Checklist for a stress-free Christmas: from pre-ordering trees to emergency gifts

Avoid turning into the Grinch this festive season with a definitive guide on how to stay organised throughout

Breaking down Christmas preparations into manageable chunks is one simple trick to stay ahead. Photo: Debby Hudson / Unsplash
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Christmas, as a whole, can seem like an insurmountable mountain to be climbed. There’s the gift-buying (and wrapping), the food to buy and prepare and the events to keep track of, not to mention hosting visiting friends and family.

Making a list (and checking it twice!) will help you keep track of everything that needs to be done. By dividing up the festive season into smaller, manageable chunks, and starting early, you can enjoy a stress-free Christmas. Here’s how …

To do early November: pre-order turkey and tree

Planning ahead reduces stress and anxiety leading to better productivity and allows you to carve out time for relaxation, even indulgence, as the big day draws closer.

Pre-ordering is a great way to start ticking things off your list and ensures you get the tree, cut of meat or popular toys you want before they sell out.

For real trees, Kibsons, Oleander and Ace Hardware are all taking online pre-orders for their firs now and Spinneys is taking orders from November 20, with deliveries commencing towards the end of the month. Oleander is also offering a range of festive wreaths made from real fir cut-offs.

“We would encourage customers to order early to avoid missing out on the tree of their preference, as demand is high,” says Daniel Cabral at Kibsons.

For those who opt for an artificial tree, Ikea, Carrefour and Ace all have options in stock to buy now, with the added bonus that they’re boxed and can be stored away until you’re ready to put them up.

Turkeys can also be pre-ordered, making it another thing that can be checked off your list early. “Turkeys do sell out,” says Peter Green, director of operations at Jones the Grocer. “Peak collection days such as Christmas Day are already looking hectic, and they usually sell out by early December.”

Mid to late November: lights, tickets, action

Shows and events are typically booked up quickly across the UAE. If you have a specific festive brunch, restaurant date, theatre trip or experience in mind, it’s best to get it locked in before the December rush. Take some time to go online and see what events you want to enjoy, in particular those with limited time and spaces such as visits to Santa.

If you like to decorate the outside of your house for the festive season, dig out your lights to check they’re working before you put them up. The same goes for tree lights, which can also sell out closer to Christmas. If last year’s ones aren’t working, you have plenty of time to get them fixed or order new ones. And don’t forget to buy your advent calendars, too.

It is also a good time to have declutter in anticipation of visitors and new Christmas gifts.

Four weeks to go: menu preparation and letters to Santa

If you like to decorate in early December, it’s time to dust off the decorations and go to town on the house and tree.

While there are plenty of online stores to buy additional decorations, it’s more fun to head to the shops and soak up the festive atmosphere at the mall, so make a few hours in your schedule to go and be Christmassy.

If you’re sending out Christmas cards, doing so in the first week of December gives them plenty of time to arrive, while e-cards can be scheduled to be sent out at a date of your choosing.

Early December is a great time to plan menus for big meals such as Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Finalise numbers for main mealtimes, but don’t forget the other days in between, plus plenty of snacks and drinks.

Now that festive season is in full swing, don’t forget to send those letters to Santa.

It’s also a good idea to finish your Christmas gift shopping by next week, as well as order gifts online for friends and family in other countries.

Three weeks to go: it's a wrap

Make sure you have plenty of different-sized batteries for Christmas Day toys as well as wrapping paper, bows and tags. Evenings can be spent with a mug of hot chocolate and Christmas movies while wrapping gifts.

Make sure you have enough cutlery, dishes and glassware for any guests you’re hosting, and prepare spare bedrooms and bathrooms. If you have visitors from your home country coming for Christmas, make a list of any items you’re homesick for and ask them to buy them and pack them in their suitcase. Also, check international delivery dates to the UAE in case it’s easier to have any items sent to friends and family to bring with them.

It's also a good idea to begin your meal preparation as early as possible and store in the freezer ahead of time.

Two weeks to go: final snacks and emergency presents

While food preparation continues, with two weeks to go, order snacks and party food to be delivered and stored in the freezer. Try to make as many dishes in advance as possible.

It’s also a good idea to make sure you have a few emergency gifts wrapped and ready in case you receive an unexpected present and need to give one in return. Items such as candles, food hamper items and gift cards are handy one-size-fits-all ideas.

One week to go: Netflix and veg

With so many streaming platforms, deciding what to watch can sometimes take hours of indecision.

Take time to scroll and add festive movies and shows to your list, so you have plenty of entertainment to hand. Also, dig out board games for family evenings and for visitors.

In the days before Christmas, do your vegetable shopping and order any other perishables to be stored in the fridge.

By the final week, you’ll have been so well organised that there should be time for festive drinks with friends, gingerbread making with children and maybe taking in a show or two.

Oh, and on Christmas Eve don’t forget to leave carrots for the reindeers and a mince pie for you know who …

Updated: December 13, 2022, 10:41 AM