Nailing down the feast
You’ve already sketched out what you’re eating for Christmas (classic turkey, prawn fest, fusion buffet?) and now it’s time to nail it down. Start with Christmas breakfast, trundle right through to Christmas supper (if anyone in your crew can pace themselves that well) and list every dish and every drink. And if you find gaps or clashes, settle in and sort them out.
If you’re depending on others who are less organised than you, they may not yet know what they’re providing, so get them to commit to a category (cold dessert, meat platter, salad or whatever) and let them know the constraints (Bernie is doing coleslaw and Sally is making sticky date pudding) to head them in the right direction. Then add the other feasts you’ll be catering for, even if it’s just shortbread for a morning tea at work and icy poles for after-school care.
If there are any tight spots, like too much to cook on Christmas Eve or you’ve scheduled the gingerbread house for the night you’ll be at the bridge club knees-up, reschedule, delegate or simplify. Cook-ahead dishes can help (provided they’re delicious, like trifle and chocolate ripple cake, rather than dubious, like Auntie Margie’s jellied salad).
Consider ordering your Christmas meat now: you can wait till December if you’re not certain of numbers but if, like me, you have it all bolted down, you might as well lock it in with your butcher.
Christmas Day 1970: There was a debate about who should do the tea dishes: Caroline and Wendy were clearly on the hook but every other kid had already done double duty that day and two lackeys wasn’t enough. Then Uncle Jim pointed out that neither Uncle Geoff nor Uncle Bill had been involved in the dinner dishes and that solved the problem to the children’s satisfaction – but not to Geoff’s or Bill’s!
 When my nephew Jack stops being an ever-growing teenager and becomes a settled adult, I’m going to miss the way he eats like a hippo: I like being able to put down a plate of cranberry chocolate clusters and know that someone is going to say, “Yum!” when everyone else is groaning and saying, “More food?”.
 If they haven’t been reading my blog!
 My father said that the right direction for Auntie Margie to head was towards the food hall but I know he liked her salami casserole and her whisky blancmange so that was a bit harsh.