Christmas isn’t easy. Anyone who’s ever ridden 50 miles on a donkey a few days short of full-term, been stuffed in a stable and given birth to a baby in the straw amongst a crowd of inquisitive animals – and been visited by a lot of well-meaning men just when you want a few minutes shut-eye, well…yes! Christmas is stressful. But it doesn’t need to be. Take a few tips from the Shine team!

Your Christmas might involve less straw and delivering of the Messiah but its a fair bet that your worry-mountain will be getting fairly tall right about now. Poor Mary didn’t ask for all that to land on her doorstep but I bet half the things you are stressing about right now could have been avoided! We are very good at thinking it is our job to do EVERYTHING aren’t we? The presents (can you get Frankincense and Myrrh on Amazon?) the shopping, the food, the cleaning, decorating, writing and posting christmas cards, the cooking, the Godchildren’s gifts, looking after the elderly relatives, drinks parties, work parties, work, planning for next year……the list goes on!

Now here at Shine HQ, we all feel differently about Christmas. I think you may have picked up on Queen D’s opinion already. It’s all a bit ‘bah humbug!’. In her words she has ‘cancelled Christmas’ apart from one wooden star decoration with a few lights in it. No tree and no decorations. Although we’re pretty sure there’s wine on the go – so it’s not all bad cheer.

Our Media Consultant Emmy is the exact opposite! If she could put her Christmas tree up in October, she would, but instead has to wait until November! Her festivities are topped to the brim with good cheer, friends for parties, traditional Christmas dinner, children that are as excited as their parents and a big family that descends once the turkey is in the oven.

Bracken manages our social media. Now her Christmas traditions are fairly unusual; “On every single Christmas present that we give, we write a rhyme. The rhyme is a clue to the gift inside as well as a personal tribute to the person opening it (just an added amount of pressure we should ideally eliminate). Plus we go to town on the wrapping which is recycled within the family. Consequently we have wrapping paper that has been doing the rounds for over 40 years!”

But there is a downside to traditions and good cheer. Stress. Putting ourselves in a pressure cooker of perfection. ‘We must do it as well as we did last year’, ‘I must make this the most magical Christmas’, ‘If the dinner isn’t served on time it will be a disaster!’. Whilst ensuring everyone has a magical Christmas is of course admirable, we forget one small thing….US! You, me – us.

As women we seem to take on every responsibility that there is – we believe we do it best, it is what is expected of us. But the art of success is, in fact, delegation.

Both Anna and Cal are living examples to us all of how it should be done. Despite both of them loving Christmas, they have some very good tips for making sure that there is a certain balance to it all!

Anna likes to pre-cook as much as she can so that her time in the kitchen is limited. She also sets a rota for her family so that all of the jobs are taken care of and there isn’t just the one person in charge.

Cal’s husband Tim is a foodie – and likes to pre-cook a few suppers that go in the freezer – fish pie, shepherds pie, lasagne, bolognese sauce kind of thing – so that if people are staying they are easy to get out at the last minute.

Plus Cal and Tim will plan Christmas in mid November in a couple of hours and do 1 or 2 things that can’t wait until the week before including an online food order which is saved as a favourite and tweaked the day before. Then on Christmas Eve, they invite everyone locally and anyone staying to come to the house at 2pm for a paper cup of mulled wine and then all walk to the pub – dogs, kids, visitors. She said: “It feels like you’re being hospitable but it takes very little effort. The pub does most of the work and people can stay as long or short as they like and it doesn’t invade.”

But what about during Christmas week? Both Anna and Cal, Bracken and Emmy all enjoy the fresh air. Emmy and Cal like to meet friends and walk the dogs. Bracken’s family head off the beach on Boxing Day armed with a picnic bag full of leftovers. Anna likes to go out as much as possible and says: “Having breakfast or lunch in a restaurant is a blessing for the people you are staying with and of course shares some of the financial burden too.”

And whilst many of us are rushing around panicking at Christmas Cal has one idea we wish we had learned earlier! “I set aside one day to do everything in preparation – usually around the 21st – bedrooms for guests (and avoid them if I can), decorate the house and the tree, plan the table. If it doesn’t happen in a day, it doesn’t happen.”

So what about Shine’s Alice? Well this year Alice is most certainly having a rest! This is the first year in 10 that she hasn’t worked on Christmas Day! With a background in the hospitality industry, she’s happy not to be serving 92 hot Christmas lunches! Who can blame her?

So come on ladies – let’s make this a Christmas full of good cheer. But let’s also make sure that the cheer is ours as well. Share the burden to share the joy!