living crisis… what a nightmare it is for so many people – us included. We’ve been struggling income-wise for a few years now, so I’m very, very grateful that our (extended) family came up with a plan several years ago to make the buying gifts part of Christmas completely fair to everyone. Being one of four children and having lots of nieces and nephews who are now grown up with children of their own meant that the number of people we had to buy gifts for got out of hand.
For a while before that, we’d restricted the amount of money everyone’s presents could cost: we’re not talking £50 per person, we’re talking £10 per person. When we hear of families that buy presents costing three figures, we absolutely wince because even when Keith and I were much better off financially, there was NO WAY we could have afforded to spend that much on each person when there were roughly… 16? 17? people to buy for. And our nieces and nephews were teenagers or young adults and we didn’t want them spending lots of money on their aunt and uncle, if anything at all.
So even when the £10 limit per person got too much, we had to come up with another plan. This is our way of doing presents now, and we’re all happy with this… let’s call it The Method:
- Firstly – buying presents for your partner is “exempt” from The Method. We tend to open these at our respective homes anyway before the big get-together at lunchtime so we all spend as much or as little as we like between ourselves. The Method is for extended family (siblings, aunts, uncles, parents and for us, adult nieces and nephews)
- Secondly – children are also exempt so we still buy gifts for them (but again, we restrict the amount to £10-£15 or so per child. For me, the children are my great nieces and nephews – the nieces and nephews are all aged 25-35 ish so they now count as adults)
- We then allocate a VERY small amount to spend on each person: let’s say it’s £5 to make the maths simpler. Let’s also say you have 10 other adults in your family: that means that each person “receives” £50 each (as they “clubbed together” to give you money)
- So rather than physically giving each person £5, each of us is also receiving £5 from every adult so we simply buy ourselves something that we really want for £50 on one gift from the whole family
- We wrap our own gifts and open them on the day in front of everyone and see what we all bought “for each other”. So no, you don’t get 10+ presents from everyone in the family – but who needs that many things anyway?
In our family, we only allocate £3-£4 per person as we’re pretty frugal and there are so many of us. So rather than getting lots of presents from all the adults in the family we receive one “big” present from the whole family, and we like it that way. It means no one is spending more than they should, no one is embarrassed at not having enough money to spend on everyone, and everyone gets something they really want. And no one knows exactly how much your present cost: if you want to put a bit more towards your own present then you can, and no one’s the wiser.
This method means no awkwardness, no having to think of something different for 10 people every year, no worrying about how much it’s all going to cost if things are tight. Our family LOVES this way of doing things. And if you didn’t see the video I linked to in my last Things I’m Loving This Month post where Martin Lewis (the Money Saving Expert) talks about banning unnecessary Christmas presents, you really should watch it – for next year – if your spending is out of control…!
So this is my last post till after Christmas… have yourself a VERY Merry Christmas – and make sure you DO do all the things I wouldn’t do on the big day! 😉
What tips do you have for a stress-free Christmas that you want to share? Tell us in the comments!
Thanks for reading,
Linking up to… Monday: Stylish Monday (second Monday of the month), Inspire Me Monday, My Glittery Heart, On Mondays We Link Up || Tuesday: Style With a Smile, Trend Spin/Walking in Memphis in High Heels, Turning Heads Tuesday, Confident Twosday, Happy Now Blog Link Up || Wednesday: WowOnWednesday || Thursday: Chic & Stylish, Ageless Style Linkup (third Thursday of the month), || Friday: Neverending Style, Fancy Friday, On the Edge