Every year, the average UK household spends £740 more in December[i]. Why? To have a brilliant Christmas, of course. Planning for Christmas can be a lot of fun but it also involves a lot of planning, preparation and work. Some of us wait until the last minute and then embark on a mad rush to get everything in order, while others prefer to put a real plan together weeks and months ahead to ensure they get everything done without becoming overwhelmed.
If you’re lucky enough to be invited to Christmas dinner, you won’t have to spend days preparing this most important meal of the year. However, it’s still considerate to ask your hosts if there is something you can bring to take some of the pressure off them. If you’re hosting Christmas dinner for family and friends, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get your Christmas to-do list together to make this magical day happy for your guests and you too.
Follow our Christmas checklist to make sure you have everything ready for the most magical day of the year.
The Christmas Dinner Checklist
No meal can send a household into a frenzy of activity much more than Christmas dinner. The menu is often the result of traditions that spanned across many generations of a family as well as the family’s origins. Many recipes[ii] are passed down from one generation to the next and occasionally something new may be added.
In short, your Christmas dinner checklist should include the following:
- Decide what food and dishes you plan on serving – This must include all courses, main dishes, side dishes, sauces, desserts, etc.
- A list of beverages – alcoholic, non-alcoholic, hot as well as cold drinks
- The guest list – you absolutely must know how many people you plan on feeding to ensure you have enough quantities of all the dishes.
- Getting organised – Create a shopping list of all the ingredients you need to create this amazing meal.
- Don’t be afraid to delegate – It’s okay to ask family members to cook a particular dish or dessert for you.
The next step is to plan your preparations leading up to Christmas. Have a schedule of things that need to be done. Some people can do it all in a week or two but to prevent yourself from being overwhelmed and feeling stressed, start the planning and preparation process about 8 weeks before Christmas.
8 Weeks Before
Two months before Christmas is a considerable length of time and there is not all that much for you to do at this point. However, it’s still a good time to begin the planning process and there are a few things you can do to get the ball rolling.
- Create a schedule and try to stick to it. You can do this on a digital device, PC or even grab an ordinary notebook.
- Create a budget – you know what money is coming in but you should also take into consideration your regular expenses and, most importantly, what you can comfortably spend on food, presents, decorations, etc.
- Write a list of your intended gift recipients and some ideas on what you could get each person.
- Take a family photo for the annual family Christmas card. Digital or printed, this is a must.
7 Weeks Before
There is still not a lot that needs to be done, but there are a few details that you should attend to.
- Design your family Christmas card
- Start purchasing gifts, especially if you are ordering online as some items will take several weeks to reach you.
- Plan your holiday schedule – You can plan your Christmas preparations meticulously, but did you factor in events you will be attending during these weeks leading up to Christmas? There may be family dinners and birthdays, work or school functions, etc. Factor them all into your schedule so that you don’t fall behind with preparations.
6 Weeks Before
The first couple of weeks will pass quite uneventfully, but it’s time to make a few serious decisions.
- Meet with family to decide who will be hosting Christmas dinner.
- Discuss the menus and who can contribute to the food preparation. Let everyone choose a dish or two to make to take the pressure off the host family.
- If you will be sending Christmas cards, this is the time to put your mailing list together and ensure you have everyone’s correct address.
5 Weeks Before
As you approach Christmas month, you’ll find yourself devoting more and more time for planning and preparation. It’s also time to start getting the house ready for the festive season.
- Start cleaning your home from top to bottom. This is especially important if you are expecting guests who will be staying with you.
- Pull your Christmas decorations out of storage. Check to see if any of the ornaments need to be replaced and ensure all the Christmas lights are working.
- Put together a list of supplies you will need to decorate your home indoors and out.
- Order your Christmas cards.
4 Weeks Before
“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.”
You’re only weeks away from the big day so now it’s time to get serious. To get yourself into the Christmas spirit, it’s time to surround yourself with all things Christmas.
- Start decorating your home. Put up those special holiday curtains, garlands, etc.
- Hit the sales – Black Friday and Cyber Mondays have become popular all over the world for Christmas shoppers. This is the best time to get the rest of your gifts at discounted prices.
- Mail gifts to family and friends that live far away.
- Let family and friends who will be visiting you for the holidays know what your festive plans will entail.
- Put up the Christmas tree – If you have a faux tree in storage, great. Otherwise, it’s time to venture out and look for the perfect real tree to take it’s pride of place in your home. There are no hard or fast rules when it comes to the type of tree you have in your home and you aren’t limited to just one either. Depending on how big your home is, you can have a pre-lit Christmas tree in the foyer, the top of the staircase, the dining room or even as your main tree.
3 Weeks Before
If you’ve stuck to your Christmas essential checklist in previous weeks, well done. While the workload will increase in these final weeks, there’s still no need to get panicked and flustered. In these final weeks it is essential to stick to your schedule and at this point, it should include:
- Send those Christmas cards – you want them to reach their destinations on time.
- Put up the rest of the decorations.
- Plan or buy your holiday apparel. Christmas Eve is not the time to be rummaging through your wardrobe.
- Make or buy your Advent wreath and place it in a prominent place like the dining table.
- On the first day or Christmas, hang up the Advent Calendar and pass a few around as well.
- Start hunting down your Christmas dinner essentials. Go shopping for the bulk of the ingredients. This is not something you want to leave until the last minute when everyone is shopping.
2 Weeks Before
You’re only 14 days away from the happiest day of the year (for most people anyway). Take a deep breath and start planning for the big event. At this point you will need to take care of the following:
- If you haven’t already ordered your meats such as the Christmas ham, turkey, goose, etc. Order it now. While it is always better to buy these items a few days before so they can be cooked fresh, it’s perfectly fine to buy them in advance and freeze them to ensure you will not miss out on these must have dishes.
- Plan your exact menus – This includes the fare for Christmas Eve as well as Christmas day. Don’t forget that you will need breakfast, lunch and dinner.
- Create your cooking schedule – You can actually start cooking some of your dishes a week or two ahead of time and freeze them. This will save you precious time when the bulk of the food will need to be prepared as well as alleviate the stress.
1 Week Before
It’s crunch time. The final week before Christmas is all about the small details and some of the large ones as well.
- Cook any dishes that can be frozen or cooked a few days in advance. Things like cookies and puddings can be stored either in airtight containers or in the refrigerator.
- Pull out the Christmas carols – Whether you have a collection of CDs or a playlist, it’s time to flood the house with Christmas music to get everyone into the spirit of the season.
- Wrap the presents – Have them nicely wrapped and ready to be put under the tree. This is also a good time to hang up the Christmas stockings.
- Finish the grocery shopping – It will be a mad rush in almost every supermarket and grocery store as the week draws to a close so get the rest of your Christmas dinner essentials early in this last week to avoid the rush and disappointment of items being sold out.
By Christmas Eve, you should have everything ready for Christmas Day. While some of the dishes will still need to be cooked, you should at least have them seasoned, marinated and ready to go. This will save you precious time in the morning. As well as finalizing food preparation, you will also need to:
- Pull all of your frozen dishes from the freezer to thaw out.
- Put all the gifts under the tree.
- Place a plate of cookies and mild for Santa. Don’t forget a few carrots for the reindeer.
- Start celebrating with your special family traditions.
- Relax with family and friends as you watch classic Christmas movies.
Enjoy This Special Time
Do away with the stress of planning and preparation for Christmas day by following this Christmas essential checklist. This is a special time and you want to enjoy the time with family and friends. If Santa can make a list and check it twice, you can too so that you look forward to this wonderful time instead of dreading it.