Christmas may well be the most wonderful, magical time of the year, but it’s not without stress. From buying presents for so many different people, having to wrap each one in beautiful paper (and desperately trying to find an online tutorial for wrapping), to the mad last-second dash to the supermarket the night before to pick up the forgotten cranberry sauce, a lot of time and effort goes into making that perfect Christmas.
With autumn drawing in and thoughts turning to the festive season (you may have noticed advent calendars are already making an appearance), here’s a handy guide to ensure you’re fully prepared and can enjoy the big day with the minimum amount of stress.
When it comes to present buying, it really is never too early to start. Some people are organised enough that they buy the bulk of their Christmas’s gifts in the January sales for the following Christmas, while others leave it to the very last minute, trying to grab what they can from the rapidly emptying shelves in late December. Ideally, you should start looking for inspiration around the middle of September and begin with drawing up a list of everyone you need to buy for, not forgetting the office Secret Santa.
If you’re a working professional and don’t have the time to go shopping during the week, get online and start browsing some of your favourite online retailers in your lunch break. They will often have recommendations for gifts that may spark some ideas.
If you have children, take them shopping with you at the weekend and take note of where their little eyes wander. Chances are they will drop not-so-subtle hints as you walk past toys and gadgets that take their fancy. Make a note on your phone of all these moments to help compile that Christmas list. Or you could even ask them to send you links online to what they want; kids are so tech savvy these days they might even do a better job of navigating those online shops than you.
One top tip for present gathering is to make a list of what you’ve bought for who as you’re going along – not only does it make things easier come wrapping time, but if you hang onto the list, you know you won’t be at risk of buying someone the same thing again next Christmas.
Despite email and instant messaging, many people still want to write, send and receive physical Christmas cards. It’s a lovely tradition that may be one of the only times you contact that distant cousin or that old University friend of yours.
If sending cards is for you, the first thing you need to do is check those all-important postal dates. For 2018, Royal Mail recommends Thursday 20th December for the last 1st class post deliveries, and Tuesday 18th December for 2nd class for domestic UK post.
For international post, the dates vary widely, from dates as early as September all the way to mid-December, depending on the destination. Check the Royal Mail website for a comprehensive list of all countries and prioritise your international letters first. It helps to draw up a list of everyone you’re sending cards to, to avoid missing anyone.
Alternatively, it can be a nice idea to save the money you would have spent on cards and instead donate it to a charity of your choice. A first-class stamp is around 67p, if you were to send out 50 cards, you would end up spending £33.50! Which doesn’t even include the cost of the Christmas cards themselves. Consider a festive email card for people like your work colleagues; they’re just as merry, and you’ll be able to do some real good with the money you save.
Sometimes getting away from the day-to-day planning for Christmas can be a great way to unwind and enjoy some of the festive cheer. If you’ve got the cash to spare and some holiday time to take, German Christmas markets can be a lovely way to get into the Christmas spirit – Nuremberg is famed for its Christmas market, but Berlin and Dresden are also excellent choices.
Copenhagen is another great Christmas destination if you want a winter wonderland, or you could really push the boat out and take a trip to New York to see the incredible show they put on around this time of the year. A mini break is a great chance to escape the office and get some shopping done.
If you are planning a getaway then you need to book well in advance or the fares will skyrocket and availability will go down, so get searching in September or early October to avoid disappointment.
We all put so much pressure on ourselves to make the big Christmas dinner a showstopper. Let’s face it, by the time you’ve panic-bought all that food (and it’s always too much) and slaved away in the kitchen (when you should be having fun), you’re probably in no fit state to enjoy it. Christmas should be about spending time with your family, not getting hot and flustered making bread sauce and your own Yorkshire puddings.
If you’re too busy with work, cut a few corners and take some of the stress out – order online for home delivery, and remember that frozen roast potatoes and cranberry sauce from a jar are just as good. Nobody should be expected to produce a home-made black forest gateau at the drop of a hat. Treat yourself to an upmarket supermarket dessert. The kids aren’t going to notice the food’s not home-made, and if any guests pass comment, then you know not to invite them next year.
Christmas should be a time to relax with family and maybe drink a little more than you should. Take some of the worry out by getting organised early, then you can enjoy the big day and leave the stress to Father Christmas.
If your decorations have seen better days, it might be time to invest in some new ones. The major DIY stores will start to display their Christmas stock a good couple of months before the big day, and when it comes to decoration buying, it can be best to do it in person rather than rely on the internet. Sometimes the decorations which look nice online can look cheap and tacky once they arrive.
It’s always nice to have the office decked out at the beginning of December, so decide who on your team will be responsible for stringing up the tinsel. A sparkling tree with some baubles or some festive bunting certainly wouldn’t go amiss, either.
If you’ve got kids, decoration buying is all part of the build-up and fun. It can also be a good excuse to distract them with a little creative crafting, and home-made decorations almost always end up being the most treasured. You can take advantage of all the wonderful ideas and tutorials online to discover something that your children would love to make themselves. You could try getting them to craft tree ornaments from polymer clay, or use old jam jars, glitter and some glycerine to make their very own Christmas snow globes.
Finally, there’s the big one. It’s an age-old dilemma – real or artificial? Each family and each office has their own ‘tree traditions’. Artificial Christmas trees are of a much higher quality than they were even a handful of years ago, so if you can find a nice one, it can be reused for years to come.
For others, Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without the smell of fresh pine. The British Christmas Tree Growers Association (yes, that’s a thing) say you can buy your tree from the 1st December onwards and still have it looking lush and healthy throughout the festive season. However, don’t forget to keep it watered every day, to make sure the tree will dazzle beneath those fairy lights for many weeks to come.
At Planteria, we can take the stress out of your Christmas this year by doing all of your Christmas tree arrangements for you. Our complete commercial Christmas tree services have something suitable for any space, from smaller trees for offices, right through to show-stopping centrepieces perfect for hotels, bars and large reception areas. We have a wide range of colours to choose from, real or artificial, undecorated, with lights only or fully decorated if you like. Additional extras include presents under the tree and artificial garlands and wreaths, created in our standard tree colour choices. When the festivities are over, you can even arrange to have us collect your tree after Christmas; it’s all included in our fantastic service.
Get in touch with Planteria today to find out how we can meet your needs this Christmas.