Admittedly not all my ingredients for a calm Christmas will apply to everyone, but this is how it works here at the Quince Tree.
Ingredients for a calm Christmas;
A very small extended family.
Children who are no longer primary school age.
A fondness for cooking.
A few simple family traditions which don't involve going anywhere or spending any money.
An abundance of alcohol.
My small family means I only buy presents for six people and four of them live in my house. It also means I don't have to cater for a large amount of people.
Having older children means I don't have the teacher presents thing or the Christmas play/concert torture. Also, although Father Christmas is lovely for a few years, when you are still up at 2am waiting for them to fall asleep before you can fill their stockings knowing that they will be awake again at 5am you can't help looking forward to the time when they no longer believe.
Having no job means no ghastly Christmas parties, secret Santas or exchanging cards with people you see everyday. And of course it means I can complete all the special Christmas cooking at leisure.
Having a computer means I can do all my Christmas shopping in November online and have it all safely delivered well before Christmas Eve. It also means I can do all my food shopping online by placing orders well in advance. I have two placed at the moment; one for this Thursday, one for next Wednesday, these can be edited until the evening before delivery. The turkey will be collected from the farm on the 23rd. You may say that internet shopping is responsible for the demise of small independent shops and you would be right, but I can't help but think it the most wonderful, wonderful thing, staying away from shops in December is the most calming thing you can do.
Enjoying cooking means that I simply don't see tasks like making mince pies as stressful.
We have only have a few family traditions which include our Advent calendar, lighting a candle on each Sunday in Advent, buying a real tree two weeks before Christmas (to ensure getting a good one), putting it in the garden for a week before bringing it in and decorating it. Bushels of sausage rolls must be made on Christmas Eve, a ham must be baked for Christmas Eve supper and during the week before Christmas florentines and mince pies must be plentiful.
Alcohol - needs no explanation.
Christmas things I don't do
Not doing the following helps keep things calm and stress-free.
Buy my kids everything they desire. Luckily they have a pretty sensible idea of what constitutes a Christmas present ie nothing with an 'i in front of it'. George has requested a Warhammer model and a computer game, Tom some new headphones and a computer game, and Katie has asked for books, dvds and make up (God help me).
Send cards to everyone I know. I send to people I don't see very often as a way of keeping in touch.
Make lots of handcrafted gifts. This is because only one person on my list will appreciate them. I am however making a couple of edible stocking fillers for the children this year.
Make lots of handcrafted decorations. I already have decorations. I like looking at lovely pictures of other people's creations though.
Have colour co-ordinated decorations.
Listen to Christmas songs such as 'Last Christmas', 'Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas time' etc. Not going into shops helps enormously with this.
Go to my husband's work Christmas 'do' which this year was a Grease themed dinner dance. 'You Are Joking!' I said to him when he revealed this treat 'You want me to dress up as a Pink Lady and spend an evening with people I don't know and with whom I will have nothing in common when I could be at home watching The Killing with a glass of red and my comfy trousers on?' He didn't want to go either.
Decorate the outside of our house with lights. Because we won't see them and everyone else in the street decorates theirs. Remember that scene in Scrooged where Frank is taken back to his childhood home and his house is the only one not lit up? That's us.
Christmas things I do do
Watch Christmassy films, but not Elf, The Santa Claus or anything else vomit-inducing.
Listen to beautiful Christmas music such as this
Transform our front room into a pine-scented sparklefest of coloured lights and glittering baubles - but not until next weekend.
Bring in Yuletide evergreens to remind us of continued life during the winter darkness.
Light lots of candles to remind us that the sun will return.
Cook lots of delicious things to eat.
Eat and drink a bit too much.
Enjoy giving and receiving presents.
Have a lovely. lovely time.