Christmas can either be the best time of year or an annual nightmare waiting to happen. Podcasters and authors Claire Isaac and Lisa Sinclair share their best tips for keeping your sanity in-tact over the silly season.
As midlife women with a fair few Christmases under our elasticated belts, we know a thing or two about surviving the festive season before it becomes the “festering” season.
We don’t want to come over all Scrooge on you, but bah our humbug, there are some rules to follow if you want to get through unscathed.
Take a lesson or two from our Christmases past and you may just keep this year’s celebrations from tipping you over the tinsel-covered edge.
Keep it real
If people feel under pressure in the lead-up to an ordinary Christmas, that’s going to be magnified by a billion after the year we’ve had. The urge to go all out creating magical memories will be hard to push back against. But don’t do it. We’re all exhausted, overwhelmed and hanging on by a thread.
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If you thought fighting over toilet roll in March was madness, apply that reasoning to the queues for the fish market as people desperately stock up on prawns. Seek less stressful options: our local butcher supplies Crystal Bay prawns. Yes, they’re twice the price but what price to our sanity?
Don’t bite off more turkey than you can chew
Yes it’s been an annus horribilis to end all, erm, annuses, but that doesn’t mean you need to finish it with a freaking gala. Just because borders are opening and you CAN see people you’ve not seen for the rest of the year, doesn’t mean you should host them all for Christmas.
If the thought of the whole family descending on you for Christmas Day fills you with anxiety, make other arrangements. A picnic, a hotel buffet, or simply disappearing without a trace may all be acceptable options.
Play the immunity card
This baby is the ultimate excuse: use it to get out of events you don’t want to attend; reunions with people you’d rather not see; lunches with $150 set menus (excluding alcohol).
Blame it on the possibility of compromised immunity (yours, or people you plan to hang out with). No one can argue with that and you get off scot-free.
Take the easy option
Yes, home-made pavlova is infinitely more delicious than store-bought, but whack enough fresh cream and fruit on top and no-one will care less by that stage in the day.
Ditto real trees: they look lovely but the needles require endless vacuuming. Choose fibre-optic and claim it’s kitsch. See also turkey: buy the good stuff from David Jones deli and forgo cranking up the oven.
Don’t drink too much
There’s nothing like the festive spirit (and by that we mean a very festive spirit, like pink gin…) but you can get too much of a good thing, and no one likes a crier at Christmas. Do the sensible thing we all know but few ever do – alternate the water and wine and remember that nodding off at the dinner table isn’t big or clever.
Don’t drink THAT
It’s never a good time to open that bottle of absinthe in the back of the cupboard. Absinthe does not make the heart grow fonder. It makes you fight over ridiculous things like whether a building is art deco or not. And trust us, that’s a true story from our Christmas past.
Don’t start an argument over Uno… or anything for that matter!
As we keep saying, this year has been tough, so don’t add to the drama when your nephew puts a hotel on Mayfair, right?
Let him have his real estate moment in the sun, stop nitpicking when your elderly mother doesn’t want pavlova and if your significant other wants to watch the Queen’s speech in the middle of dinner, for Santa’s (and sanity’s) sake, just go with it. If you can ho ho ho your way through the day, you will feel a ho-ho-whole lot better about it later.
Step away from the recipe pages
If you don’t want to feel emotionally blackmailed into creating this year’s iconic ice-cream cake, or the show-stopping centrepiece every table needs, stick with your tried and tested family favourites.
Pick two nice proteins, three salads, a dessert and the only must-have in our book: a cracking cheese platter wheeled out at 7pm.
Also essential: great bread for sandwiches to mop up leftovers. Play your cards right and you won’t have to cook for at least two days after the big one.
Claire Isaac and Lisa Sinclair are the co-hosts of the Playing Devil’s Avocado podcast, and co-authors of the exceptional Christmas gift How Not to Live Your Best Life, out now through Are Media books (RRP $19.99).