How to have a stress-free Christmas

Why is it everything seems to fall on mum’s shoulders at Christmas?! From presents to the entertaining, here’s how to take it all in your stride

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  • Decorations

    Fake it!

    “I bought a good quality fake tree a year ago when I had my first baby as I was worried about needles. It was the best £50 I ever spent! It’ll be with us for years.”

    Susan Matthews, 32, from Warwick, mum to Millie, 18 months

    Tablecloth magic!

    “Decorating the table is lovely but with tots around it can end up messy. So stock up on tablecloths – you can get some gorgeous cheap ones from markets or linen shops. When one gets dirty just throw on another.”

    Jenny Stallard, PP’s deputy editor

    Make it fun

    Reese Witherspoon, mum to Ava, 10, and Deacon, 6, lets the kids decorate her Oscar! “At Christmas time they put a little hat on him and a little scarf,” she says.

  • Ways to present heaven

    Battery power

    Tots are bound to unwrap battery-powered toys on Christmas Day, so be prepared. “I make sure I buy all the batteries we need for Christmas in bulk in November as most supermarkets have 3 for 2’s on in the run up to the festivities.”

    Briony Ross, 26, from South Lanarkshire, mum to Jacob, 7 months

    Ditch the shops

    Online shopping is so much easier than braving the shops and crowds, particularly when you’ve got children in tow.”

    Actress Angela Griffin, mum to Tallulah Jae, 5, and Melissa, 2

    Don’t wrap

    “Make the most of online gift-wrapping services. Or cut your work by buying a stack of generous sized brightly coloured gift bags. Stuff some tissue paper on top so no-one can peek in – tie handles together with a ribbon – and it’s done in seconds.”

    Tanith Carey, author of How To Be An Amazing Mum When You Just Don’t Have The Time .

    Lose the packaging

    “To save time I take the children’s presents out of their packaging before wrapping them up, get them set up and put in any batteries that might be needed. This means they can start playing with them straight away and get a chance to enjoy them, while you can get on with other things.”

    Sharon Smith, 35, from Glasgow, mum to Ben, 7, and Jessica, 3

  • For a lovely lunchtime

    Plan your timings

    “This is a tip I picked up from Nigella and it really works,” says Liz Jarvis, editor of “Write down what sort of time you’re planning to eat, and then work backwards to find out what time everything needs to be in the oven. That way you can set the timer for whenever you need to put another dish in, you don’t need to spend all your time in the kitchen – and everything should be cooked perfectly.”

    All muck in

    Cooking’s a joint effort: Gordon will start it off, I’ll oversee things when he’s out, then we’ll finish it together. Megan loves to cut the mince pie tops and set the table – things like that make her feel grown up.”

    Tana Ramsay, cookery writer, wife to Gordon and mum to Megan, 11, twins Jack and Holly, 9, and Matilda, 7

  • Party perfection

    Don’t over cater

    “As a rough guide, allow for about five drinks per person for a reasonably lengthy party. A 75cl bottle of wine provides six drinks. Bear in mind that many people will bring a bottle or two along – it’s fine to ask them to. For food, allow about 10 canapés or nibbles per person – you’ll probably have leftovers, but it’s better to have too much food than not enough.”

    Juliana Foster, author of The Christmas Book.

    Tireless tootsies

    “When I was pregnant last Christmas my saviour was a pair of gel party feet pads to pop in my heels – so good, I didn’t moan about my feet all night at my work Christmas party.”

    Janette Hughes, 30, from Berkshire, mum to Hayley, 7 months

    Get some cat litter (really!)

    “It’s great for mopping up big liquid spills,” advises Delia Maury, head housekeeper at the 5-star Wyndham Hotel, Chelsea.

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  • You, you, you

    Have a switch off time

    “From about 9 o’clock on Christmas Eve, I start behaving like a guest rather than a hostess, relax and let it all wash over me. I always wear sparkly eye shadow, over the top earrings and tinsel. Around 5-6pm on Christmas Day, I walk the dog to get a bit of peace, and gather myself for the evening games, TV and more eating and drinking!”

    Annette Maloney, PP’s health visitor

    Stock up on plenty of handcream

    “I keep some handcream in every room (especially near sinks) during the festive season as we’re always washing hands after going out or cooking. That way I don’t end the holidays with sore, dry hands.”

    Susie Boone, Editor,


    Can’t make it to a salon for a treatment? Run a bath scented with essential oils. Joanna Webb, beauty expert from, recommends cedarwood, which is great for de-stressing, clary sage, which is warm and nutty, relieves mental strain. Bergamot is a good mood elevator and is safe for pregnant women.

  • And finally remember…

    The best memories are free

    “You don’t have to spend a fortune to feel Christmassy – walk through your town or city and see the lights, watch a Christmas movie or go to a school’s Christmas fair. Christmas is about having fun with the family and you don’t need to spend a fortune to do that. A hug and kiss is free and that’s what Christmas is all about.”

    Saira Khan, The Apprentice star and founder of, mum to Zachariah, 18 months

    Get snap happy

    “Remember the little things like taking photographs,” says Melitsa Avila of  Let a guest like Gran be designated photographer if you’ve got your hands full.

    Don’t forget the little pleasures

    “It’s kind of the best thing about being a mum and dad. We love it, it’s that fun of sitting up in the middle of the night and wrapping the presents together and doing the stockings.”

    Angelina Jolie, mum of six.


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