Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Simple Steps to a less complicated Christmas

I blogged recently about what I want to get out of Christmas. 

Basically, Christmas had a become a bit much for me with it's commercialism and excesses. 

I felt I was doing certain things just because I always have, or because other people do, or because it's expected. But not any more. Our Christmas is tailored to us as a family and is led by what we truly want or appreciate or feel to be right. 

The major obvious change I have made to my Christmasses, a few years ago, is dispensing with a huge Roast Turkey dinner on Christmas day. This might set your nerves jangling and I completely understand that for many people this meal IS what it's all about and that's fine. It's just important that whatever you choose to do, you do it because it's right for you. For us, the first break with tradition was that we cooked roast turkey on Christmas Eve, eating it hot that evening, and then having no cooking to do the following day. It meant we could enjoy a simple but delicious treat on Christmas day - cold meats and chutneys. For me, I actually prefer a turkey, ham and butter sandwich than a roast dinner anyway. I've often considered other options such as a big cosy casserole or just a big pile of sausage and mash. But this year we are going to enjoy a beautiful Indian curry, filled with wonderful spices and delicious aromas. What could be more festive? Even more shockingly, we're not even cooking it. We're going to buy it in advance from our very favourite Indian takeaway, one that makes our hearts sing with glee, and freeze it. Then, on Christmas day all we have to do is boil some rice, heat some Naan and lay the table.  I really can't wait. I'm not suggesting you all go and have a curry, by any means, but I do encourage you to look at what you usually do and ask yourself- "Do I love it? Does it stress me out?" And act accordingly. 

The other thing I try to avoid around Christmas is too much travelling and moving from one house to another. For me, Christmas is one of the few times in the year when I am away from work for more than just a couple of days, and I don't like to spend it stuck in a car, carting things all over the place day after day. I like to be in one place for at least a day or two and make the most of it, and then see other people as and when it fits in. Of course it's lovely to see as much of family as possible but all your siblings and in-laws are never all going to be in one place at the same time and you can feel a bit overstretched trying to fit everyone in to the Christmas period.  Some people have a three year rota, (for example, Christmas day with your parents one year, your in-laws the next and stay at home on your own the third year,) and feel this is the only way to make it fair. But sometimes it's good to just take each year as it comes and see who's going to where and whether you fit in with it or not. Wherever you happen to be, BE there. Make the most of who you are with. You may not see them for some time to come. 

Presents. There are so many ways you can shake up the present giving regime at Christmas. Sometimes we've set challenges and price limits - £5 or £10 per person, with the aim being to only buy second hand gifts or to make them yourself. Sometimes, there are just so many expectations around what people should get at Christmas. However you choose to do Christmas presents, remember never to act just upon other people's expectations but what you feel to be appropriate. It may change each year. It may be that  one person gets something a bit more expensive while you find an amazing bargain for someone else. It's OK. Trying to be fair will exhaust you.

There are plenty of lovely things to make to give as presents. If you knit or crochet, it's great to think about this on and off throughout the year. Talk to people and get recommendations for patterns that work well. Join Ravelry to access free patterns.
Think about what your family and friends would wear, use, or play with. Keep a lookout for wool in charity shops and see if it will work for the projects you want. Think about doing a wool swap with a friend. Remember you won't be able to get it all done in December. It's lovely to have a wooly project on the go to pick up during a television programme, a bus journey, a wait at the dentist. It might not be realistic to try to knit everyone a jumper but there are so many lovely things you could choose, from soft toys, tree hangings, mug warmers, scarves, socks, baby clothes, cushion covers, egg cosies or teapot cosies. Here's where I plug libraries (got to be done.) It's free and very quick to join your local library and every library will have a selection of craft books. You can also order almost any knitting book through the online library catalogue or in the branch with a member of staff.  Have a good browse to find the things that excite you. 

Then there are jams and chutneys. 

Save your jars throughout the year so you don't have a panic to scrabble around when there's a glut of apples or plums. People love recieving homemade yummy things, especially if you add a pretty fabric or paper lid and a bit of ribbon and nicely written label. Chat to people you know to get tips, and download free recipes. People with a big harvest of fruit or veg are often desperate to give some away to avoid wasting it. 

One of my favourite ideas borrowed from my lovely friend Jodie of The Yummy Mummy Manual blog is to have a "favourite sweets" discussion with your friends and find out what they love so that you can fill a pretty jam jar with stripy humbugs or jelly babies, or the dreaded sherbet Flying Saucers!  It's very inexpensive and it's a good use of any lidless jars you may have, just put a bit of pretty paper over the top and a cute tag.  

Whatever you do, don't stress about it. Don't worry. Find your own traditions, and be prepared to abandon them in years to come. 

1 comment:

  1. beautiful words and so pertinent to many Susie - especially in the current climate of belt tightening and make and mend. So much pleasure can be had from making personal gifts over time rather than doing a stressful trip into town to effectively throw money into a shop till and hope you get something that your giftees want! Here's hoping we can get all of our families to engage in a more thoughtful Christmas this year. Or next year maybe :)