HOME FOR CHRISTMAS: ENJOYING THE SPIRIT OF THE SEASON WHERE YOU LIVE
What are your plans this Christmas?
For some, it's the chance to head off for a blast of winter sun, but the festive season is also a wonderful time to be at home because there's so much going on. Local businesses and venues pull out all the stops in creating magical events and experiences, filling our neighbourhoods with Christmas cheer and the air with tempting aromas.
Even staying indoors is unlike any other time, with gatherings of friends and family eating their way towards the new year and looking forward to what it may bring. And with some extra time on your hands, the holidays are the perfect opportunity to try something new - from discovering a hidden talent, to exploring more of your neighbourhood, to making plans for the future.
So whether you're hosting or visiting, staying in or going out, this week's blog is full of ideas to enjoy the spirit of the season, right here.
IGNITE YOUR CREATIVITY
Making things nurtures the soul in all of us, and there's a real sense of accomplishment from enjoying your efforts. Whether it's food, drink or something for the home, there's a whole world to explore with online tutorials for anything you can imagine.
Summer hogs most of the headlines for cocktails, but winter concoctions pack just as much punch. Think seasonal variations on classic hot toddies, the artisanal mixology of hot bourbon cider, or the full-on festive frenzy of the Mistletoe Martini Cranberry Christmas Cocktail.
Christmas desserts not only get your taste buds going long before you take a bite; they're also fun to make: a perfect activity for kids, or an introduction to the oven for the cooking novice. The BBC Food website is packed with classics like gingerbread men and mince pies, or try diving into YouTube for more adventurous creations like Santa hat cheesecake bites, salty toffee fudge banana swirls, and brownie Christmas trees.
If you've never tried making something for your home, you're in for a treat. Beyond Christmas creations like wreaths for the front door and striking table decorations, you might be surprised how easy and fun it is to make genuinely stylish home accessories. Hand-made candles, art and storage hacks can look as good as anything from a shop, and they come with built-in pride every time you look at them.
KEEP EVERYONE ENTERTAINED
If you've got guests this Christmas, try these tips for being the perfect host.
Has it ever been easier to discover new music, replay old songs and share your favourite artists? To ensure that everyone gets to hear something they love, invite anyone who's coming to stay to make their own iTunes or Spotify playlist. Or if you're worried about clashing tastes, play it safe with ready-made Christmas playlists from the platforms.
Collapsing into an armchair after too much food is almost as traditional as turkey and cranberry sauce, and there's nothing like Christmas telly to aid digestion.
Beyond the likes of Strictly, Bake Off and Doctor Who, the choice of what to watch – and the potential for argument – is bigger than ever. To help you keep the peace, streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime allow multiple users on a single account, while their lists of Christmas watching have something for everyone: perfect if your home is split between Disney and Die Hard!
Did you know there are at least 1,000 different card games alone? What better time to discover and master a new favourite? Or for something more 21st century, and to involve your friends and family from around the world, why not hold an online pub quiz with Kahoot? Even if you can't all be in the same place, you can still share good times.
DISCOVER YOUR NEIGHBOURHOOD
We're all such creatures of habit, so how about mixing things up for a bit of local adventure?
Go for a stroll
Aside from heading to the shops, station, school or gym, how much of your neighbourhood do you really know? With everyone's Christmas lights on, now is a charming time for a casual wander to see what else the area holds. Perhaps you'll discover a deli or bakery you never knew existed, a pub you've been meaning to try, or even the place you want to live next.
Hold a scavenger hunt
While kids love searching for pine cones and leaves, how about a tongue-in-cheek lifestyle challenge for adults? Who can be the first to find a Volvo estate, a Farrow & Ball-painted front door, and a bay window with plantation blinds? Create a Whatsapp group for sending in your photos as you race to be the winner.
Walk on the wild side
Nature looks good at any time of year, but there's something particularly special about a stroll in the crisp winter air when you're wrapped up in woollies. Forests, parks, rivers, lakes… head to your favourite spot or visit a place you've never been, and keep a pot of mulled wine ready for your return!
FIND LOCAL MAGIC
Immerse yourself in the season as local cultural calendars fill up with Christmas events.
See the lights
Away from local illuminations and shop displays on the high street, many historic homes and public gardens have light trails and installations at this time of year. They make an enchanted evening outdoors for adults and children alike, with the chance to explore venues in a completely different way.
Go to a carol concert
It doesn't get much more Christmassy than a choir singing carols. Whether you love to join in with gusto or gently hum along, you'll find carol concerts in all sorts of places, from the traditional setting and acoustic of churches, to town halls, music venues or simply on some steps.
Enjoy the entertainment
The festive break brings an explosion of seasonal distractions every year. Head to the theatre for thigh-slapping pantomimes and atmospheric fairy tales, or enjoy outdoor attractions like pop-up ice rinks and Christmas markets for an inescapably magical time.
MAKE CHANGES AT HOME
This list wouldn't be complete without some property-themed tips, and the holidays are the perfect time to use your home in different ways, or give it a different look.
Deck the garden
Gardens are often forgotten at this time of year, but they're ideal for magical winter gatherings. With light strings overhead, an outdoor heater and a rich supply of blankets, all that's left is to invite your friends and ply them with hot Christmas treats for a memorable night under the stars.
Make a den
If you've got children, how could you turn your home into an adventure full of fun? From a floor full of cushions for rolling about, to sheets over the dining table to make a cosy hideaway, kids love to feel they've discovered a secret new place. And when they've gone to bed, you can revive your inner child.
Get a new look
Whether you're gearing up to sell or updating your décor for an on-trend start to the new year, you've got some extra days this Christmas. With no less than three bank holidays between December 27th and January 3rd, there's plenty of time for shopping and doing to be fresh and ready for 2022.
Wherever you're spending the festive season, we'd like to wish you a very merry Christmas that's filled with joy and laughter.
As the song goes: it's the most wonderful time of the year.