Navigating Christmas Without Going Crackers

Surviving Christmas

Pinterest is awash with Christmas bucket lists (it really is – check them out here). Before I proceed, these are not catalogues of idyllic festive activities to be undertaken before one kicks the proverbial bucket, but rather perfectly itemized lists of quintessential festive traditions to enjoy over the course of the Christmas period – presumably for the more forgetful among us who need written reminders. Rather than suggesting an impending untimely end, these new-fangled bucket lists simply encourage us to enjoy and experience the season before it’s gone. Splendid idea! Online you’ll find all sorts of checklists and ideas for celebrating Christmas, ranging from the obvious to the ridiculous. Some examples:

  • Decorate the tree while listening to Bing Crosby – Absolutely, I’m in.
  • Drink hot chocolate for breakfast – On it!
  • Build a gingerbread house – We’ll see. Can I buy one pre-made?
  • Have a sleepover underneath the Christmas tree – I do like my own bed and I think I did something to my back reaching up to put that damn star on so…
  • Roast chestnuts or marshmallows on an open fire – An open flame with a toddler? I think not.
  • Go caroling around your neighbourhood – Nope. We’re done here.

The lists are long and varied. One wonders who has the time for nut-roasting anyway? In the interest of keeping it real and managing expectations, I’ve pared down the recommended catalogue of festive frolicking to a short to-do list, complete with tips for keeping sanity intact. Since I can’t quite make my peace with writing any sort of ‘bucket list’ while I’m in full health, let’s just call it a generic ‘Christmas To-do List’.

Item #1: Decorate the Christmas Tree

Acknowledge that perfection is unachievable with children in the house. Leave designer baubles from your pre-children existence in the attic with your size ten jeans. Accept that your tree will be adorned with a mix of Baby’s First Christmas decorations and homemade craft items constructed from lollypop sticks, buttons and pipe cleaners. Consider leaving the bottom third of the tree bare if you have kids under two. Invite decorating ‘help’ at your peril. Substitute Bing Crosby’s audio for full episodes of Paw Patrol. Drink during the decoration process.

christmas tree

Item #2: Read Christmas Books to the Kids

Ideally you’d go to the library and choose from an array of festive stories. In reality you’ll spend two hours turning your kids’ bedrooms upside-down looking for the books they borrowed in October. You won’t find them all. You’ll pay €17 in fees for the books you have returned and you’ll be too bitter to borrow any more. Fool me once and all that. Instead, just read your copy of The Night Before Christmas on repeat for the month of December in different voices. Or hit YouTube for a star-studded audio version.


Item #3: Take the family ice-skating

Set expectations about this family day out to the lowest possible level: the ice-skates will be soggy inside and will cut the back of your ankles; the children will be cold and wet; at least one person will suffer an injury; you will look ridiculous; someone will fall over a plastic penguin. Go, but brace yourself. Literally.


Item #4: Visit Santa

Set similar expectations about the annual Santa visit: it will be insanely busy; there will be queues for everything; the kids will complain about the presents they receive; the food will be overpriced; a stand will misleadingly offer free mulled ‘wine’ that contains no alcohol; the kids will either be overwhelmed, frightened or a combination of both. Someone will inevitably cry. There’s every chance it will be you.


Item #5: Shop for Gifts 

Resist the urge to go into the city on any of the remaining Saturdays or Sundays. You are not an idiot. Use the internet, for the love of GOD.

christmas shopping

Item #6: Take the Perfect Family Photo

A stressful endeavour. Try, by all means. Buy a selfie-stick, use a timer, enlist a neighbour or hire a pro. But be prepared for a blurry toddler and at least one maniacal, toothy smile. They almost certainly won’t wear the Christmas headgear you’ve bought especially for the occasion. None of the 36 takes will be instagrammable. Two may be fit for Facebook consumption – if you can Photoshop out the teeth.


Item #7: Watch Christmas Movies

In December alone be prepared to watch Mickey’s Christmas Carol 8 times,  Home Alone 11 times, Elf 14 times and The Polar Express 22 times. Each time you watch The Polar Express the animation will seem weirder and creepier. By late December you will be having nightmares in which an oddly animated Tom Hanks tries to run you over with a train full of dead-eyed children.


Item #8: Eat, drink and be Merry

Ignore the fact that the children have finished the chocolate from all 24 windows of the Advent calendar by December 6th. Also ignore the fact that they are eating chocolate santas and remnants of a gingerbread house at 5am on Christmas morning. Purchase four times the amount of alcohol you think you might consume over the season, plus two extra bottles of port and three bottles of Baileys. Start drinking as soon as the temperature drops.

The ultimate survival tip: Wangle an invite to someone else’s house for Christmas dinner. Bring a bottle.


Do you have a to-do list? Are you a bucket-lister? A nut-roaster? Do share!


I’m linking this post some of these…

Mummuddlingthrough  A Cornish Mum
My Random Musings    This Mum's Life  My Petit Canard
My Random Musings
3 Little Buttons   Mummascribbles  Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday


55 comments on “Navigating Christmas Without Going Crackers

  1. This is brilliant! Can’t decide which tip I like best…the ice skating is so true. Tried it last year, we were like a herd of newborn calves but not quite as cute and one child refused point blank to move from the entrance gate…unmitigated disaster!!

    1. Hah. I have the perfect visual there, Elizabeth! I keep suggesting it here but Mr C. (clearly even better at keeping it real than I am) raises his eyebrows as if I’ve suggested a trip to Lapland!

    1. I’m a secret bucket list lover! I was all over those autumn ones – I need to check our your blog! Drinking cider? Running around in leaves? Shopping for chunky knits and the likes? Bring it. Bring it all! Thanks for the lovely comment!

  2. Haha! This made me chuckle. We are going to do our tree this weekend and I am dreading it. I am a perfectionist with it so I already know that once the children are in bed I will be redecorating the whole thing! I actually love a Christmas film which has oddly worked in my favour, I have been so keen to watch them that I bombarded the girls early on this year… Now they are so suspicious of my enthusiasm they don’t want to watch them… A little reverse psychology at work I think. As for visiting the Big Man… I don’t want to, I now it is going to go exactly as you describe but I’m being asked daily when we can visit… Oh the joys!

    1. I’m loving the reverse psychology idea! I love the movies too. Except for The Polar Express – I just can’t get on board with it but I feel like I am totally pushing some of them too and the kids are backing off a little! Hah. Good luck with Santa! We went at the weekend and it was really lovely in fairness.

  3. Lovely list!We navigated the Christmas tree decorating rather well this year-first year we’ve had little hands eager to put decorations up, rather than tear them down!

    1. Yay – it’s all coming together in your house then, Aedín! I have have four eager little hands and two menacing, destructive little hands that seem to move twice as quickly as the others so according to those maths, they cancel each other out and we are left we a rather sad looking bottom third. I keep reminding myself that it will be easier next year! Thanks for reading! 🙂

  4. Bring that bowl of booze round sharpish haha! I’ve not done a to do list as normally I have Christmas sorted but parenthood has thrown me out of sorts. I’m going to winter wonderland to stand for potentially hours for a few minutes with Santa on Sunday as we had no idea how quickly all the Santa grottos in our area sold out! Whoops #anythinggoes

    1. Well, how was it? I’m hoping there’s a full review on the blog! Will pop over. We did the same at the weekend and we were so pleasantly surprised.

  5. I am definitely feeling the love for the practical “To Do List”! Although *smug face* I have actually toasted a marshmallow or two this year. I burnt my hand. Then I set fire to most of the marshmallows so my hubby had to eat those ones. The ones that I did manage to “toast” to a satisfactory level just instantly smothered each of my tots in some weird sticky gunk that both of them totally freaked out about. T’was not a success. Better just to “eat” marshmallows. And chocolate. All of the chocolate. 😉 Thanks for linking with #DreamTeam x

    1. Marshmallows are MENTAL when hot/partially eaten and spat back out! You are a braver gal than I! I’m laughing at the gunk-inspired freak-out, though I shouldn’t! Good luck with the hosting!

  6. Ha, ha! Love this! Only 2 weekends left to Christmas, eeep! Definitely online shopping for the rest now 😉 Decorating the tree with an opinionated 3 year old was fun, until I had to start smuggling baubles off of the tree that she’d put on that didnt fit in with the colour scheme! Fab post, thatnks for sharing it on #MarvMondays

  7. Absolutely love your Christmas to do list! Our tree decorating actually went pretty well considering we have a 1 and 3 year old! I’m definitely with you on the Christmas movies, I’ve lost count of how many times we’ve watched Mickey’s Christmas Carol and I’m actually trying to avoid the Polar Express for the exact reasons you’ve mentioned above- please no nightmares this year. Thank you for sharing with #bigpinklink x

    1. And mine can’t get enough of The Polar Express! Not only that but, like in many homes I imagine, the entire train set has to set up and in full swing while they watch it!

  8. Wangle an invite to someone else’s for dinner has to be the main saviour doesn’t it? I have never managed it. My sister always comes up with the best reasons why I should do it and it certainly isn’t my cooking! So that leaves drinking and merry! Happy Christmas. #MarvMondays

    1. Lol, Jo! I know I will have to face up to hosting at some point but I am enjoying it all as much as possible for as long as possible! My dad even plates up dinners for us all to take home and eat on Boxing Day! Totally spoiled! Hope your hosting goes well!

  9. Yay! Love your list, on mine, is champagne for Christmas breakfast mean to start as I go on! We’ll also be watching great Christmas movies, reading books, looking at the Christmas lights in Paris. Presents are done, need to get and decorate the tree – but we’re on it! #KCACOLS

  10. Love no. 8! I’m so disorganised this year, the fact that Christmas happens will be a miracle! Thanks so much for linking up at #KCACOLS. Hope you come back again next Sunday x

    1. It always comes together in the end, doesn’t it? At least that’s what we have to believe, Kerry! Lol… Have a great one!

    1. Oh enjoy, Maria! Lovely to get a break from hosting! Mine adore The Polar Express and in fairness, I’ve been humming the air of the music all weekend. It is sweet, dead eyes aside! Hah. Happy Christmas to you and yours. x

  11. Hi Sinead, lists scare me, the nearest I get to a To-Do list is in my head. As soon as things get listed it’s a sign that they will probably never get done. I think I have yet to see a photo of a child visiting Father Christmas who doesn’t look a little bit scared, and I can imagine that the parents behind the camera weeping into their non- alcoholic mulled wine at the stress of it all.

    The decorations are finally up and tomorrow I do have a day of Christmas films planned (in my head, not on paper!). Not sure which ones though.

    Thank you for linking up to the #MMBC.

    Debbie recently posted…Coconut Shortbread Recipe

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