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Simplify the silly season: Christmas made easy

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Kate Farr hacks the hassle out of choosing a tree, decking the halls and serving up a gourmet Christmas lunch.

Christmas in Hong Kong can be a magical time of year. It can also be a frankly stressful one, with food, decorations and gifts to arrange… that’s before you even start thinking how to fill the school holidays.

Here are a few helpful hints to making the festive season fun and hassle-free this year.

Trim the tree

One of the biggest Hong Kong Christmas dilemmas comes from choosing a tree. While many swear that nothing compares to the scent of a real spruce, others cite environmental concerns (not to mention all those spiky needles) as a reason to fake it through the festive season. Whether you’re on team real or team reusable, there are a few crafty shortcuts to make your tree a towering success.

Order your real tree well in advance to avoid disappointment; they tend to get snapped up quickly from the beginning of December. Look for Nordmann Firs – a special breed that not only has softer needles, but also sheds less as it dries out, making it a friendlier option for those with young kids or pets. Don’t forget accessories such as tree stands and wreaths; Xmas Tree Online stocks everything you need, along with the ultimate in convenience – a removal service. Prices start from HK$1,188 for a tree that’s sourced sustainably in the US. Keep it in a cool and draughty spot to minimise the needle fall.

If you prefer plastic and its shed-free durability, then City’super’s luxury artificial trees will see you through year after year, with prices starting at about HK$1,100. Failing that, good old Japan Home Centre (JHC) has an abundance of cheap and very cheerful trees starting at less than HK$100 – you can also find every possible permutation of lights and tinsel here for pocket-change prices. Missing the authentic scent of the season? Head to The Candle Company on Lyndhurst Terrace and take your pick of pine, cinnamon and winterberry scents that more than compensate for the lack of puncture marks in your feet.

Deck the halls

Aside from the aforementioned JHC tinsel-fest, Christmas decor opens up all kinds of opportunities for young kids to get crafty with an abundance of glitter glue, pipe-cleaners and felt. If they’ve brought home sackfuls of art projects from school, consider collating them all into an artwork print once Christmas is over, saving you wall space and preserving their efforts for future years – try DB’s own Little Bug Prints for a beautiful personalised memento.

For little ones who want to get hands-on, empty yoghurt pots can be decorated with Christmassy stickers – poke a small hole in the base and hang a button for an instant ‘bell’. Spray pinecones in gold or silver and make strings of gingerbread men – a couple of coats of varnish will make them last for years to come. Store everything away safely for next year in empty egg boxes and wind Christmas lights around a coat hanger to keep them tangle-free.

Alternatively, for a ready-made solution with a local twist, The Lion Rock Press has a beautiful range of Hong-Kong themed Christmas decorations, available at Bookazine. Check out the hanging Star Ferries, the elusive Lantau blue taxis, and dim-sum steamers, and adorn your tree with a distinctly Cantonese accent.

Wining and dining

Craving an old-fashioned Christmas dinner with all the trimmings, but stuck with a tiny Hong Kong-sized kitchen? Before you Google ‘how to microwave a 21lb turkey’, don’t panic – there are always crafty cheats to ensure that both your dinner, and more importantly, you, are beautifully presented on the big day.

The ultimate hack is, of course, to forgo slaving away in the kitchen altogether and head out for Christmas lunch. However, if your big day wouldn’t be complete without a heated debate over the gravy boat, then you can pre-order turkey and all the trimmings from Discovery Bay Recreation Club (club members get a discount), Discovery Bay Golf and some DB restaurants. If you’re looking to splurge, Mandarin Oriental delivers everything you need for a gourmet festive meal (from HK$2,088) all the way up to Christmas Day itself.

And what’s Christmas without a tipple or two? Winerack delivers for free to Discovery Bay and South Lantau on orders of six bottles of wine or over, and has a good selection of beers, ciders and spirits too.

Forgotten to stock the fridge and have guests arriving? You can speed-chill your drinks in one of two ingenious ways. The first is to wet a tea towel, wrap it around your bottle and then place it in the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes. The cold travels faster through water than through air, resulting in a nicely icy bottle. The second is to fill an ice bucket (or at a pinch, a washing up bowl) with water and ice, then add a generous handful of salt. Salt water chills your drink considerably faster than fresh water, leaving you ready to pour in record time. Cheers, and Happy Christmas!

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