The countdown to Christmas 2019 starts here. Welcome one and all to the sixth annual How to Christmas calendar. Each day from November 6th we have pages of useful reminders and pertinent pointers in the build-up to the big day – along with festive prose and verse and a few recommendations to get you into the spirit of the season. We always receive help from a certain elf, whether it’s invited or not. But we will cut him some extra slack as we celebrate together our sixth birthday.

candles lantern window snow_118180813A Day To:

Make lists. The planning begins now. Be it computer or tablet, diary or journal, start separate lists for gifts, cards, groceries and things-to-do.

Research the must-have items this year, like toys or mobile phones.

(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:

“Thomas Kinkade’s Christmas Cottage” (2008): starring Peter O’Toole, Marcia Gay Harden and Jared Padalecki: This heart-warming movie tells the story of the inspiration behind Thomas Kinkade’s famous painting ‘The Christmas Cottage’ and reveals how he took up painting at a time when his mother was in danger of losing their family home. The film, also known as “Thomas Kinkade’s Home for Christmas”, was originally due for cinemas release in December 2007 but reported editing and music rights issues delayed that until November the following year. (Movie Magic: Bringing to life so atmospherically the iconic cottage in all its snowy glory.)

lantern candle light_117912121

 

Listen:

“Winter” from “The Four Seasons” by Vivaldi

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; Events & Diary Dates – CLICK HERE; Movie Releases – 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. And can you quite believe this is our sixth birthday edition? Thank you for your loyal support through our infancy. We hope we can share many more Christmas build-ups with you.

So, the Halloween decorations are gone, to spook us no more until next October. The fireworks have fizzed and banged their final farewell to November 5th and Bonfire Night. Preparations for Christmas can begin in earnest. For those of you who’ve joined us before, you’ll know that we at How to Christmas like to start our calendar countdown the day after Guy Fawkes’ Night: that’s 49 days of countdown and the big 50th is Christmas Day itself. But we fully appreciate there are many of you out there who will already have started some Christmas preparations. Maybe you bought cards, logowrapping paper or even a selection of gifts in the January sales. Maybe you have been picking up presents, little by little, since the summer. Maybe you are helping organise your local Christmas concert. Maybe you have been making your own jams and mincemeat for presents or to store in your larder for the baking tasks to come.

If you have made a start, well done. We wholeheartedly applaud that. Experience tells us you can never start too early, especially if you work and have children and a house to run. That might mean some of the suggestions on some of the pages might not work for you – but 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 plenty of time. Our aim is to help you through it, every step of the way. So here we are: November 6th, when we like to start with lists.

If you are organised – or have followed our lead the last few years – then you will probably have kept your gifts and cards lists from last Christmas and can copy them to your computer, tablet or smart phone. If you are 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: 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. Mind you, I’m not averse to a bit of gingerbread or the odd chocolate chip cookie.

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 down or type 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 festive staples.

Candles and decs_160664129Ed Elf: I finally got to grips with this last year. It is staples as in diet, not staples as in stationery.

Mrs. C: It only took you five calendars to get to grips.

Ed Elf: I’m a methodical elf, what can I say?

Mrs. C: Lists. Back to the lists. Christmas can be overwhelming and expensive. If everything is left to the last minute, including the big food shop, then it can empty the Christmas coffers and seriously bruise the credit cards. So here’s a suggestion: through November and early December, double up on essentials whenever possible. Buy back-up toiletries and washing and cleaning products so you don’t have to buy any at all close to Christmas. Better still, order all this heavy, bulky stuff online and get it delivered. This way you can better budget yourself, without the temptation of throwing unnecessary items in your trolley – as often happens when trawling round a supermarket. Plus, it’s a major but frankly dull job out of the way. The grocery list should also include all your must-have Christmas goods: pudding, cake, mince pies, cranberry sauce  and so on. 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? And weren’t you caught out last year when the super-duper, can’t-live-without, must-have gadget came out and flew off the shelves before you even got a sniff of the essential-ness of it all? Well, start your research today into the likely must-have technology and toys of this Christmas. Don’t get caught short again. 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 stress.

Ed Elf: Yeah, stress – lot of that around at Christmas. Which reminds me…next on my to-do list…a long soak in a small bath, mince pie in hand. It’s become an annual tradition. What joy!

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

  • Check your address book and chase up any missing details.
  • Research the must-have items for Christmas this year.
  • Make a list of baking ingredients if you intend to bake.
  • Make a list of essential household cleaning products and buy double – order online to avoid carrying heavy or bulky stuff.
  • Make a list of must-have Christmas food – mince pies, bread sauce, Christmas pudding, cranberry sauce and so on. Try to buy a couple of non-perishable goods each week from now on.
  • Start a ‘To Do’ list for household essentials – candles, tea-lights, napkins, batteries, foil, light bulbs and so on.