Season well

Melissa Penfold tells how to whip up a glamorous, safe Christmas.


THIS CHRISTMAS , entertaini­ng at home becomes more important than ever. The message is clear – have fun with your loved ones and go simple and abundant. Pandemic etiquette is still newish to us all, but making guests feel at ease and welcome in our home is not. Focus on alfresco events to come together safely adhering to government guidelines.

Leave paper towels and hand soap in your bathroom, along with disinfecti­ng wipes and a spray bottle of isopropyl alcohol for misting handles. Think hand sanitisers in pretty baskets as the accessory du jour. When pouring wine, ask guests to leave their glass on the table and refill without touching it. For safety, serve food directly from the oven and allow guests to pull a serving from platters with their own utensils. Minimal risk, minimal fuss.

A cheap and chic festive way to decorate is to add greenery with branches of spruce or fir mixed with pinecones, red apples or pomegranat­es. Bringing the outdoors in feels authentic and individual – and is a great antidote to consumeris­m.

Pre-prepare as much food as possible. Make the main course and buy the rest. The higher quality the ingredient­s, the less you have to do. There is nothing wrong with cheating – as long as your shopbought food is stunning. We always buy our puddings, which are better than anything we could possibly make.

When someone starts talking conspiracy theories or politics, or when your uncle goes berserk, do nothing. You are not going to change anyone’s mind at Christmas time. Just smile and listen, then ask for seconds, or thirds, and clear the table when it’s over.

Do give a small gift to neighbours or invite them to your Christmas party. Do be kind when you open your gifts. Do keep shoes on at parties. Do post your Christmas cards. Do give homemade presents.

Embrace the shopping list, write a gift list and a meal plan, and overlap ingredient­s where possible. Christmas is a time to indulge and the chocolates are sure to be out, so look for supermarke­t brands that you might not usually use which go further.

Uplifting carols can transform the ambience. Spotify’s Christmas Pop playlist includes classics by Michael Bublé, Justin Bieber and Katy Perry.

Retailers are releasing more and more eccentric advent calendars, including ones by Tiffany & Co, Jo Malone London and Aldi. Gin and wine calendars are also popular. It’s not too late to pick one up and have some fun.

Anything goes right now. Some guests might stay all day, while others who are older or are compromise­d health-wise might leave right after lunch. A Christmas day that is simple, adaptable and focuses on loved ones will be the winner for 2020.

Waterford Jeff Latham ‘Icon’ $349/two, waterfordc­ Christmas catering by Peter Rowland, peterrowla­ Peugeot ‘Bistro’ in Natural, $44, petersofke­ Aerin ‘Gabriel’ small crystal $140, beckermint­ Flamingo Rd large in Antique, $240/set of six, flamingord­homewares. Vera Wang ‘Grosgrain’ three-piece $169, Aerin ‘Scallop’ nesting $725/set of three, beckermint­ Flowers by Bloomey’s; L&M Home ‘Cambridge’

$32/set of four,; Wedgwood ‘Gio’ 26-piece $499,; food by Peter Rowland, peterrowla­ ‘Constance’ outdoor dining $399, harveynorm­

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