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Xmas 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.

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; Garden Plus in Mui Wo stocks everything you need, along with the ultimate in convenience – a removal service. Keep the tree 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. Failing that, good old Japan Home Centre (JHC) has an abundance of cheap and very cheerful trees – you can also find every possible permutation of lights and tinsel here for pocket-change prices. Missing the authentic scent of the season? Splash out on a few scented candles (in pine, cinnamon and winterberry) that will more than compensate for the lack of puncture marks in your feet.

in post xmas parenting

Aside from the aforementioned JHC tinselfest, 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 – a beautiful personalised memento which you can bring out for years to come.

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.

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) and some DB restaurants. The Auberge’s Christmas Takeaway looks like a particularly good bet with party canapes and salads, as well as festive mains and desserts available through December 27.
And what’s Christmas without a tipple or two? Watson’s Wine right here in the South Plaza is offering discounts on champagne and wine throughout the holiday season, and Two More Glasses delivers for free in Discovery Bay for orders over HK$1,200.

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.

family parenting xmas dec 2021

No doubt, Christmas is a time for sharing gifts with our nearest and dearest; but in our eagerness to treat our loved ones to something special, it can be easy to lose sight of the true meaning of Christmas. How about trying a few festive alternatives that put over-consumption firmly back in its box?

Begin by asking questions such as ‘What do the children have?’ ‘What do they need?’ and ‘What is our financial situation like?’ Once you have those answers, it’s easier to decide on – and stick to – a budget for gifts.

Another trick worth employing when it comes to Christmas shopping for children comes in the form of an easy mantra: “Something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read.” This leaves plenty of scope for practical gifting with a few treats that will be genuinely well-received.

Give simple stockings filled with small gifts including things like a piece of fruit… try something different. If you refuse to buy into the societal pressure of having to have a ‘perfect’ Christmas, you can relax and enjoy the time together, while reminding children what Christmas is about, according to your own philosophy.

And if you’re looking for alternatives to the traditional avalanche of gifts in favour of making lasting memories, the options are endless: Decorate your apartment and Christmas tree together, involve the kids in Christmas dinner preparation, head to festive events such as carol services or theatre shows as a family, do something for charity or take a special family outing.

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