March 28, 2023

How to Plan Your Christmas Countdown

A great Christmas takes planning, and knowing the right time to put those plans into action. An organizer diary or a free online computer program like DayViewer can help you get organized for many special occasions throughout the year.  But when it comes to planning the best Christmas ever, these tools can be invaluable as they will remind you of the best times to make your preparations.

Christmas planning can start as early as Boxing Day if you are really keen, so make a note to attend the sales when decorations and other Christmas-themed items are at rock bottom prices. You can stock up for next year with those classy decor items that you couldn’t afford before Christmas, like that fabulous display Norway Spruce tree, marked down to half price.

Another plan you can put in motion early in the year is to start stocking your own Christmas hampers. Those commercial hamper schemes can end up costing you way more than the items are worth, but the idea of setting food aside is a good one. Keep a couple of large boxes in the pantry or other cool dry spot and fill them with non perishable items. Make sure what you pack has a use by date extending into next year or later. Useful items you can add to your hamper close to Christmas are shelf storage cartons of milk, coffee, sugar and tinned cream so you don’t run out.

Like the commercial hamper schemes, you can stock up on tins and packets of regular items so that you free up more shopping money for Christmas treats. When non-perishable Christmas items become available later in the year, switch to adding those. Take advantage of store specials in the lead up to Christmas, because if you leave it until the last minute, you could miss out on some things at good prices.

If you are making your own cake, pudding or fruit mince, make a baking day date in your calendar for a free weekend 6-8 weeks ahead to give the flavors time to mature. Processes like icing can be left until a week before Christmas. If you plan on making a traditional Christmas pudding, start two months in advance and store the cooked pudding in the cloth it was boiled in. It can be kept in the freezer until a few days before Christmas.

A rich fruit cake should be stored without icing in a sealed container, which can also be kept in the freezer. It should be taken out a week before Christmas, when you can apply a marzipan covering to the thawed cake. Two or three days before Christmas, make royal icing and apply over the marzipan. Decorations can be added at the same time or left until Christmas Eve. Make fruit mince at least two months ahead and store in sterilized jars in a cool dry place, and make mince pies on Christmas Eve for maximum freshness. If you live in an area where there is heat and humidity at Christmas, always store your bake ahead items and preserves in the freezer or there will be a risk of mold forming.

Plan your Christmas decorations about 6-8 weeks in advance. Make a date in your organizer to sit down uninterrupted and work out your decorating theme. Traditional, ultra modern, playful or pastel? First check your existing decorations to see if any need to be replaced or discarded. Check lights for any signs of damage to the electric leads. Discard any that look brittle or worn, and  stock up on spare batteries that may be needed for decorations and toys.

You will also need plenty of time to finish your craft projects. Stagger some of them throughout the year, and begin any major projects such as quilts or woodwork well in advance, estimating how much time you need. Your projects should be completed at least a month before Christmas so you are not caught in a last minute rush. Smaller, quicker projects can be then completed in the three weeks before Christmas.

Give yourself a deadline of at least a month ahead for getting special clothes dry cleaned, carpets cleaned and other major household preparations for the festive season. You won’t want to leave these timely chores until the last moment when everyone else decides to do them as well. Make a deadline date in your organizer and make sure to keep it.

Gift buying can be another year long project, buying appropriate gifts for family and friends when you see them rather than hoping they will still be available on Christmas Eve. Store the gifts until packaging time, with any notions you might have, such as ribbon and embellishments, to make the wrapped gift look special. In the six weeks before Christmas, also look out for generic gifts that can be wrapped and given at the last minute.

Four weeks before Christmas is a good time to check your glass, cutlery and tableware. There is still plenty of time to hit the stores and collect festive pieces and fill in the gaps. If money is tight, visit charity and thrift shops where you can pick up nice pieces for cents. Plan your table when you are certain you have all the accessories you need, but do this at least two weeks in advance.

Two weeks ahead of the big day is also the best time to are not going to run out of anything important, such as gas for the BBQ, or wood for the open fire. Stock up on things you don’t want to be running around on Christmas Eve looking for, only to find the stores have run out.

These are just a few ideas of ways you can plan your Christmas preparations in advance so you can relax and enjoy the festive season with your guests. Tailor your plans to suit the way you celebrate, making adjustments for different holidays and the kinds of preparations you need to make. The goal is always the same — to bring your friends and family together in a joyful and meaningful celebration of love.