Are you starting to get stressed about Christmas yet? Don't. Follow these simple steps and your Christmas will be stress-free, simple as can be and perhaps even…fun?
Keep it small, stupid
We're in a pandemic. There has never been a better reason to stop your Christmas gathering from becoming a free-for-all of distant cousins, in-laws, friends-of-friends and general hangers-on.
I personally love a big Christmas (at my house on the 25th there's quite often a few people who I've never even met before) but if you want to keep things simple, keep them small. Blame the restrictions if you need to, but having a smaller group will make things a lot more manageable.
Christmas ham with summer fruit glaze
Adam Liaw's summery recipe and scoring tips.
On Good Food you're about to be swamped with new Christmas recipes (not to mention access to an archive of dozens of favourites from Christmases past).
You could go for the traditional turkey or ham with all the sides, or something a bit more casual such as a Christmas around the barbecue. Maybe make the big day vegan, or do breakfast instead of lunch.
With a smaller number likely to be coming around at Christmas this year you can afford to change things up a bit. Whatever you choose, planning your menu can happen right now, and with plenty of advance notice you can even delegate.
Christmas isn't a dinner party. Christmas is a team effort.
There's no rule saying that you have to do everything yourself. Share the workload and cost out, and do it well in advance. If you're the host, make the centrepiece yourself (maybe a ham, turkey, whole salmon etc.) but farm out the rest of the menu as much as you need.
And don't be afraid to be specific about it. A lot of people will welcome not having to think about what to cook.
Send someone a link to a salad or dessert you'd like to see as part of your Christmas spread and politely ask them to make it.
You can keep prawns frozen for months and if you're buying cooked prawns, odds are the ones you'll be lining up for an hour to buy on Christmas Eve are already in the fishmonger's freezer.
Christmas puddings can last years, and non-perishables such as Christmas crackers can sit in a cupboard for a bit. Don't try to cram everything into crunch time.
Make a list
I say this tip every year because it's so, so important. A well thought out list, stuck to the fridge with a Sharpie on a string next to it can literally save Christmas. It stops you from getting stressed because your head isn't spinning with all the what-ifs – it's all literally written down in front of you.
Plus, there are lots of folks around on Christmas Day asking you what they can do and if you can point them to a list of tasks, it makes the task of delegation that much easier.
You should always have "wash dishes" on the list and never cross it out. There are always dishes to do and if anyone asks you how they can help, if nothing else they can do a bit of that.
Adam Liaw's salt and brown sugar cookies are a good go-to gift for unexpected guests (recipe here). Photo: William Meppem
The spare present
A box of biscuits, some fancy soaps, maybe a cheap set of Lego for a kid – having a spare present or two in the cupboard is always a good plan for Christmas. You never know when it will come in handy.
This goes for Christmas entertaining, too. An extra couple of bottles of wine in the cupboard or a few more boxes of crackers for cheese are always a good idea. You never know when you'll need them.
You're not a venue
This tip is more of a way of thinking than a practical piece of advice. Don't think of yourself as a restaurant, there to serve a bunch of customers. Christmas isn't a dinner party and your job is not to impress anyone.
Christmas is a team effort and a time when people want to come together to do something together. You're not there to wait hand and foot on a bunch of guests. You're a general, responsible for marshalling your troops, and if it's a success you all got there together.