Survive or Enjoy Christmas? Create your own personal Christmas recipe

What’s your first reaction to the thought of Christmas approaching? Is it “Oof…”, “Woohoo!” or “Argh!”

Given the festive season, I sat down earlier with the intention of writing a Christmas Survival Guide. Then I started thinking about the meaning behind ‘survival’ and looked up its definition. What leapt out at me was all about enduring, coping, waiting for something to pass, and getting through to other end. Since when did Christmas become a test, an ordeal or an unpleasant ritual you have to pass to proceed onto the next year? Why settle for just surviving? Wouldn’t it make so much more sense to enjoy it?

Of course, it’s not usually Christmas itself that conjures up nightmares, it’s many of the things we end up associating with it — fighting crowds at shops and traffic on the road, rushing around trying to get everything (or rather the right things) bought, wrapped, posted and cooked in time, juggling work deadlines as well as household budgets and keeping the peace with family dramas and domestic disputes, to mention a few.

So what’s the difference between surviving and enjoying Christmas? Or more precisely, what would it take for you to enjoy Christmas?

Perfecting your own personal recipe for Christmas

This time of the year can be a perfectionist’s dream and worst nightmare — a time that’s highlighted, worthy of special attention, where we’re encouraged from all corners to pursue the perfect Christmas dinner, find the perfect present, decorate the perfect home… It’s the perfect excuse to go all out and aim for perfection in everything, and that’s where the nightmare tends to take over.

So this year, instead of weighing up the merits between Delia and Nigella’s Christmas recipes, I have decided to create my own recipe — and not just for the food, but for my entire Christmas. How about you? Fancy creating a Christmas around you for a change, rather than one that’s dictated by external expectations of what ‘should’ be?

What do you want to create?

Let’s face it, cooking a three-course gourmet meal is very different to rustling up a bit of beans on toast, so we need to first decide what it is we want to achieve.

So what do you want to create? What makes a meaningful Christmas for you, and what are your absolute must-haves?

Christmas holds a different meaning for each of us. For some it could be a time for family and companionship, for others faith and community. What’s filled with raucous celebration for some could well be a time of quiet reflection or even thoughtful remembrance for others.

It’s easy to get carried away with the Santa lists and shopping lists, but it’s the personal meanings we hold that make Christmas — or indeed any other time — special.

For me, I’d like a generous portion of laughter and excitement for starters, followed by a centrepiece of faith, family and celebration, cocooned in a relaxed, warm home, finished with a cosy time for two, with a sprinkle of reflection and lashings of relaxation, and I intend to slowly savour every second of it.

How about you? What kind of Christmas do you want to create? What are your handful of the most important and meaningful things that you absolutely ‘must have’ this Christmas? Now with those things at the top of your list, everything else can fall in line or indeed in some cases, off the list completely.

Using the right tools for the right job

Having the right tools and environment makes any job easier, and if you’ve ever tried to cook in someone else’s house you’ll probably have developed a new appreciation for your own kitchen and utensils.

We are all blessed with personal gifts which to a great extent we can use to our detriment or benefit. For example, we may have a creative talent that manifests an abundance of tasks and jobs, organising ourselves into overwhelm, whilst pouring all our insight, inspiration and thoughtfulness into the gifts we choose for our loved ones.

In the meantime, our heads become cluttered with a million things to remember, our shoulders weighed down by the sheer amount there is to do (never mind the shopping bags) and our brains are about as sharp as a teaspoon.

All respectable chefs look after their kitchen and keep their knives sharp. Likewise, as you prepare to follow your own personal recipe for Christmas, how well looked after are your tools — or more precisely you? What are you doing to replenish your creativity, sharpen your incisiveness and polish your general wellbeing?

How about being thoughtful to yourself, creating some space for yourself to enjoy your Christmas the way you really want to? Perhaps you can turn your organisation skills towards your guests, inspire some teamwork and community spirit, maybe even creatively turn it into a game by getting everyone to pick a job out of the hat?

This year I’m looking after my teenage nephews the day before Christmas Eve. They don’t know it yet, but they’ll be helping my three year old bake and decorate Christmas cookies — delegating, childminding and cooking — multitasking at its finest!

A note about ingredients

The best recipes are usually created by experimenting rather than planning. So make sure you stop to taste your Christmas in the making this year, and adapt as you go along, picking your own magical ingredients.

If you’d like some ideas to start with, some of mine include simplicity, laughter, good company, space, serenity, thanksgiving and spontaneity.

Happy Cooking and Happy Christmas!

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