LIV­ING COL­UMN Slow down and take a pared-back ap­proach to the fes­tive sea­son.

Slow down and take a more pared-back ap­proach to the fes­tive sea­son this year

In the Moment - - Contents - Words: Caro­line Row­land / Il­lus­tra­tion: Brit­tany Mo­lineux

E very year, Christ­mas seems to creep up on me. My usual work­load and ‘to do’ list do not mag­i­cally dis­ap­pear in those weeks prior to the fes­tive pe­riod, so by the time I’ve bat­tled my way through my dead­lines, it’s sud­denly upon us and I feel al­to­gether un­pre­pared. What is sup­posed to be a special and re­lax­ing time of year of­ten be­comes stress­ful and panic-rid­den in my house­hold as we try to nd the per­fect gifts, per­form ex­pert gift wrap­ping and make our home t for Fa­ther Christ­mas. Well, this year I’m ap­proach­ing the sea­son with a di er­ent frame of mind. That pared-back aes­thetic I’ve been ap­ply­ing to my home is the ex­act phi­los­o­phy I plan to ap­ply to yule­tide too.

We are bom­barded by Christ­mas mar­ket­ing, usu­ally from the start of Oc­to­ber (it should be banned un­til af­ter Hal­loween, at least!) and I, for one, tend to get ‘fes­tive fa­tigue’ by the time the big day rolls around. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no Scrooge, but I feel I am ready for a gen­tler, qui­eter ap­proach, where the dec­o­rat­ing and gift giv­ing has more sen­ti­ment and less ex­cess.

One of my favourite things is, of course, dec­o­rat­ing the house, but due to the afore­men­tioned lack of time, cre­at­ing a more sim­plis­tic Christ­mas aes­thetic is the per­fect so­lu­tion. The tree does not need to be laden in dec­o­ra­tions – in fact, why not con­sider a tree with no adorn­ment, but very sim­ply placed in a wo­ven bas­ket or hes­sian sack and sprin­kled with fairy lights? If you can’t imag­ine Christ­mas with­out hang­ing dec­o­ra­tions, then spend a week­end af­ter­noon mak­ing a few – get kids in­volved in sim­ple ideas like mak­ing stars from small twigs and twine, cut­ting out shapes from air-dry­ing clay or dip­ping pinecones in paint.

Keep­ing your dé­cor nat­u­ral cre­ates a very Scan­di­na­vian feel, which of course is all the rage right now, and it’s so much more re­lax­ing than a home lled with ash­ing reindeer and wav­ing San­tas. Opt for lots of fo­liage like eu­ca­lyp­tus, pine and rose­mary, which all con­trib­ute to scent­ing your home, too – an equally im­por­tant part of cre­at­ing the per­fect at­mos­phere. Make sim­ple wreaths from green­ery, ei­ther from a wire hanger bent into a cir­cu­lar shape, or go large and wrap a hula-hoop in neu­tral coloured fab­ric and twist round stems of ivy and eu­ca­lyp­tus. Stock up on can­dles and en­joy how some­thing so sim­ple can com­pletely al­ter the am­bi­ence of a room.

On the big day, if you are host­ing, keep­ing your ta­ble dé­cor sim­ple will free you up to en­joy cook­ing and time with your fam­ily. A linen table­cloth, a lit­tle green­ery and lots of can­dles are re­ally all you need. If you have the time, I like to make lit­tle pack­ages lled with sweet treats for my guests – much nicer than the junk you get inside crack­ers!

If you par­tic­u­larly en­joy the ta­ble styling part of the day (I know I do!) then con­sider how to in­tro­duce lots of nat­u­ral ele­ments. You could make a can­dle holder from a small log by hol­low­ing out holes along the top edge, or cre­ate place names by sim­ply writ­ing your guests’ names on an ivy leaf with a metal­lic pen. If your cal­lig­ra­phy skills aren’t up to it, search Pin­ter­est for print­able name cards – there’s lots avail­able in beau­ti­ful script that you can print out onto card, then sim­ply tie with twine around your nap­kins and add a sprig of scented fo­liage. Cin­na­mon sticks are a lovely ad­di­tion to place set­tings too, and your com­pany will rel­ish in the aroma.

Sim­pli­fy­ing your Christ­mas prepa­ra­tion and your dé­cor will mean more time to en­joy what re­ally mat­ters at this time of year. Plus, when it’s all over, rather than pack­ing boxes of plas­tic dec­o­ra­tions back into the loft, your nat­u­ral ele­ments can go on the com­post or gar­den waste and your pa­per dec­o­ra­tions can be re­cy­cled! Wish­ing you a peace­ful and pared-back fes­tive hol­i­day.

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