Leave it till December? Not this year. With lockdowns, social distancing and a universal need for a bit of joy, it’s surely time to get started with the Christmas plans. Here are seven things to think about right now, so you don’t get caught out come December.
1. Do Your Christmas Shopping NOW If You Can
For obvious reasons, Christmas shopping is likely to be more fraught than usual this year. Readers in England are currently in a lockdown, with non-essential shops (like toy shops, gift shops and book shops) closed until early December. When they do reopen, shops will be in high demand. Given current social distancing guidelines, that means queues. Wherever you live, visiting the shops in December is going to come with a raft of complications.
We can do two things right now. First, consider getting gifts from your supermarket, if you’re heading there for groceries anyhow. These remain open in the English lockdown, and sell many of the items you might otherwise have gone to the high street for. The other advantage is that you’re not making additional trips, which reduces the risk of picking up or spreading infection. Just remember not to linger in the aisles (think about what you might want to buy in advance), and try not to touch anything you aren't going to buy.
Second, you might want to do most or all of your gift buying online this year. As well as being a safer option, this is also a good way to help smaller businesses who offer delivery services. The smart online shopper does so in November, as the increased demand for deliveries in December might cause delays.
2. Get The Advent Calendar Sorted
Pretty obvious one, but 1 December can easily creep up on you before you know it. You have three choices for advent calendars: buy one, make one, or reuse the one from last year. If you want to buy one, then you have plenty to choose from. The supermarkets seem to have an abundance of options this year, from themed Lego calendars (with a brickish gift each day), to reading calendars that furnish you with a tiny book each morning. The usual mix of chocolate-bearing calendars are also stocked in excelsis.
Making an advent calendar can be a lot of fun. The simplest form is to draw 24 small pictures onto half a side of A3 paper, fold it over, then cut windows into the other half. But you can also make gift-laden calendars by using small numbered boxes. Recycling last year’s calendar would get you top marks from an environmental perspective, but may not be the most popular decision with the little ones.
3. Get The Christmas Pudding Furtling
You could just buy a ready-made, or use one of the many recipes for instant Christmas pud, but the traditional way is to get things furtling in November. A good pudding made a month or so before Christmas will have time to mature, giving a richer, fruitier taste. The ‘proper’ time to do this is the penultimate Sunday in November -- this year it’s the 22nd -- which is known as Stir-up Sunday. It comes with a barrel of Victorian tradition, too. By custom, every member of the household should take a turn to stir the cake mixture, which should contain precisely 13 ingredients. You might want to avoid the tradition of baking a coin into the pud, though, unless you want a dessert imbued with grime and choking hazard.
4. Make Your Cards
The postal service is likely to be in higher demand than ever this year, with so many people getting their shopping by delivery. Getting your cards ready early would be a good move. You could even turn it into a family craft project. Cards are easy to make, and are open to creativity. Use coloured paper, foil, felt, paint, cross-stitch… whatever you like… to make a Christmas scene. Just remember that you may need a bigger envelope and more stamps if your creations get too unwieldy. Another option is to buy a proper card crafting kit. Most supermarkets stock at least one or two options, and you can easily order online.
5. Deck The Halls
You might not want to put decorations up until well into December, but it wouldn’t hurt to craft a few now. Paper chains are an old favourite -- easy for a child to make, and they have a big impact when pinned to the walls or draped round a tree. You could make an alternative nativity scene using dolls and action figures (if that’s not too sacrilegious), create homemade Santa hats, or make your own baubles by coating ping-pong balls in glitter glue. Stars your thing? Well, we’ve got 27 craft projects that might be of interest.
6. Order The Essentials
Everyone does Christmas differently. We use the same plastic tree every year and only eat vegetarian, so we avoid the fuss of sourcing a spruce, or saucing a goose. But if you are after a real Christmas tree or a fat turkey for your celebrations, then best to get your orders in as early as possible to avoid the rush.
7. Finally… DON’T Buy Your Mince Pies Yet!
Keen as a button to get my Christmas shopping done early, I almost picked up a pack of mince pies last week. My supermarket’s baking section is packed to the gunwales with the tasty pastries. But a quick glance at the best-before dates (all late November) suggests that this would be jumping the gun. Mince pies have short shelf lives, and most aren’t designed to be bought early, despite the way supermarkets are already pushing them. Better yet, make your own.
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