Christmas makes me smile. It’s like no other time of year – a celebration, an anticipation. It’s an excuse to push the boat out and make an effort, decorate the home outside and in, sharing time with loved ones, eating, making merry, laughing and cracking terrible jokes. Somehow life always seems too busy to enjoy these rituals at any other time of the year. It’s a tradition that embraces generations young and old, and welcomes timeless customs passed on through each and every family. In this spirit, Waitrose and I have touched upon on some of my favourite festivities, from decorating the home and tree, to finding perfect stocking fillers and setting tables, plus gift-wrapping ideas. I wish you all a very merry and stress-free Christmas and here’s to the joys of yuletide preparations.
Decorating the tree
Our tree decorations typically have a mix and match feel: each one has a story about where it was bought, found or gifted. That’s the beauty of it all, mixing old and new and not sticking to one colour scheme. Each year we try something different – sometimes we have simple wooden Scandi-type decorations, both authentic and traditional. Other years we might go for a more fanciful tree with glass baubles, decorative birds and fruits. Edible decorations always work well, as long as the dogs can’t reach them. I’m not a huge fan of modern LED lights that have a bright white feel, I like warmer lights with more of a yellow glow. Similarly tinsel doesn’t really do it for me as it feels a bit heavy.
I love to make festive garlands by threading cranberries and popcorn onto string. When Christmas is over, hang them in the garden for the birds. Start by layering on the lights. Don’t hold back – the more twinkling lights the better. Then begin hanging decorations evenly around the tree. Slowly build up making sure there’s an even balance of colour and shapes to fill the tree. I find walking away to do something else, then coming back to see the tree helps – you’ll immediately notice what is missing. Then add the angel as a finishing touch.
Setting the Christmas table
Before you start decorating your table see how much room you have to work with by laying a few dummy place settings with cutlery, glasses and plates. This will determine how elaborate you can go with your centrepiece – maybe a table wreath filled with a cluster of candles of varying heights. Tall, elegant candlesticks may work better depending on the layout – just make sure when adding height you don’t obscure your guests’ view. Napkin decorations and beautiful place settings will show you’ve spent time thinking about your guests. Get your children to help tie Christmas ribbon around rolled napkins, tuck in a sprig of fresh rosemary for a lovely festive touch, or use gardener’s twine for an inexpensive eco-friendly touch. Bakers can make place settings with homemade ginger biscuits iced with names.