12 top tips for the perfect Christmas
By Fraser McAlpine, 6 December 2018
Christmas is fast approaching, but there's no need to panic. From now until Christmas Eve, Chris Evans will be taking Christmas tips from Breakfast Show listeners, as well as looking at the stranger side of the festive period, such as a man who looks after 180 reindeer.
But if you need a little more help, here are some handy hacks from Radio 2 guests and listeners - from getting your tree right to cooking the perfect dinner - you'll be sure to have a festive period to remember.
To get you in the Christmas spirit, here are 12 ways you can maximise your yuletide joy and minimise the stress.
1. Make sure you plan in advance
There are plenty of simple things you can do to get ready for the chaotic fluster of Christmas Day. The listeners of Jo Whiley and Simon Mayo's Radio 2 show have contributed some wonderful ideas to make sure your celebrations go as smoothly as possible.
From getting your vegetables prepared and frozen early to planning experience-based gifts that don't require miles of wrapping paper and excessive rolls of tape, prepare these things now and you'll thank yourself later.
2. Get the tree right
Quite often, Christmas trees can either look completely amazing or very very underwhelming. Luckily, interior designer Catherine Hollin spoke to Chris Evans about how to dress a Christmas tree like a pro.
Catherine offers a range of ideas, like making sure every branch is "dripping in sparkle", keeping the flashing coloured lights to a minimum (or just leaving them in their box altogether), and the right balance of large and small baubles with a whole range of textures.
Be warned though, Catherine also - quite controversially - advocates for ditching tinsel entirely. We wonder what she'd think about this year's Ken Bruce Christmas decoration, which you can download now.
3. Don't be afraid to get crafty
Everyone has a favourite Christmas decoration, and many are probably homemade too. Jo and Simon invited listeners to put forward some ideas for a very crafty Christmas, to break people out of their usual routine and try a few ecologically adventurous ideas into the bargain.
Take inspiration from these helpful ideas and you'll be decorating your own Christmas wreath and making edible gift tags in no time.
4. Make your presents great... and don't forget anyone!
Once you've got your tree sorted, it's time to get pretty boxes beneath it. Jeremy Vine recently discussed things that make for perfect presents, while last year saw wrapping specialist Jane showing Chris how to make your gifts look especially great (listen back in the clip above).
But it's also worth taking a moment to consider who you should be buying gifts for. After all, there's nothing worse than forgetting someone special - or being the poor forgotten person. The family dog, for example. Should they expect a treat? Do they - to borrow a question from Band Aid - know it's Christmastime at all? Jeremy's guests have some strong views on the subject...
5. Every Christmas party needs party music
Warning: Third Party video may contain adverts.
If you're looking for a perfect party playlist, you have absolutely come to the right place. There's Ana Matronic's Christmas Party Bangers, a two-hour showcase of floor-fillers that will bring all the generations together, with proven party-starting classics such as Anita Ward's Ring My Bell, ABBA's Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight) and Toxic by Britney Spears.
And that's not all: Gary Davies has treated us to an 80s Office Party Mastermix, stuffed full of your favourite tunes that will get even your grumpiest of co-workers into the festive spirit.
6. Throw your own office party
These days, more and more people work from home or have freelance careers, so the traditional office party may be less common than it previously was.
If this applies to you (or you just don't fancy going to your own office party because the nibbles will be substandard), Jo and Simon's listeners have all the hacks you may need in order to celebrate the festive season on your terms. The trick is to get together with friends with similar flexible work situations and keep the shop talk well away from the party.
7. Conquer the mighty Christmas dinner
After the parties and present buying, the build-up will soon be over and Christmas Day will be upon us. And everyone knows that the most important - and stressful - part of the big day itself is Christmas dinner.
Last Christmas, the one and only Jamie Oliver was on hand to tell Chris Evans why it's important to "chuff your potatoes" and "rest your breasts". Letting your meat rest, Oliver says, gives you the perfect time to "veg up and have a drink up".
Meanwhile, Orlando Murrin from BBC Good Food also has some game-changing hacks that might just make the whole thing a bit easier. He even has some ideas for a veggie roast too.
8. Keep your family traditions going (and make new ones)
Christmas traditions are important to many and there may be some things your family does at Christmas time - like attending a Nativity play - that you can't really explain how they came about, you just know that the activity reminds you of the festive period and you couldn't imagine a Christmas without them.
However, it's also important to make your own, new traditions. So maybe this year, set yourself the task of doing a Christmas activity that you've never done before. Perhaps it's time for you to finally pluck up the courage for that Boxing Day swim.
9. Bring everyone together with a game or two
With technology playing such a huge part of the family Christmas, there are times when it's important to put mobile devices to one side and come together, and a board game is the perfect tool to make that happen.
Jo and Simon's listeners offered up some ideas for games that included sticking the names of famous people on your forehead and one that involved using a packet of Maltesers and a tape measure.
10. Avoid the family drama
"I've gotten out of the washing up by taking the dog for a walk" - Ricky Wilson's gone to mum and dad's for Christmas
And he took his laundry home too! Melanie C and Ricky discuss how naughty he's been...
Firstly, Ricky offers a catch-all apology to anyone he may inadvertently have "beefed" with over the course of the year. Secondly, he has a smart way to get out of the washing up or any awkward moments that may occur: offering to take the dog for a walk, which is never a bad idea to work off all those Christmas dinner calories.
11. Take a valuable lesson from Scrooge
The phrase "being a Scrooge" has become shorthand for bringing the festive mood down. But as guest Griff Rhys points out, Scrooge is a character that makes mistakes, rejecting festivities and goodwill, but ultimately is someone who atones for the errors of his ways and is welcomed back into society once he does.
Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, Griff says, teaches us a timely lesson: that Christmas is a time for inclusion and forgiveness. So why not try reaching out to someone with an act of seasonal kindness? You don't have to wait for an eerie visitation to get started...
12. Finally, try not to stress!
Above all else, it’s best to remember is that things don’t have to be perfect and, quite often, won’t be. It doesn’t matter though because Christmas should be a time for letting go and having fun.
As 'professional organiser' Jules Langford tells BBC News: "There's all sorts of Christmases. Don't feel like you have to have the Christmas you see on Instagram. If you're just sitting there in your PJs watching TV, that's okay too. Cut yourself a bit of slack."