So here they are welcoming you, with your silly reindeer jumper on, into their beautiful home which smells delicious and exudes warmth and what have you done for them? Well here’s a list of several of my favourite “little effort for ultimate gratitude” ideas for the week leading up to the big event. Each one takes little more than an hour and all are guaranteed to make you a favoured guest for Christmasses to come.
1. Homemade Chutneys, pickles and more!
Anything homemade that comes in a jar tends to go down well at Christmas. Jam jars are something that are generally easy to get your hands on, and recycled too! Just wash out last week’s shop-bought strawberry jam and sterilise in boiling water. Refill with any number of recipes that use few ingredients and take little time. Tie a ribbon around the lid and you’re good to go. Recipes to try include red onion chutney like the one we found here, homemade honeycomb a la Nigella or fudge a la Sophie. Simple recipes I’m trying this weekend are minimal on the ingredients: roasted peppers with garlic (just chuck them in a roasting tin with plenty of oil and maybe a little rosemary if you have it – they keep for ages) and my absolute favourite Lemon Curd. It only contains lemons, butter, sugar and eggs – so simple!
Turn up to any Christmas shindig with a ribbon adorned jar full of something homemade and you’re guaranteed to be Top Guest over the festive period.
Your turn to bring the drinks? Pick up some googly eyes, pipe cleaners and red pompoms from your local stationers or craft shop for less than a fiver and turn your six-pack into a fleet of festive reinbeers! Geddit? This idea is simple, quick, cheap and funny. Who wouldn’t laugh if you turned up to a party with these? The bottle, of course, can be switched to whatever takes your fancy, including soft drinks or wine. I do, however, recommend sticking to any form of beery-alcohol substance or ginger beer for the non-drinkers. That way you ensure optimum word-play giggles upon arrival.
3. Send a treat ahead of time
Sweeten your hosts up by sending a thoughtful gift ahead of time. Send a gorgeous Christmas Basket or Poinsettia with Chocolates to arrive a few days before you do. Accompany it with a note to say how much you’re looking forward to spending Christmas with your hosts and you’re bound to be in their good books in time for an extra helping of Christmas pudding.
Baking is, generally, the way to anyone’s heart. Even if they don’t like cake (weird) they’ll be bowled over by the effort you’ve gone to. Not only will your guests love it but you might find you enjoy it too. Baking is often listed as an activity which helps relieve stress and it can be a fun thing to do with kids and family over the festive period too. Get creative – green buttercream for tree themed cupcakes, Curly Wurlies for reindeer antlers, crystallised ginger for snowmen’s noses, simple iced snowflake cookies – the possibilities are endless! If you really don’t have time to bake from scratch, after all we all know Christmas is a busy time, you can grab premade cake and icing mixes so all you need to do is add the liquid ingredients and do the decorating!
5. Create a Christmas soundtrack
For some people Christmas music is not a prominent feature of their music collection. Christmas morning often brings a frantic rush to find that out of date Christmas compilation you were given, or you might end up settling for some TV countdown full of songs you hate. Mariah Carey in a red snow suit is not for everyone, after all. Get one step ahead and compile a list of all the tracks you and your hosts may like to listen to on Christmas Day. A self-made mix is one of the most personal gifts you can give and you have absolute control over what goes on it, so scour your record collection, search the web, ask friends for recommendations and then burn a CD or make a playlist. Be sure not to forget to add some epic artwork, perhaps a festive self-portrait or a collage made from wrapping paper. Who knows, you may even get a dance out of it later!