Angel and Blume


Inside Story - December Issue

Why having a Happy Christmas can sometimes seem a bit of a challenge. 



"Imagine the situation where a friend or family member rings you and says ‘I’m organising a bit of a get together, would you like to come to lunch, it would be great to see you?’ – Generally speaking, that sounds like quite a nice and normal invitation. Imagine then that they follow it up with ‘Stay a few days if you like; just so you know, I am clearing out the supermarket before you arrive and on the big day, I will be rising at dawn to ensure that our lunch is the finest in the County. Did I also mention that I will be decorating the house with celebratory knick-knacks and spending a fortune on gifts for everyone?’ At any other time of the year, this might sound more than a tiny bit odd, but apparently it’s very normal behaviour at Christmas, if your friends and family love you at all.


It doesn’t help either that most festive merchandise is geared towards the notion that everyone must be universally happy because it is Christmas. I personally feel that wine glasses with ‘THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR’ printed on them feels more like an obligation than a sentimental seasonal reference, and removes the possibility that there have been any other times of the year that could have rivalled the current Yuletide.


Back in October, I was an advert from a joinery company bearing the headline ‘Get your new staircase for Christmas!’ Now unless you are currently without any type of staircase and harbour hopes of serving Christmas lunch on an upper floor, I would say that getting a new staircase in for December 25th is not essential. In fact, I would go so far as to say that it is far better left for next year when there isn’t a nationally self-imposed two week holiday looming which, let’s be honest, may encourage you into making a less than rational decision on a major joinery item.


In my business (actually in my personal life too, although that is whole other story) I feel the full impact of the Christmas deadline pressure. However much we say to our customers that their new sofa is better delivered in the New Year, when there is significantly less danger of watching your nearest and dearest mash Quality Street into your brand new upholstery, they very often put their own good sense aside and succumb to the temptation to try to make their houses presentably perfect for Christmas Day.


So, if we want to get some perspective for the festive season but also want to create a happy home for our visitors and for ourselves, what can we do in the run up to Christmas Day that doesn’t involve having your staircase replaced or ordering beverage glasses that you feel misrepresent your life? Here are a few of my top tips to preparing for Christmas that I hope don’t result in chronic tiredness (and grumpiness) on the big day but embrace the idea you have made an effort for your loved ones, and yourself, during the countdown to Christmas:

  1. Clear up. Unless you are a supremely tidy and organised person already (if so, skip immediately to point 3), there are likely to be a number of clearing up jobs in the house that you have been putting off all year. Getting these done will not only make the house more presentable but will make you feel more in control (and happily, a tiny bit smug). The pre-Christmas list I have made for myself is to (a) contend with my household in-tray rather than hiding it in the cupboard so my Dad won’t see the unopened post and (rightly) criticise me on Christmas morning leading to the first of the seasonal contretemps (b) sort out my linen cupboard and iron any (all) offending items and (c) sort through the pile of magazines on my kitchen table, read them (aka skim through them looking at the pictures) then get rid of them. I know it is not a spectacular list but I have been meaning to get all these done since last Christmas so simply achieving them will feel like an early Christmas present to myself.
  2. Small odd jobs. Much as with point one, it is the in-control factor that will add to the presentation of your house and yourself this Christmas. I have decided I am going to (a) replace any light bulbs that have blown or currently have a too low wattage bulb because that was all I had at the time (b) get a simple glass screen installed above the fireplace to stop it filling the room with smoke when the wind is in the wrong direction (c) get a large fitted door mat for the back door and joyfully get rid of the small hopeless one that is there currently and (d) finally get a friend’s lampshade re-covered and thus out of the house (it’s not a present, I said I would sort this out for her in September).
  3. Check your lighting. Christmas falls just days after the shortest day of the year so this is the time to make sure your artificial lighting is right. Lighting makes the world of difference and too little or too much is going to spoil the look of your home. I’m not talking about getting an electrician in on Christmas Eve, I’m talking about employing a new lamp here or there, installing fairy lights in the garden (enchanting at any time of the year) or moving the lighting you already have into the right place to get the best effect. Trust me, it will make a huge difference.
  4. Decorate for yourself. Ask yourself honestly, do you enjoy putting up a tree and decorating it? Do you like having it in your house? (There’s no right or wrong answer here, it is genuinely about what works for you). If you do, go for it. If not, then scale back. A well laid table, some simple evergreen on the mantelpiece, a few well-placed candles (but keep an eye on them, they really do cause house fires) will make the Christmas period seem special and if your guests can’t cope without tinsel everywhere including the loos, I know a great pub just off Mill Road that they could go for a drink to get their hit of Santa Vomit (the pub’s expression, not mine).
  5. Make progress on the plans for your house. Finally, if you want to make more major changes to your house (a new staircase or sofa, for example), this might be the time to consider your options; do a little bit of internet or on-foot research and have a deadline-free ponder whilst also considering what offers might be available in the new year sales. Whatever you do, make sure you have fabulous pictures of your impending purchases with which to taunt your guests on Christmas Day.

Here’s hoping for a relaxing and stress free Christmas for us all!"


An Article by Cate Burren for Cambridge Magazine