Friday, 23 December 2011

Ideas for Hosting an Awesome Christmas Day

Christmas day with my family is all about the food and the fun. We start early, we never watch TV (unless it's a film necessary for recovery time from excessive food induced coma), we pace the food and presents throughout the day and always get outside at some stage. I'm sure you've all got it under control, but just in case anyone needs some ideas to spice up the big day, here are EnthusedMonkey’s ingredients for an awesome Christmas, white or otherwise.

Give All Your Guests a Stocking

Make sure that everybody that wakes up in your home on Christmas morning has a stocking, regardless of age and species - even if it's just filled with little things like nuts and chocolate, and obviously carrots for the rabbit. I’m fast approaching thirty and we still have stockings, as do the cat and rabbit. Make a bit of a thing of it by jumping on a designated bed (depending on the closeness of the relationship with your guests of course, you don’t want to frighten strangers sleeping in the nude – it might be worth initiating a no nakedness rule for your guests just to be on the safe side). Or gather everybody in the living room, get the fire on, crack open the bucks fizz and play some Christmas carols whilst enjoying opening the delights in your stockings all together.

The Tradition of Treasure Hunts

My Dad started this little tradition – treasure hunts around the house for presents (I once found a keyboard in the caravan on Christmas day – it was brilliant)! They are so much fun and can involve everybody on the day. They can be as silly or as sensible as you like. I favour the poem method for clues, which involves writing a list of hiding places and then writing rhyming poems to direct your guests to the hiding spots. Have as many clues as you like. If you have more of a surprise experience rather than a gift, like tickets to an event, why not create a tailored crossword or word game like an anagram for your guests to solve which will spell out the name of their present. This year, our guests will have to guess their main presents from a series of cryptic photos. I hope you're not reading this folks...

Make Something of Christmas Morning

Christmas morning can often be lost to a haze of wrapping paper and dinner preparation. But taking a moment early on can set you up for the day. Crack open the bubbly, serve up a light mini feast for breakfast, have a carol concert in your kitchen, invite neighbours round for an aperitif, have a snow dance competition, whatever you do make  time for a little fun before you have to hide away in the kitchen until the end of time.  If you can steal half an hour, whilst the house is waking up, grab your camera and your winter woollies and head out to take some photos in the frost (or snow if you’re very lucky). Catch a few sneaky glimpses of families around their Christmas trees, not with the camera though – that would be weird and you don’t want to get arrested on Christmas day.

Get Out the House

If you're too busy in the morning, wrap the family up in thermals and set out for a walk after dinner. Whether it’s a ten minute walk around the block, admiring the festive lights if it’s after dark. Or an hour’s hike up the hill or in the woods to really work off those mince pies, it’s great to get some fresh air on the one day you are most likely to eat your body weight in glorious cooked meats and other delights. Or if you’re feeling really fruity, make like our friend and head out for a Christmas morning run.

Make an Occasion Out of the Little Things

We have a silly little tradition in our home – no matter what time of year it is. Whenever we crack open a bottle of bubbly, be it that rare and elusive bottle of real champagne or the equally exciting cheap demi sec from a French day trip, we gather everybody in the house, head outside (all weathers) and pop the cork to a great cheer of joy. We encourage everyone to keep an eye on it and whomever catches it gets to press a coin in it for good luck. So keep an eye out for the little things that go unnoticed and make a big deal about it.

Make it Yourself

I’m not saying make everything on and off the dinner table, nobody has that kind of time (do they?), but making a few key items yourself will be so much more personal and appreciated. Be it crackers, a table present, a flower arrangement, a boozy jug of cream for the plum pudding or the humble bread sauce. The personal touch never goes unnoticed. If you don’t have much time, prepare in advance (things like name place settings and personalised chocolate truffles can be made before the big day).

Ban the TV

Ok, this one is easy for us as we choose not to have terrestrial television (weird I know, judge us if you like, but it's pretty awesome - we only watch DVDs that are of interest instead, when we can steal an hour or two). For many though, entire Christmas afternoons can be lost as guests retire to the lounge, settle down in front of the TV after dinner and then wake up the following morning wondering where the evening went. But I understand this may be tricky if you have a home full of guests. Instead perhaps put out a few Christmassy themed films for all generations and people can pick what they fancy watching. Alternatively get the board games out, get the cards out, get the craft box out, get out the ingredients for mince pies, power up the Wii (providing it’s a game that everybody can play – although Lara Croft might get Grandpa all excited, it does limit other peoples involvement with single player). Whatever activity you choose to get the troops rallied up, make it fun with nibbles, drinks and prizes throughout.

Pace Out Your Presents

We all know it’s not the be all and end all of Christmas, or it shouldn’t be at least, however I still think the present giving is a fun opportunity to spoil those you love. Another tradition my Dad taught me was spacing them out (which as a child very much bothered my Mum as I whined to open another present every thirty seconds). Now I am older, I am so pleased that’s how we did it as it teaches you to appreciate and play with each of your presents as you open them and not to just move on to the next one like a ravenous paper ripping robot. A lesson you can carry with you into adulthood (am I there yet?). So we always space out our present opening throughout the day which makes the fun last so much longer. We have been known to be excitedly opening presents long into the evening.

And Your Food

This goes for food too. Traditionally we eat throughout the entire day, a tradition adopted from the French way of eating where there are several courses throughout the day, not just limited to starter, main and dessert. We also like to try new things at Christmas too, not just your traditional turkey. Throwing in a few edible surprises mixes up the day from the usual sprouts dish and customary cheeseboard, saying that I’m a massive fan of the cheeseboard. But because it’s always the last course, I very often go without because I’m always so full up. D’oh. Maybe this year will be my year…

Making new and enjoying old family traditions is always fun at this time of year, I would love to hear what yours are! Please note, due to extreme Christmas time constraints, I did not have time to take the photos I wanted for this post, so pics 4, 5, 6, 8 and 10 are courtesy of iStockphoto - I didn't want to take the credit for these beautiful images!

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