My recent discovery that in the Philippines they start celebrating Christmas on September 1 was music to my ears. Christmas music. By Mariah Carey, naturally.
While I’m not quite ready to put the tree and decorations up just yet (I manage to restrain myself until at least December 1), I am one of those people who starts preparing for the festive season the moment the children go back to school for winter term.
The prep starts small.
I may find myself pausing a little longer by the sweet mincemeat in the home bake section of the supermarket, wondering how many jars to stock up on.
I’ll certainly be considering what kind of advent calendars to buy: chocolate for the children, Harry Potter Lego for me. Don’t judge.
I’m also a big believer in scenting my home according to the seasons. So candles with names such as Sea Salt Breeze and Beach Days are phased out to be replaced by ones called Cardigan by the Fireside and Autumn Leaves. Because if I can’t personally feel the scrunch of brown leaves underfoot, you can be sure my house will smell like them.
Ditto the hand soaps in the bathroom. It’s goodbye, Summer Nights and hello, Snickerdoodle Marshmallow Peppermint Hot Chocolate Cinnamon Candy Cane.
It’s worth noting here that I have no idea what a snickerdoodle actually is.
All of which means that from September, if you step inside my home, it’ll smell a lot like Christmas.
I admit to being appalled by those folks who leave their Christmas shopping until the very last minute, waiting for the Amazon truck to reverse up the driveway on Christmas Eve for a frenzied night of hectic wrapping and sticky-taping.
Perhaps they’re thrill chasers? The kind of people who leave a deadline until the last possible moment, then pull an all-nighter fuelled by caffeine and adrenalin.
Good luck to them, but that’s not for me. I like my Santa-hatted ducks in a row even though December is still months away.
Think I’m running away with myself? Read my start-prepping-for-Christmas-now manifesto and see if I can change your mind.
1. Things get booked up
Festive season is a busy time when people go out more, meet up with friends and have family to stay. There are also only so many tables available for brunch, be it Christmas Eve, Christmas Day or Boxing Day.
And it’s not just about dining plans. There are events and pantomimes, ballets and children’s shows in the run-up to the big day, which builds a lovely Christmassy vibe. Do I have my tickets booked already? You bet.
For Christmas Day brunch, I like to start putting out feelers now, to find out who is around and what their plans are.
Naturally, some of my friends will scoff and claim they need to get Halloween out of the way first before they even think about it, but by then, I’ll have my outdoor table, not too near the band, booked.
2. Presents may need to come from abroad
Thankfully, I’ve never found myself in a Jingle All the Way situation in which a harried Arnold Schwarzenegger spends Christmas Eve desperately trying to track down the year’s must-have toy for his son.
That’s because I start my shopping now. Well, truthfully, I start my shopping in January. Hear me out.
I keep a list in my Notes app of all the things the children mention they like or are into throughout the year. Then, when it starts edging closer to Christmas, I go through the list and pick the things they’ll love the most.
Often, these might need to come from farther afield than the UAE, so I order now to not only avoid disappointment, but also the shipping delays that are par for the course nearer Christmas.
3. Visitors require organisation
December is peak time for visitors and not just because of the festive season. The weather is lovely, the children are off school and whatever you celebrate, it’s just a great time to be with family and friends.
If I’m expecting visitors, I need to work out the bed-to-person ratio. Where will people sleep? Do I have enough duvets? Do I need to order or borrow blow-up mattresses or travel cots?
Will the children all fit in one room? Is the hand soap in the guest bathroom Snickerdoodle Marshmallow Peppermint Hot Chocolate Cinnamon Candy Cane?
Plus, there’s the food. Visitors can easily go through the entire week’s food shop in a few days, so I’m already planning menus, meals and snacks.
4. The Christmas pudding needs to be ready
Hmm, I should have started making that about six months ago, so forget about this one, maybe next year. On to …
5. The earlier you prep, the more time you have to enjoy yourself
The festive season is a busy time. But the earlier you prepare, the more time you’ll have to enjoy all the fun things.
No one wants to miss out on going to pantomime because the turkey didn’t defrost and you have to stay up all night aiming the hair dryer at it.
Likewise, the supermarket run early on Christmas Day is a little too much real world on a magical morning.
So, there you have it. Start now and by Christmas Eve you’ll have your feet up and a mince pie in hand watching a so-bad-it’s-good Netflix Christmas movie, while everyone else is running around like Schwarzenegger.