• How to survive Christmas Day

    Even if you love everything about the festivities, from Christmas carolling to dressing the tree, the day itself is full of potential drama – from an undercooked turkey to a serious family bust up. Here are our tips for a stress-free Christmas Day.

    Keep your cool

    While some people are quite happy with their own company, others thrive on social gatherings. Anyone spending Christmas with a big family needs breathing space so why not go for a walk after Christmas lunch either alone, with the dog, or with just one or two family members. It will help you walk off your lunch and have a proper catch up. It’s also a great excuse to miss the washing up!

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    If you have the opposite problem and are dreading spending Christmas alone, why not volunteer at a shelter on Christmas Day or look for volunteer organisations for visiting the elderly. Around half a million older people spend Christmas alone every year so they are likely to be glad of a visit.

    You could also embrace technology and get on Skype. You can chat with friends or family members and wish them a Merry Christmas, whether they are in the next town or half way round the world.

    Ready, steady, cook!

    Co-ordinating timings for the biggest meal of the year is tricky as everything will need cooking at different temperatures and for different lengths of time.

    Write out a plan a week or two ahead listing the various elements of Christmas lunch and work out the timings. Prepare dishes in advance to save time on the day, for example, potatoes can be peeled and left in a pan of water overnight ready for boiling and roasting the following day.

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    Remember that meat will taste better if it is given time to relax after cooking and before serving.

    If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the food preparation, don’t put pressure on yourself to spend hours stuffing mushrooms for starters and making your Christmas pudding from scratch.

    Setting the table

    Get the kids to help dress the dining table the night before. It will keep them occupied and help tire them out so that they are less likely to wake you at dawn.

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    Make sure you have a big enough dining table and enough dining chairs – order extra dining chairs online if you are running short – so that everyone can enjoy their meal in comfort.

    Take the weight off

    Don’t rush around all day and forget to enjoy yourself. It would be a shame to end the day feeling that you haven’t had a chance to chat with family members you don’t often see, simply because you’ve spent the whole day slaving over a hot stove.

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    When it comes to Christmas dinner, consider whether a seating plan could help the day go more smoothly. Feuding siblings or in-laws can be seated across the other side of the dining table, making it less likely they’ll come to blows. Prime a diplomatic family member to steer the conversation away from controversial subjects.

    All wrapped up

    If a present isn't quite what you were hoping for, accept it graciously and change it quietly later. Some people are hard to buy for – and whether you realise it or not, you may be one of them. Equally, don’t sulk for the rest of the day if you spent hours trudging round the shops to find a particular computer game/toy/item of clothing for a loved one and it turns out to be the wrong one or two sizes out.

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    A child’s view

    For many people, watching kids open their presents is the highlight of Christmas. However, remember that excitable overtired children can be challenging for your other guests. Make sure you have plenty of activities to keep the children occupied and be sensitive to family members who aren't used to dealing with the energy and noise levels of the average five year old.

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    At the same time, it’s easy to get jaded when you’ve seen several decades of Christmas Days come and go, but if you can rediscover a little of the magic you felt as a child on Christmas morning, you’ll enjoy the day a lot more.