How to survive (and avoid) Christmas chaos

Your to-do list is getting longer with every phone call, the presents aren’t wrapped yet, there aren’t enough chairs to go round and who knows when those mince pies are going to get made. Hosting Christmas this year? We feel your fear and are here to help. From awkward relatives to dinner fiascos, take a little exercise in damage limitation and read our guide to avoiding those festive mishaps.

Your to-do list is getting longer with every phone call, the presents aren’t wrapped yet, there aren’t enough chairs to go round and who knows when those mince pies are going to get made. Hosting Christmas this year? We feel your fear and are here to help. From awkward relatives to dinner fiascos, take a little exercise in damage limitation and read our guide to avoiding those festive mishaps.

Your turkey won’t fit in the oven

Uh oh. In your quest to be the ultimate host, generosity has backfired and your bird is just too big. It’s not ideal but joint the turkey by cleaving off the legs and just roast the breasts. You can always carve in the kitchen before serving (no-one will know). If you have to, cook the bird separately early in the morning and set it to rest while you get to work on the trimmings – which let’s face it, is what really counts.

Goose fat is spattering everywhere and you’re too scared to go near the roasting tray

Be brave! Don that oven glove and apron and get your roasties in quick. If you’re using goose fat for a special treat (like a Nigella pro), remember that it has a lower smoking temperature (190 degrees Celsius) than sunflower or olive oils. Once an oil has gone beyond its smoke point, you really shouldn’t use it. You can also use far less goose fat because it doesn’t evaporate away, so be sparing!

Set your Christmas pudding on fire - the safe way

Heat 2-3 tablespoons of brandy, rum or whiskey on the hob until hot, pour over the pudding and strike a (long) match to ignite. Whatever you do, DO NOT heat the alcohol in the microwave...this will turn your pud into a fireball.

You’ve overcooked the turkey and it’s as dry as dust

Calculate! If your bird is defrosted, plan for 20 minutes per pound in a 180 degrees Celsius oven or 10-15 minutes per pound for a fresh one. Or, use this handy calculator instead. However, if on the day everything’s gone to pieces (nothing to do with Bucks Fizz AT ALL), only gravy can help you now, and lashings of it.

You’ve run out of plates to serve dinner

It’s an easy oversight to make – in ensuring everyone is full to the brim every waking second, you forgot to count how many plate you’ll need. No matter, if you bought some paper plates for Boxing Day, those will do (with double helpings), or maybe it’s time to say Merry Christmas to the neighbours…

There’s been an electric surge and your entire street is wiped out

Ok, so this is a worst case scenario but it does happen, especially when everybody works on the same Christmas dinner timetable. Buy yourself some thinking time by whipping out all the cold stuff - pâtés, cheeses, crackers, prawn cocktail – on a normal day, this would be a handsome meal so nobody is going to starve. If things are looking bleak, try to gate-crash a friend or relative with the food you have prepared or call some local pubs to see if they can squeeze you in for a Christmas dinner…

You’re stuck in the kitchen while everyone is having fun

Make it crystal clear that you expect everyone to help out with cooking and clearing up. Also, don’t be afraid to cheat a little to save time and get your stuffing or Yorkshire puddings ready-made or your vegetables ready chopped. So what if you’re not the world’s best chef?

Avoid a Mog-style chestnut explosion

It’s steam that causes chestnuts to bolt across the room so give it an outlet by carefully cutting an X into the flat side of each nut first with a sharp, pointy knife. When roasting, place the chestnuts cut side up on a baking tray and roast in a hot oven for about 20 minutes. Voila!

Your mother-in-law is watching you like a hawk as you prepare dinner muttering helpful words of encouragement like ‘I wouldn’t do it like that dear’

Don’t try to live up to everyone’s expectations. Everyone has their image of what Christmas day should be like with their own set of traditions (remember that episode of Friends where Monica makes three kinds of potato for Thanksgiving? We know how that panned out…). Before the day, tell your guests how you ‘do’ Christmas day instead of trying to please everyone. That way, if anyone insists their sprouts should be anything more than al dente (yuk), they can bring their own. And if your mother-in-law still gets under your feet, those potatoes could do with peeling…

Your father-in-law is totally comatose on the sofa and can’t be moved

You haven’t heard a peep out of him all afternoon but the second Downton starts, your father-in-law is snoring like a freight train. Argh. Time to unleash the children/dog/partner and gently stir the sleeping beast. It’s important that you have time to relax too!

Arch rival grannies have had a few sherry’s and the conversation has turned, er, tense

If you foresee tension among any of your guests, try to steer clear of risky conversation topics (and alcohol) which may provoke rows. Keep everyone occupied with fun board games after the meal or assign little tasks to people for distraction. A hand unloading the dishwasher anyone? Seriously, anyone?

One of your best gifts didn’t arrive in time

Typical. This year you’ve put extra special thought into the perfect gift and the courier has let you down. After you’ve composed your sternly worded complaint email, turn things around by making a game out of it. Write a list of fun questions with ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers that will lead your beloved to their gift – think flow chart but without the bizspeak - and when they get there, finish with a pic of your gift and the question: Do you want this? Yes or No? At least you’ll know if they like it…

The kids break their favourite present the moment your back is turned

Ok, prevention is better than cure here. Try and introduce some Zen before the present opening frenzy reaches fever pitch by telling your kids the night before what time they can open their stockings in the morning. If necessary, ration their presents to one an hour until lunch time. That way, they’ll be less rough and have more time to digest each one. That, or keep the receipt and some superglue on standby.

Share This