A Countdown To Christmas
As the festive season approaches it's time to start preparing for Christmas day. This guide to Christmas preparation was written by my late husband back when we ran an online newspaper. He was British and so this is written from the perspective of a British person preparing for Christmas. However, the basic concepts can be followed for Christmas planning around the world.
by Marc Anderson (1996)
Year Round Tip: Having made your card list, you can use it year after year, and see at a glance whom you need to send cards to, whom you can cross off because they didn't send you one last year, who has passed on or is no longer on speaking terms with you, and no doubt each year your list will be extended to include new-found friends and colleagues who will need a card.
Keep the list safely with your Christmas cards and it will be to hand whenever you want it.
In November: You should have bought any wrapping-paper, ribbons, gift-tags and sellotape that you will need before they are unobtainable in a few weeks' time! Also consider buying them right after Christmas when they are reduced in price and save them up for the next year.
Buy calendars for the coming new year, too, before all the best have gone. Many people don't consider buying a new one until the New Year is fast approaching, and by then it is too late.
December 1st: Order your fresh Christmas turkey, goose or capons.
If you find that you need to write hundreds, then write one long general newsletter explaining all the major events and then photocopy it.
It may not be as personal, but if you apologise for your newsletter and say that it simply was not possible to write to everyone, people will understand.
If you sign it and write a couple of individual lines at the bottom, such as 'Hope we will be able to get to see each other in the New Year', it will be quite acceptable, and people will get to look forward to receiving your annual newsletter.
You can even make your forcemeat and stuffings for Christmas Day and freeze them.
Include your Christmas card and newsletter in the parcel too.
7th: Buy those little extras that are always needed over Christmas but are often difficult to get when you remember them at the last minute.
This will jog anyone's memory if they have accidentally missed you off their list!
Put the marzipan or almond paste on your Christmas cake.
With any excess icing, make little sweets by adding chocolate powder or peppermint essence. It's often worth making just a little extra so that you can actually make some - they are always popular.
Any additional marzipan can be pushed inside dates to produce stuffed dates. A little box of sweets and stuffed dates can be quite an acceptable gift for a neighbour, the newspaper boy, the old man who helps you with the garden, especially if presented attractively in a box.
Make the job easier by writing out a label for each person you have bought a present for.
Lay out the presents with a label for each. It is then simply a case of wrapping the present and sticking on the labels as you go.
It may be the season of peace and goodwill, but trespassers are not likely to be forgiven.
Dust off your old baubles and dig out the tinsel.
Give it a little colour with a Christmas wreath on the door.
Useful though artificial trees may be, nothing can replace that wonderful pine aroma that a real tree gives off although in today;'s centrally-heated homes, real trees do tend to shed their needles very quickly and if you have pets or young children in the house, those needles can hurt!.
When you buy your tree, make sure that it has roots. Not only will you be able to plant the tree later, but you will have less trouble with falling pine needles too.
Buy a small tree and put it in a large tub of earth. Place a few stones in the bottom first to give good drainage, and make certain that the tree is watered whilst in the house over Christmas.
On Twelfth Night, after you have removed the tree decorations, stand the tub outside.
The tree should grow quite happily and can be brought back into the house next Christmas.
If you give the tree 'plant food' during the spring and keep the soil moist during hot summer months, it should survive.
You can take out as few or as many pies as you wish over the coming weeks, and if warmed for ten minutes in the oven, they taste like freshly baked pies.
Most milkmen supply soft drinks at this time of year, which will relieve you of one more task.
Form yourself into as large a group as possible, with friends and especially children.
There are a few golden rules about the art of carol singing that should be adhered to:
Make sure you all know the words and the tunes of the carols you intend to sing. Practice beforehand.
A small, well-rehearsed repertoire is better than attempting to sing every carol ever written. Give value for money and allow each house to hear at least one carol all the way through.
However, don't labour the point by giving a complete concert! Ring each doorbell only once. Even if you know that the occupants are hiding behind the curtain, don't knock the door down. Always appear grateful for the money put in your collecting tin, even if it is only 3p. Don't stop mid-carol or take the money and run!
Avoid the temptation to go into people's homes, even if invited. The offer of a warm mince pie and a hot toddy may sound tempting, but it's not the object of the exercise.
Wrap up warm and enjoy yourself.
If you collect money for charity, do see that the money reaches its intended destination. This is, after all, the season of goodwill ..
During the meal the candles can be lit.
1/2 Ib of unsalted butter
Mix in the lemon rind and lemon juice. Some people prefer the taste of orange rind and orange juice, especially if you are using Grand Marnier.
Finally, add the brandy a little at a time, beating the mixture all the time.
Put the butter in a dish and cover with tinfoil and store in the refrigerator until Christmas Day.
Do any last minute food shopping.
This is necessary if it is a very large bird and is going to need many hours' cooking.
If you are feeling particularly energetic, you can prepare your vegetables and leave them in saucepans covered with cold salted water.
If you lay the table ready for Christmas dinner before you go to bed, you can have a nice relaxing Christmas morning opening your presents whilst the dinner cooks itself.
Take any mince pies etc. out of the deep freeze, ready for tomorrow.
Hang up the stockings and sleep tight ready for the big day!