Do you look forward to a cosy Christmas, with all the trimmings and traditions, surrounded by family, bingeing on telly and chocolates, or does the whole thing make you shout “bah humbug” as you resign yourself to an over-commercialised and costly month?
Fear not, whatever your take on Christmas, we are here to give you some inspiration for an alternative take on all things Christmas.
The big Christmas Tree debate
It’s almost as traditional as Turkey to hold the real or artificial tree debate, each year. Real trees make a mess in your car, need disposing of on Twelfth Night, and drop pine needles on the carpet, which you will still be finding on Good Friday. On the other hand, nipping to the local garden centre and choosing your tree is a lovely ritual, real trees fill the house with the smell of Christmas, and there are collection and disposal schemes in most parts of the UK to help with the chore of disposal.
Fighting the corner for the artificial tree is the undeniable fact that they are less of a faff, and there are some very pretty examples out there, and over time they are likely to be cheaper. However, with storage space at a premium in park and holiday homes, a real tree may just the tip the scales.
But there is one more compelling reason. It may come as a surprise to find that real trees are considerably better for the environment. A 6.5ft artificial tree has a carbon footprint which equates to approximately 40kg of greenhouse gas emissions – at least twice that of a real tree destined for landfill and nearly 10 times that of a real tree which is burnt at the end of Christmas.
If you do opt for a real tree, source one that is locally produced, or at least grown in the UK with an FSC certification to avoid transport emissions.
According to Mike Childs at Friends of the Earth “Locally grown real trees are the best option if you can find one”
But there is a third way – why not make a tree from something different altogether. Here are some ideas to inspire you, courtesy of woodz.co.
Sometimes it feels like Christmas is as complex as Brexit. Endless negotiations which can’t possibly please everyone! Shall we have turkey, shall we brine it, shall we follow Nigella, Jamie or the Hairy Bikers recipe? Shall we just buy something ready-made or shall we go completely off-piste and not have a bird at all. That’s just the start of it, shall we watch the Queens Speech before we eat, shall we have prosecco, cava or champagne, shall we have Christmas pudding or not, shall we have crackers, dare I wear a Christmas Jumper?
The BBC (bbcgoodfood.com) have some mouth-watering alternatives and recipes for confident Christmas cooks, especially if you only have a few mouths to feed and want to push the boat out. Why not try marmalade glazed duck or the positively gastronomic stuffed saddle of venison with prunes & brioche?
But if the feasting and festivities are really not your thing, then Saga (saga.co.uk) has some interesting ideas for those brave enough to stick to their guns and dodge the calorific and commercial onslaught at Christmas. Here are some of their suggestions
Take a dip in the sea
On Christmas Day, up and down the country, people in seaside towns and villages don Santa hats, fancy dress costumes and, more sensibly, wetsuits, and race into the sea (or the Serpentine Lake in London) – all to raise money for charity. Last year in Bournemouth, around 700 participants went for a Christmas Day dip. Are you brave enough to get wet this year?
Lend a helping hand
Charities need volunteers all year round, but especially so at Christmas, so why not offer to lend a hand, perhaps helping Crisis at Christmas serve lunch on the 25th to homeless people in Birmingham, Edinburgh, London, Newcastle and Oxford. Or spend a few hours with an elderly person who otherwise would be alone on Christmas Day. Find out more at Community Christmas.
Find a four-legged friend
If on Christmas Day you always like to head outdoors for a bit of fresh air, don’t set off alone – offer to walk a friend or neighbour’s dog. Routine can go out the window at Christmas time, so dog owners will eagerly hand over the lead. And you can bet the dog will be keen to escape excitable children, loud crackers and a bustling house too.
Visit a crowd-free tourist attraction
The stone circle at Avebury, Lulworth Cove on Dorset’s Jurassic coast, the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland – World Heritage Sites are often busy all year round, but not on Christmas Day. Spend time exploring an area without the crowds and marvel that you can actually take photos of these spectacular sights without anyone else being in them.
Do some gardening
Garlic is best planted in late autumn or early winter, so if you haven’t already put some cloves in the ground, Christmas Day is the ideal time to be in the garden. Rhubarb crowns can also be planted in well-prepared soil, as can strawberry plants. If you’re more of a flower lover, then pop some tulip bulbs in pots – they can be planted right up until Christmas and still flower well in the spring.
Go on a tour
London, like most cities, can be eerily quiet on Christmas morning, but it’s a perfect time to wander around city streets. One option is to go on a guided walking tour, but take note, some set off as Big Ben chimes 6.00 am! Christmas Day bus tours are also available, not only in the capital but to further afield destinations such as Oxford, Canterbury and Windsor Castle.
Spoil yourself at home
Don’t want to leave the house? Then enjoy an alternative Christmas Day in the comfort of your own home. Indulge and celebrate doing whatever you choose – pamper yourself in the bath, read a bestseller from cover to cover, watch all eight episodes of ITV’s Victoria in one sitting.
Nothing wrong with a novelty
If like most of us the pull of Yuletide traditions is irresistible here are a few gift ideas, you may not have seen before.
Perfect for grandchildren personalisedgiftsshop.co.uk has these personalised hessian sacks to stuff with stocking fillers. For mixologists and cocktail lovers give this retro rainbow shaker from Amazon a go?
A One Day Landscape Photography Course available from lastminute.com might kick start a hobby which will last for years
Ride the gin craze on this magic carpet of a spirit Zymurgorium Turkish Delight Gin Liqueur available from John Lewis. This Turkish Delight flavoured gin will tick a lot of boxes. With aromatic rose petals and light juniper, it’ll go down a treat at cocktail hour on Christmas Day.
For lovers of the Beatles these I Am The Eggman and I Am The Walrus Egg Cups are available from Abbey Road Studios.
Keep an eye out for neighbours
With so much of a build-up and the anticipation of seeing friends and families at Christmas, it’s all too easy to forget that some neighbours might not be so lucky and be spending time on their own. Please keep an eye on the friends and neighbours on your park and involve them where you can!
And finally – the Christmas Jumper!