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Countdown to Christmas
Without good planning, Christmas can be a time of confused last-minute activity. Start your countdown to Christmas six weeks in advance so that everyone - including you - can enjoy the festive season.
Six weeks to go
- Write down your Christmas ideas in a notebook, including your Christmas card list, gift list and guest list.
- Make a food plan for the Christmas season. What special meals will you be catering for? Are you hosting a party, a candlelit Christmas dinner, or a barbecue on the beach? Flick through your favourite recipes for ideas and write a shopping list of the items you'll need.
- Start making your own (non-perishable) presents and decorations.
Five weeks to go
- Avoid the crowds in the supermarket by purchasing non-perishables, such as ingredients for baking. Don't forget the cranberry sauce, mint sauce, fruit mince and almond paste - they will be harder to find as Christmas nears.
- Buy your Christmas cards and stamps, or (if you are really crafty) start making your own.
- Start looking for the perfect Christmas gifts now to avoid the Christmas Eve madness.
- Send out invitations to any parties or gatherings. December is a popular time for parties, so get in early.
- Assess your party supplies. Do you have enough glasses, cutlery, crockery and chairs? Investigate hiring additional equipment if needed.
- Put your creative mind to work - think about your table setting. Will you need to make anything specially? Now is the time to start.
- Don't forget to buy (or make) advent calendars for the kids so that they can start the countdown on 1 December.
Four weeks to go
- Post parcels to friends and family overseas.
- Purchase your gift wrapping supplies: paper, ribbon, tape and glue, as well as gift tags.
- Make your Christmas cake or pudding. Or, for a clever cheat, buy them and drizzle with rum and brandy for extra richness.
- If you have an artificial tree, now is the time to dust off the Christmas decorations and test the Christmas lights. Repair the decorations that need some tender care, and splash out on some gorgeous new baubles to brighten your tree. You should traditionally put your tree up 12 days before Christmas, and take it down 12 days after - but most people put up their tree when the mood takes them.
Three weeks to go
- Order your Christmas turkey, fish, seafood and ham.
- Set aside a day (or two) to make handmade presents - Christmas cookies and mini plum puddings, gingerbread men and shortbreads, brandied fruits and decanted oils and vinegars are old favourites.
Two weeks to go
- Check out your drinks supply. Make sure you have enough alcohol, as well as mixers and fruit juices. Consider making your own special cocktail to wow your guests.
- Purchase emergency nibbles for unexpected visitors. Nuts, biscuits and chocolates work a treat.
- Start to make any freezable dishes for parties or Christmas Day.
- Check your linen and wash anything that needs freshening up.
- Marshall the troops for a cleaning blitz so that the house is sparkling clean for when guests arrive.
- Help the kids to make their own Christmas craft such as wreaths, bonbons, cards and tree decorations.
One week to go
- If you are buying a real Christmas tree, now is the time to purchase and decorate it.
- Decorate the house with festive cheer.
- Finish your Christmas shopping - both for gifts and food.
- Pick up the turkey and ham - don't forget frozen turkey can take two to three days to thaw in a fridge.
- Fill lots of trays with ice cubes so you can keep the Christmas cocktails coming!
- Rush out to the shops (just like everyone else) to get those last minute purchases.
- Pick up your pre-ordered seafood.
- Stuff your turkey and finish any other Christmas food preparations.
- Put any remaining gifts under the tree.
- Put out Santa's favourite beverage with a piece of cake. Don't forget water and carrots for the reindeer. Make sure they disappear before the kids wake up on Christmas morning.
- Have fun playing Santa, and then relax with an eggnog in front of the Christmas carols, confident that everything will go smoothly tomorrow!
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