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December 26

A Day To: Revisit your gifts. Enjoy them, savour them, in a way you were perhaps unable to amid the flurry of Christmas Day activity. Have a ‘show and tell’ session with your family and friends because you’ve probably missed half of what they were given and vice versa. Later, make a note of who gave you what ready for writing your thank you cards. Get eating those turkey sandwiches by the pile. And, if you really must, check out a few online sales – although we recommend taking a breather on the buying front for a couple of days.

Did you know…Boxing Day might be referred to in Ireland as Wren Day? St. Stephen is the Protomartyr – that is the first Christian martyr – who was stoned to death for his beliefs around 34 A.D. St. Stephen’s Day is December 26th, also known as the Feast of Stephen as mentioned in the carol “Good King Wenceslas”. Legend has it that a wren betrayed St. Stephen to his killers. In Ireland, a tradition developed to catch and kill a wren on December 26th. Sometimes it was kept alive, perhaps in a net attached to a pitchfork, and carried from house to house as donations were requested. The money might be used for a village dance – a Wren Ball – in January. These killers or collectors are Wrenboys and December 26th is Wren Day. The tradition nowadays involves ‘hunting’ a fake wren and putting it on top of a decorated pole.

          December 27

A Day To: Take it easy. If you can, sleep late. Plan nothing taxing: at most, a bracing walk. Don’t cook today. Eat cold cuts, cheese and chutneys and dive headlong into all those festive food treats you have received as gifts. If you have been playing Christmas host, book lunch out with family and friends. Let someone else do the cooking and clearing up for a day at least.

December 28

A Day To: Check out the sales. So many shops go into sale pre-Christmas these days that the frisson of excitement that once used to exist for shoppers hoping for remarkable Boxing Day or New Year bargains has Christmas Sale 148948478lessened. Nonetheless, sales there are and bargains there will be. Queuing up in the early hours of Boxing Day morning to bag the steal of the century still has appeal for many. But How to Christmas is more about a leisurely online search of sale items. If you find an irresistible deal, buy away and have it delivered – or use our good friend ‘click and collect’. If you absolutely have to see the items before purchasing, then December 28-30 are better days to tackle the mall than Boxing Day or even December 27. You’ll have let the overwhelming crowds tail off somewhat and there might even be a car park space with your name on it. Before you make that trip, just allow yourself a quiet cup of coffee and think it through. Are there any goods you need so badly – any savings you need to make so desperately – that won’t still be there next week? And, in the worst-case scenario, if you missed out on them next week would life be too tough to face? No? Then put some more coffee on, get out the Christmas cake and watch that new DVD instead. If regret later kicks in, dismiss it with an online purchase and the equilibrium will be restored.

December 29

A Day To: Write thank you cards for received Christmas gifts and for any festive parties or dinners you may have attended. Make sure you have the cards ready to post within the next week. There are always e-card options, too.

December 30

A Day To: Start a new diary. Transfer birthdays and other significant anniversaries and dates to your new diary. Remember, in particular, not to forget new birthdays for any fresh arrivals in your circle of family and friends in the last year. Highlight significant events. Are you a Wimbledon tennis fan in need of blocking off that fortnight in your diary? When are you likely to book leave at work? When are the school holidays? When is Easter? This is a good way to whet your appetite for the year to come.

Party-Popper

New Year’s Eve

A Day To: Bring in the New Year with an air of positivity. Whatever your plans, however full on or low-key, enjoy the last day of the year by reflecting back on the last 12 months – accentuating the positive. We all say how time flies, but if you flick through the last year’s diary you will see how much you actually managed to accomplish. We pack so food drink new year_126201074much into our lives these days, that’s maybe why we feel as if time is passing us by. Sometimes we just need to pause to appreciate the fullness of life. There will likely have been trying and upsetting times along the way, but today is again the perfect day for reminding yourself how strong you have been in the face of adversity and to resolve that however bad the year now departing, the next will be better – maybe your most magical yet.

Do you believe in luck? Then decide whom you’ll choose for first-footing duties. The first person to enter your home on New Year’s Day is said to be the bringer of good fortune. Visit our New Year Celebrations page for more ideas on festivities for tonight and tomorrow.

Did you know…first-foot has its origins in Scottish and Northern English folklore and traditionally the first-footer brought gifts such as bread, salt, coal, coins and drink to represent a year to come full of food, warmth, prosperity and good cheer? It is acceptable in many places for the first-footer to be a member of the household – as long as they are outside the house at the stroke of midnight and then enter.

New Year’s Day

A Day To: Toast the New Year with family and friends. New Year’s Day is ideal for a leisurely lunch with loved ones, regardless of how you said goodbye to the old year last night. If you prefer to stay home after a drink-fuelled New Year’s Eve, but still like the idea of socialising on this first holiday of the fresh year, then host an open house gathering and ask friends and family to drop by to help you finish off the food in the Christmas pantry. For those of you returning to work tomorrow (and, indeed, all of us), savour one last day of indulgence and relaxation before thinking about diets, alcohol-free months and gym memberships.

Party-Popper

January 2

A Day To: Perhaps download the pieces of music you have enjoyed over the holiday season. You know the thing: “I love that track, who sings it? I must get that.” Time escapes you and the track doesn’t find its way onto your MP3 player or smartphone for months, if ever. Maybe you bought an album for someone, half hoping a copy might find its way into your Christmas stocking – and it didn’t. Now is the time to treat yourself.

January 3

A Day To: Put away the Christmas crockery. The festive mugs, plates and platters have done their job for another year so today’s a good day to pack them away until next November. Even if you have some hosting to do over the next few days, it’s best to go back to your usual crockery now and ease back on the ‘all things Christmas’ attitude. Plus, it’s one less chore when you are packing away decorations in a few days.

Plan for next year’s Christmas. Don’t be alarmed. This isn’t as crazy as it first reads. It’s simply this: there are things you have experienced, made, attended, hosted, cooked and bought this festive season that might not have quite fitted in to the perfect Christmas you had in mind? There is no such thing as ‘the ideal Christmas’ – trust us on this. But don’t we all, hand on hearts, like to make a good stab at achieving the impossible? So each year, there are tweaks we can make to help ensure each coming Christmas is somehow better than the last. But it is so important to do that now, while everything is fresh in your mind. Many of the smaller things you want to tweak for next Christmas will be a blur if you leave it until October. Make your notes today.

And while you’re at it, maybe you were so thrilled by some of the gifts you received that you like the idea of purchasing such items for people on your list next year. Find out where you can buy the items and make a note.

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January 4

A Day To: Consider the three pieces of music you may vote for in the Classic FM Hall of Fame later this month. The all-classical musical radio station compiles the top 300 pieces of classical music, as voted for by the public, and reveals the countdown over Easter weekend. Voting is open from early in the New Year, so why not get involved by selecting your favourite three pieces and vote online at classicfm.com. Maybe there is a Christmas track that has given you great pleasure over recent weeks and you feel deserves your consideration.

Also, do you have any January birthdays you need to remember? Write your list for gifts, cards and stamps and don’t let a loved one get lost in the haze of post-Christmas blues. If you have already left it too late to post a card, turn to jacquielawson.com online and order a beautiful e-card.

January 5

A Day To: Host a Twelfth Night party. There has long been confusion over the date of Twelfth Night, a time when people across the UK take down their Christmas decorations. Twelfth Night is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “the evening of the 5th of January, preceding Twelfth Day, the eve of Epiphany, formerly the last day of the Christmas festivities and observed as a time of merrymaking.”

We at How to Christmas don’t believe in the superstition that to leave your decorations up beyond Twelfth Night is unlucky. Heck, there was a time in Britain they were left up until Candlemas in early February. Put your decorations up when you want and take them down when you want. Whatever makes you happy. However, we do advocate the idea of hosting or attending a Twelfth Night party. They hail back to medieval and Tudor times and decorations boxed_76578763were especially popular in the Victorian era, with rich and sometimes lavish Twelfth Cakes at the heart of the feasting. Why not resurrect the tradition and have one last Christmas hurrah, surrounded by the tree, lights and decorations. Dismantle the decorations, then, on the day of January 6th.

Alternatively, make the 5th the night you take down the decorations, surrounded by friends. They can help with the onerous and sad task, while you feed and water them. Yes, a Twelfth Night party with a difference – but with festive drinks and delicious food on the menu and the warmth of friends all around.

Did you know…since 1795, London’s Drury Lane Theatre has observed the tradition of Twelfth Cake on Twelfth Night? English actor Robert Baddeley’s will made a bequest of £3-a-year to annually provide cake and wine for the company in residence on January 5th – and it remains a tradition to this day with “Baddeley Cake” now served.

January 6

A Day To: If you didn’t do it yesterday, take down the decorations. This task never gets any easier. It’s the final admission to ourselves that Christmas is over for another year. Maybe you can help expedite the process by investing in tailor-made plastic ornament boxes rather than get lost amid a mountain of brown boxes, tissue paper and bubble-wrap. And if you have an artificial tree and haven’t yet bought a hardwearing tree storage bag, you could order one online and have it with you within days. Just keep it in the tatty, old, beaten up brown box it came in for now. If you have a real tree in a stand, either cut it up for your green recycling collection or take it in its entirety to the recycling centre. If you have a living tree in a pot, put it in a garage or cover it with a tarpaulin for a few days so it gets accustomed to the change in temperature from inside to out. Then put the potted tree in the garden for a couple of days before replanting it, should you so choose. Ensure your tree is planted in its pot. That’s right – don’t take it out of the plastic pot, but simply dig a hole big enough for the pot and pop it into the ground. When next Christmas comes you can take it out of the ground, pot and all, and re-use it (assuming you take good care of it of course). It should have grown a couple of inches in that time.

When disposing of your real tree, slide a decorator’s sheet or old bed-sheet under the tree before you start to remove the decorations. If the tree is going in the car to be recycled, you can lift the sheet around it. Secure with string and it should keep the majority of the needles out of your home and vehicle.

Did you know…January 6th is the ancient Christian feast day Epiphany? This is a day on which western Christians commemorate the visit of the three Magi to the infant Jesus, while eastern Christians instead commemorate the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan by John the Baptist.