At the risk of sounding like Joey from Friends, how are you doing? Stressed out, frazzled, wondering how you’re going to fit it all in? Gliding into the festive season like a graceful swan (but paddling like mad underneath)? Or are you actually serene about the whole thing? However you feel about Christmas, remember this. In a month’s time it will be Boxing Day, which is a whisker away from it all being over.
As I write this I’ve done some Christmas shopping and we’ve had a half-hearted discussion about where we’re spending The Day Itself. I’m currently leaning towards doing what we’ve done for the last few years. Stay put and welcome whatever assortment of relatives want to come for Christmas dinner. So what are you doing for Christmas? Why am I even asking? The reason is that whilst I haven’t found the secret of a totally Zen Christmas, these days it doesn’t stress me out like it used to. In case the very idea of Christmas is turning you grey, here are a few of my stories of Christmases past that should help…
The one where we ate Boxing Day pizza
I used to put a whole heap of pressure on myself about Christmas dinner. While my husband used to do most of the cooking I was the one who did the shopping. I’d stress out about whether I’d ordered enough food. When it actually arrived I felt like a doomsday prepper.
One year we were seeing my Mum on Christmas Day then catching up with the rest of the family over the next few days. It was the first Christmas after a family bereavement so it was always going to be tough. My husband’s family were coming for Boxing Day and no-one could face cooking for a second day. So we went for pizza. It was relaxed, stress free and everyone was happy. Now we do it every year.
The one with nine people
Last Christmas we had more people for Christmas Day than I have ever cooked for. (I imagine some of you think I’m an amateur – you’re probably right.) It was only the second time I’d ever cooked Christmas dinner and we had four extra people, one of them vegan. Then I remembered that a turkey crown is designed to feed an army and my usual vegetarian main was also vegan. Once I learned how to make vegan crumble* all was well.
The main challenge with nine people isn’t feeding them or even getting them round the table. You just have to tuck your elbows in. It’s making sure that different generations aren’t falling over each other all day. Speaking of which…
The one where we went for a walk
I married a man who finds it impossible to do nothing. Admittedly, I’m also a fidget but give me a good book and I can remain stationery for hours. As the kids are also much nicer to be around when they’ve had fresh air, we spent one Christmas morning climbing a hill.
I packed sausage rolls, cheese straws and sweets to keep the kids going and off we went. We ambled up the hill, chatted to the dog walkers and enjoyed the fresh air. (And before you vomit at how idyllic it all sounds, it rained on the way back.) Still, the picnic tasted just as good in the car.
Why am I telling you this? It’s because these are some of the best Christmas memories I have and two of them came from loss. We changed things because we wanted new memories to distract us from the ones we missed. If Christmas is stressing you out, whether it’s because something is different or because it’s more of the same, try changing it.
*Use soya margarine. Yeah, that was a tough one.
For the cooks among you, here’s BBC Good Food’s 2017 guide to a stress free Christmas with some handy hints. Of course, you could go out if taking your children to a restaurant isn’t stress inducing too.