The countdown to Christmas 2021 starts here. Welcome one and all to the eighth annual How to Christmas calendar. Each day from November 6 we have useful reminders in the build-up to the big day, along with recommendations to get you into the spirit of the season.

A Day To:

Planning begins now.

Be it computer or tablet, diary or journal, create separate lists for gifts, cards, groceries and things-to-do.

Start watching our festive film and TV recommendations.

Start listening to more festive music.

(Scroll down for the day in detail)

Ponder:

“Love came down at Christmas, love all lovely, love divine: Love was born at Christmas, star and angels gave the sign.”

Christina Rossetti (1830-1894), English poet

Watch:

“Trading Places” (1983): starring Dan Aykroyd, Eddie Murphy and Jamie Lee Curtis. Christmas is the backdrop to the plot of greed, ruin and revenge in this classic comedy. Ralph Bellamy and Don Ameche are perfectly detestable as the brothers who put the lives of two men on the line for the sake of a one-dollar wager. Deliciously watchable whatever time of year: a gentle way to ease into festive viewing. (Movie Magic: Eddie Murphy’s incredulous look to camera when he’s condescendingly told by Ralph Bellamy what ingredients might be found in a bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich.)

And because the countdown starts at the weekend, we can surely factor in a second film for all the family…

“Frozen” (2013): with the voice talents of Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Josh Gad, Jonathan Groff and Santino Fontana. This is not a Christmas movie per se, but was released in time for the holiday season in 2013 and its wintry magic makes it perfect festive fayre. Disney’s 53rd animated film was a box office sensation, becoming the highest grossing animation of all-time and among the top five grossing films of any genre. Inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s story “The Snow Queen”, the movie features a fearless princess named Anna on a journey to find her estranged sister Elsa, helped by iceman Kristoff, his pet reindeer Sven and the naïve – and occasionally headless – snowman Olaf. Elsa’s powers plunge the kingdom into eternal winter and later freeze Anna’s heart. Only true love will thaw her from her frozen state. “Frozen” won two Academy Awards for Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song. Broadway star Menzel said Frozen is “a bit of a feminist movie for Disney. I’m really proud of that.” The sequel was inevitable, but we had to wait until 2019. Again, “Frozen 2” was a smash hit. Some critics believed it was better than the first…so you might want to consider that for today instead, if not some time in December.  (Movie Magic: “Let it Go” is the Academy Award winning song and the tune that helped children all over the world fall head over heels in love with this animated film.)

Listen:

“Fantasia on Christmas Carols” (arr. for baritone, choir, organ & string orchestra) – Ralph Vaughan Williams (Performed by Roderick Williams, Joyful Company of Singers, Joseph Cullen, Richard Hickox & City of London Sinfonia);

“Lully, Lulla, Lullay” by Truro Cathedral Choir.

Learn:

Did you know…“The Yule Log” is the title of the simplest of television programmes made in the USA? A static shot of a Yule Log burning on a New York hearth, with Christmas stockings hung from the fireplace, was first broadcast in 1966 and was shown until 1989. It was some three hours in length and originally aired on New York channel WPIX.  A new shorter version of a fireplace’s flickering flames was made in 1970 and played on a continuous loop, without commercial interruption, to the sound of Christmas music. It was revived in 2001 and has since spread to other media outlets owned by WPIX’s parent company. The Winter Solstice falls just before Christmas each year. The word solstice comes from the Latin sol for sun and sistere, which means ‘to stand still’. Ancient Celts believed the sun did indeed stand still late in the year, so they blessed a log and kept it burning for 12 days at the end of December with the aim of persuading the sun to move again. This is the Yule log. There is more on the history of the Yule log on our Folklore & Customs page.

PLEASING PAGES TO PERUSE: Pantomime & Theatre – CLICK HERE;      New Traditions – CLICK HERE;    Food & Drink – CLICK HERE;   Gift Websites to Love – CLICK HERE

The Day in Detail:

Mrs. C says: Here we are again, dear friends, for our eighth birthday edition. Thank you for your loyalty into our junior years. For those of you who’ve joined us before, you’ll know that we like to start our calendar countdown the day after Bonfire Night. That’s 49 days of countdown, with number 50 Christmas Day itself. We fully appreciate there are many of you out there who will already have started some Christmas preparations. Maybe you bought cards, wrapping paper or even a selection of gifts in the January sales. Maybe you have been picking up presents, little by little, for a while now. If you have made a start, well done. We wholeheartedly applaud that. You can hopefully still enjoy the banter between Ed and me, along with our recommendations for films and music for the season and the inspirational lines of verse. If you Flowers wreath119635666haven’t made a start, don’t worry. There’s still time. Our aim is to help you through it, every step of the way.

You’ll probably have your gifts and cards lists from last Christmas and can copy them to your computer, tablet or smart phone. If not, then you can start anew from your address book. It won’t take long. If you prefer the old-fashioned way, its time to break open a new notebook. I find it is a good idea to also keep a Christmas to-do list and a Christmas grocery list. You may have followed our suggestion in January of this year to make a list of ideas that struck you during the Christmas just gone: things you wish you’d bought but didn’t, splendid gifts you received that you’d like to replicate, food you tasted that you’d like to try and so on. Don’t forget to check out that list today.

Ed Elf: As is now tradition…top of my list…mince pies. Today’s the day I can start eating them and not think I’m peaking too soon. That’s a solid two months of guilt-free mince pie eating.

Mrs. C: Much on the food front depends on whether or not you make your own Christmas cake, pudding or, indeed, Ed’s favourite mince pies. But a grocery list helps either way. Write out the ingredients you’ll need because the big baking day will be here before you know it. If you don’t make your own, simply itemise the finished treats you intend to buy.

Candles and decs_160664129Ed Elf: Put chocolate, candy canes and mince pies down as essentials for me, would you?

Mrs. C: Christmas can be overwhelming and expensive if everything is left to the last minute, including the big food shop. Through November and early December, why not double up on basics whenever possible. Buy back-up washing and household products so you don’t have to buy too many too close to Christmas. It’ll be a major but frankly dull job out of the way. Try to buy a couple of non-perishable goods each week from now on. Tick items off your grocery list as you buy them and, when Christmas looms, your big shop won’t be quite so daunting after all.

This is where the to-do list also comes in handy. You already know, sitting here in early November, that for Christmas you will probably need candles, tea-lights, napkins, batteries, aluminium foil, light bulbs and the like. Wasn’t it last Christmas that you promised yourself new drinking glasses and festive mugs for this Christmas? Write all this information down. Anything and everything you think you may need to buy or check…then clear at least two or three items from this list each week for the next month or so. It spreads the cost and the possible worry.

Ed Elf: Yeah, unnecessary worry – lot of that around at Christmas. Which reminds me…mince pie time…they’ll release my happy endorphins, you understand.

Conifer and berries 64686097So today’s the day to:

  • Check your address book and chase up any missing details as you make your Christmas lists.
  • Make a list of Christmas food. Decide what you intend to bake and what treats will be bought ready-made.
  • Make a list of essential household products and non-perishable goods ready to buy in duplicate.
  • Start a ‘To Do’ list for stocking up on basics – candles, tea-lights, napkins, batteries, foil, light bulbs and so on.