Come again? I know, it’s still summer, and you’re still wearing shorts. On the better days. Or at least around the house. But Christmas is coming and some of us might even be looking forward to it, just a little bit. If you're not, it might be because getting organised tends to happen at the last minute and it winds up causing more agony than joy, especially if you're hosting.
You don't have to follow the traditions, though, and you can have a lot of fun with a celebration that is a bit different. The trick is to have some good ideas put into place early on, so that you don't get overwhelmed in the days leading up; and then you can enjoy the season as it comes.
Here are some ideas to spark your imagination:
Our distant ancestors set fire to things at the darkest time of the year, in order to persuade the sun to return, and that's how midwinter festivals got started. Lighting decorations are an essential part of Christmas, but you don't have to have an illuminated Santa on the roof or go full Griswald. LED lights are a good choice, combining low energy consumption with a wonderfully twinkly effect. A door wreath made entirely of LED lights looks stunning, or you could use a string of lights to outline something unusual and eco-friendly, such as a bicycle.
Traditional Christmas colours are red and green, but there are plenty of other options. How about a purple theme, for example? It's a really festive colour. You could make a fabulous garland or wreath incorporating purple glass baubles (there are some lovelies at Christmas Lights Etc.). If you need a real talking point, the same company produces an upside-down Christmas tree!
Another ancient midwinter tradition involves bringing evergreens into the house. For something slightly different, a Christmas cactus is a good way of adding colour (and humour - imagine the reactions of guests). These are easily-grown plants, native to Brazil, which naturally flower in December. Schlumbergera 'Purple Dancer' is a spectacular choice, which should keep flowering every winter if properly looked after. For the ecologically-conscious, this plant has the added property of absorbing poisonous formaldehyde from the atmosphere! As a focal decorative point, a real Christmas tree is wonderful, but an artificial one is admittedly much less trouble, and some of them also come pre-decorated if you'd rather just get it over with. You'll be forgiven.
Nothing divides families like the choice of Christmas food. On one side you have the traditionalists for whom nothing except turkey and pudding will do. On the other side are those who argue that turkey is dry and tasteless, and Christmas pudding is stodgy. If you want to do the turkey regardless, a way to please both might be to offer a unique stuffing, made with apricots or pineapple and nuts, to go with your choice of meat. A rich and festive ice-cream, whether home-made or bought in, might be more appealing to the Christmas pudding-haters. The greedy will eat both, of course – t’is the season, after all!
There are families for whom the television set is the focal point of Christmas Day, and others who cover it with a blanket. It's a good idea to get outside at some point, and even a short walk will help with the digestion of all that food. Quizzes and games are traditional but can be fun, at least if board games such as Monopoly don't get everyone fighting. For a truly memorable break from routine, though, you could consider offering your services as a volunteer.
Many charities and caring organisations need extra help over the Christmas season, and volunteering can be fun and rewarding as well as useful. A good place to start would be timebank.org.uk who are in touch with many organisations needing Christmas volunteers. They do point out, though, that charities need to plan ahead, so it's best if you offer your services in good time.
With months of planning left until the big day, there’s more than enough time for you to get cracking and make your festive season truly unique. Rather than repeating the same cycle year on year, these ideas will hopefully provide you with enough inspiration to make this Christmas truly one to remember - for the right reasons!