Four weeks to Christmas planning success

Taking the stress out of planning Christmas ...
Taking the stress out of planning Christmas ... Photo: Getty Images

When I was a kid Christmas just happened. All the fabulous food and the neatly wrapped gifts and the general good cheer just fell out of Santa’s sack on Christmas Eve. Mum and Dad pretended to bustle around looking flustered but I knew it was all for show. Planning Christmas merely required two parts elf dust and one shake of a reindeer’s tale.

Discovering the truth about Christmas planning was almost as disappointing as uncovering Santa’s real identity. A great Christmas requires a degree of organisation. Just enough to keep you feeling in control and excited, but not so much that six months is given over to stressing about what coloured napkins will go with a freshly basted turkey.

The following four-week plan will keep your preparations on track without leaving you overwhelmed or stressed. 

Week One:

  1. Write and send Christmas cards  - guarantee each card is packed with heart-felt festive wishes by writing yours with a nip of brandy and Michael Buble’s Christmas album.
  2. Order online shopping – perfect gift shopping for both the lazy and the super organised. Set aside an evening so it’s done in one hit with plenty of time for delivery.
  3. Bake Christmas Cake/Pudding – last year I made my cake the week before Christmas and it was as dry as the Aussie outback. After baking, feed the cake a teaspoon of whiskey or brandy every 2-3 days to ensure it’s lovely and moist on the day.
  4. Check important dates – the run up to Christmas is jam packed with activities. Highlight the important ones so you don’t end up watching the Bold and the Beautiful instead of your kids’ Christmas play.
  5. Write a present list and fix a budget – this makes sure no one gets left with an empty stocking and helps to keep the spending in check.

Week Two:

  1. Buy the tree – there are some terrific imitation trees available, but if you opt for a live one now is a good time to buy. Any earlier and it will deliver a truckload of needles on your floor before December 25.
  2. Decorate the house – the fun bit! Assuming you don’t end up arguing about the best place to stick tinsel and whether the tree should be topped by an angel or a star (or in our house, Darth Vader).
  3. Order meat and seafood – this is an easy one to tick off the list and avoids the risk of having to serve chicken nuggets for Christmas lunch.
  4. Buy in-demand gifts – nobody wants a bawling child for Christmas so if Santa has promised anything that’s on every other child’s list, try and purchase well in advance.
  5. Stock up on non-perishables – there are often sales and bulk-buy offers on around this time. Make use of them for canned and packet goods as well as alcohol and soft drink.

Week Three:

  1. What’s happening on Christmas day? – this is a good time to double check arrangements to avoid the ‘what do you mean you’re going to your mother-in-law’s? I distinctly remember you saying you were coming to mine this year’ conversation. 
  2. Delegate tasks – once everyone is clear that they are coming to your place, see if people can bring a plate of nibbles or finger food to help out.
  3. Buy wrapping paper and tags – always purchase after you’ve finished the present buying. That way you don’t leave yourself short and have to compensate with old issues of Women’s Weekly.
  4. Check cutlery and seating needs – if you’re short on chairs and plates see if you can borrow or hire any extras. NB. Extra crockery and tableware must not match – it’s Christmas law that at least one guest has to eat off random plates and sit on the director’s chair with a wonky leg.
  5. Decide table decorations – dig out decorations from previous years and check Pintrest for cute craft ideas. A Christmas table should look magical but not resign your family to dry bread and water for the next month.

Week Four:

  1. Clear out the fridge – at least 25% of my fridge consists of half-eaten jars of pickles, dips and leftovers (all in various states of decomposition). Clear out any rubbish from the fridge to make room for the masses of Christmas goodies and cold meats. 
  2. Make sure toys and gadgets have batteries – even worse than a bawling child on Christmas day is a sulky grown-up who can’t operate their new hand-held hair trimmer because someone forgot the batteries. 
  3. Pre-prepare – as much as possible. Mince pies, shortbread, pastries – bake as much as you can now to ease the workload on Christmas day.
  4. Final wrapping – wrap the last presents and store well out of reach from ingenious present hunters.
  5. Shop for fresh ingredients – complete the final shop. Fresh fruit and dairy can be bought now. Hit the supermarket at daybreak to avoid any fighting over the last carton of custard.

And you’re done! Now where did I leave that brandy bottle ...

Do you have any Christmas planning tips that help get you through the festive season with ease? Let us know in the comments below.