It was only September when I first spotted the Christmas chocolates in stores. This last week saw all the major UK department stores release their Christmas adverts, all with the cuteness of penguins and the semblance of jolly festive cheer. Trust me, three weeks from now no television in this great United Kingdom will be free from the viewer’s muting or eye roll as the little penguin eats his little fish finger from a sweet little boy.
Christmas starts in September and by mid November we are sick of the mince pies and Christmas cake,s and are annoyed by hearing of the toys the kiddies MUST have in order to simply breathe…
Thing is, some of us actually like Christmas. And we’re tired of the great consumer circus ruining it for us. This is a guide to take the sting out of the festive period and to try instill a little resilience towards the onslaught of jingles and gaudy colours.
Given most South Africans based in London are most likely escaping the fridge mud island for sunny Cape Town shores or sunny Jo’burg afternoons, the majority of people won’t need my first tip. But for those without the finances or air-miles to allow the retreat down south, you still might wish to send gifts home. So that means either filling all of your friends bags with all of your loot and buying an extra bag on their luggage allowance — usually a little over £60 on most airlines — or you need to face the dreaded post office to send the post by the required time in order of having a hope of the gifts arriving.
Mom won’t be best pleased not getting her Christmas gift especially if her baby will not be at the family table. So this week confirm when the last dates for sending gifts and cards are to South Africa.
Get your Christmastainment ready
This might be the most important. Set your Sky+ boxes, or PVR equivalent boxes, to record all of your favourite shows between now and Christmas. This will cut out “Sleigh Bells Ringing” and all the other adverts that cause tinnitus for the majority of the population. That way you can skip over them and avoid the constant din of the reminded in six million months time it is indeed Christmas.
The most important aspect of a stress free Christmas is planning. Start by deciding how you will be spending your festive time. Will you be hosting an orphan’s Christmas and inviting everyone you know’ who is away from home? Will you happily be saving your Netflix queued list for the 24th December so it lasts you until after boxing day, with your only company as a bucket of Quality streets and a ready meal? Will you be travelling somewhere? These are important things to start thinking about, or you’ll be eating whatever’s left on Tesco’s shelf and watching something animated and probably musical.
Once you have decided, book your travel now. Travel is always booked solid over Christmas, and car rentals are difficult to arrange close to the time. So book it this week. If you are staying home and need the chocolates, buy them while they are all reduced lower in price than last year. If you are hosting, start thinking about what you’ll need for guests.
Gift shopping. One of the main reason people hate Christmas. You’re usually faced with three types of people: the smug buyers who have competed all of their Christmas shopping by Halloween, and look down on you when you say you haven’t started yet. The panic buyers who are out on Christmas day elbowing little old ladies out the way to get the very last of the must have child’s toy in the store, or the entirely apathetic who always buys rubbish gifts and could care less.
Everyone swears every year that they will be the first type of person, and be able to sit back and relax a week before. It rarely works out that way though. So start your list of who are you buying for. What will you budget be for them? What will you buy them?
Three easy rules to start the gift process
Do they need it?
Will they use it?
Will they love it?
If you answer all three as a yes, you buy it instantly . If you don’t know, it is always better to ask. There is nothing worse than getting vouchers for boots where you most likely don’t want anything, but then have £30 to spend and end up buying your face wash and lunches in late January. Although that might well be more appreciated then a bath salt kit.
A lot of people enjoy buying online. Gifts that you don’t need to fight the masses in order to buy. Great ideas are cinema ticket vouchers, magazine subscriptions, Amazon vouchers and the bog standard vouchers at most high street stores.
A lot of people — especially the more frugal — like to make Christmas gifts. If you’re not a great baker or crafter, this is in many cases not an option. Your gift will simply be punishment.
One of the nicest and surprisingly easy gifts to make are liquors. Recipes for lemoncello, limecello, orangecello, pompelmocello, “grapefruit and rosemary”cello and numerous others abound. All take about two to three weeks to mature and flavour so now is a good time to start buying up all that cheap vodka to start your “cellos”. If you have used a bottle of two of the Fentiman’s Rose Lemonade, save the bottles! They are perfect for small bottles of your chosen “cello” to give as gifts to friends.
These tickets sell out quickly and to your shock and possibly horror, you may already be too late to get good seats for a lot of the performances. Nonetheless, look for one decent festive outing to enjoy the Christmas period. Carols by candle light are always festive and, if you don’t want to buy tickets, most churches leading up to Christmas have free carol singing events, so do some research and see what is happening in your area. Just take into account the travel on Christmas Eve if you do not live near the event. Nothing worse than a long walk home in the freezing cold with no buses or trains running to get you home.
Now that your actual festive period is planned, your Christmas shopping list is written, you have sent off mom and dad’s Christmas gifts and cards, watched an episode of American Horror Story without the sickly sweet happy penguin and are enjoying a “Christmas Cookie” and a Turkish Delight G&T, you can now sit back and congratulate yourself on being a lot further than a week ago.
So have another cocktail and pat yourself on the back. You might not have had it all done by Halloween, but you won’t be elbowing that poor old lady out of your way on Christmas Eve. Well, hopefully!
Featured photo by Shutterstock