Picture the scene. It’s Christmas afternoon. Everyone has opened their presents, eaten a delicious lunch and half of them are snoring in front of the Queen’s speech while the other half are working their way through the sherry.
You, meanwhile, are standing in the kitchen working your way through a huge pile of dirty dishes.
You didn’t really sleep well last night and got up early to put the baby pteradactyl in the oven so your family and guests could enjoy a perfect meal at one o’clock.
Your nails are wrecked, there’s an oil spot on your lovely dry-clean only dress and frankly you’d really just like to have a bit of a cry.
Let’s rewrite the scene
Here’s a controversial idea. It doesn’t have to be like that. Now picture this. It’s Christmas evening and the family are putting the dishes in the dishwasher. Everyone helped clear the table after a delicious meal and the Dr Who Christmas special is recording.
You are snatching a few precious moments with a cup of tea while others take on some of the jobs. You had a bath and a cuppa in the afternoon while the turkey was cooking. The pudding was steaming and, having prepared the veg in advance, your partner was able to put them on to cook at the appropriate time.
Like mother like daughter
As young women many of us watched our mothers struggling to stage the perfect Christmas. The traditions that surround Christmas become so important they develop a life of their own. The tree has to have certain baubles on it and the mistletoe goes here and only here…
Lunch will be at precisely 13.30 and we must all watch the Queen’s speech. We picked up some of the tasks to make Christmas a little easier on mum and gradually all those habits that leave us exhausted and miserable on Christmas morning became ours.
These days, many people are working extra hours in the run up to the big day, so have less time to prepare and more to do than usual. In the quest for the perfect day we often over spend and leave ourselves in debt or penury or both come the New Year.
How about taking the pledge: this year I will enjoy Christmas!
Sounds revolutionary but it is possible. However, if you’re going to enjoy it something has to give and that thing is your perfectionism.
How about looking at your family traditions and asking yourself which ones work? If the kids are in their teens you don’t need to wait till 3am to sneak into their rooms to leave gifts when they’re asleep. Instruct them that Santa will make a fly by at 11pm and if lights are on he might not leave anything!
Consider changing the time of the Christmas feast. A few years ago, we decided that as we always have our main meal in the evening there was no reason we should have to start the cooking at 8am on this festive day.
We sit listening to festive carols the night before and prepare the veg so on Christmas Day it’s ready to cook without palava. We bring the turkey in the night before to warm to room temperature.
The only real preparation that has to be done is the fresh stuffing. The turkey goes in the oven and I go and sink into a warm bath with my Christmas book.
Some things are unavoidable. If you work in retail the chances are you’ll be doing extra hours and working later. If this is the case you really need to make sure you’re taking extra care of yourself.
Sounds crazy, I know, but how about booking a massage a week before Christmas. Go and see the lady with the magic hands and feel the tension leak out of your shoulders, leaving you ready to take on the festivities.
If you’re going to lots of parties on top of the extra work make sure you’re drinking plenty of water and consider leaving a couple of the less exciting ones earlier. Keep ‘em keen. Be a woman of mystery!
And last but not least – delegate. We all assume that if someone offers to help that they don’t really mean it. But take them at their word. Ask them to put the empty wrapping in a bin bag and put it out of sight or in the bin.
Do vegetables need chopping and peeling? There’s another job. Clear the table, hoover the cat – if it needs doing someone else can do it!
It’s true Uncle Geoffrey may not be sous chef standard when it comes to chopping swede. But who cares? It’s unlikely that anyone but you will notice.
You’re not running a five-star hotel, you’re inviting loved ones into your home. There is no reason these guests should have a free ride. So crack open the prosecco a little early, share it around and get everyone on board the Christmas Express. They will enjoy everything so much more if you join them to watch the Dr Who Christmas special with a smile on your face.