The tree is decorated, the party invites are flooding in and your gift list is gradually getting ticked off. But whether you’re one of those people for whom December is filled with magic and wonder, or you’re more of a Scrooge, there’s still a lot to think about this festive season.
As with every occasion that’s all about catching up with friends and family, there are stresses and strains as well as fun and frolics. But with a few simple rules for Yule, you too can be the life of the celebrations this year…
Your diary is your friend
Few months of the year come with more opportunity for celebration than December. From the end of year office party to the New Year’s Eve knees up, there are plenty of opportunities to let your hair down – and your guard.
The key here is moderation. There’s no need to RSVP yes to every invite if it’s going to leave you needing a fortnight in bed come January 1st – nor is there any point in trying to cram three social occasions into one hectic evening.
Decide who you need to see and what your priorities are, then plan accordingly. If you’re traveling, leave yourself at least a few free nights before you leave to get yourself organised. You might miss out on a party – but it’s a great deal better than missing your flight.
Be a savvy Santa
It’s easy to go crazy with the spending at this time of year, but you need to set yourself some limits. After all, there’s no point in buying your husband those golf clubs he’s been lusting after if you’ve got a 20kg luggage allowance and a twelve-hour flight they’ll have to get through.
Be clever with your gift giving. Make a list, set yourself a budget and stick to it. Neither bank balance nor suitcase size should act as a barrier to getting a thoughtful gift for all those you want to treat. Showing you’ve paid attention to a person’s likes and dislikes and will go a lot further than simply melting your credit card.
Lastly, remember that Santa doesn’t re-gift. The fallout from someone sussing that you’ve wrapped them a hand-me-down gift is far worse than the savings you could achieve from doing so. Don’t risk it.
Be a Great guest
If you’re lucky enough to be celebrating at a friend or family member’s home, it pays to think ahead. How can you make sure they’re enjoying their day as much as you are?
Arrive bearing gifts and ask in advance whether you can assist in food preparation, even if it’s just bringing a cake or some nibbles. Do offer to help out, but also know when it’s time to exit the kitchen and help in some other way by laying the table or entertaining younger guests.
Try to throw yourself into the celebrations, whether it’s taking part in a board game or joining in with an afternoon stroll - after all, end of year celebrations are not the time to be under-enthusiastic. Don’t overindulge or overstay your welcome. If there are sleeping children, for goodness sake make sure you leave quietly.
If you’re staying over, be sensitive to the fact you’re in their home and try not to add too much to their workload. Even if it’s just stripping the bed linen before you leave, a little consideration will go a long way to keeping the peace.
Be a helpful host
Similarly, if you’ve invited people over to your house, resist the urge to take on too much and leave yourself tied to the oven all day. Your guests have come to spend time with you and if they wanted a five-star gourmet experience, they’d probably have booked one. Remember they’re there for the pleasure of your company and try to keep stress levels to a minimum.
While home-cooked food will always be appreciated, there’s no shame in inviting everyone to bring a side dish, a starter or a dessert. Or let someone else do the hard work for you: from the UAE’s five star hotels to restaurant and café kitchens, there’s no shortage of pay and collect catering options. A delicious dinner, minimal preparation and a serious reduction in washing up? It’s a no-brainer.