There was frost on the rooftops here in London last night, and I’ve had to trade in my fall overcoat for a winter one in recent days to keep from shivering my way through the day. No idea if that will continue, but we are definitely moving winter-wards and into the Christmas season. Retailers have been priming us subliminally with decorations and music for the past few weeks to get us to shop, shop, shop, and the hordes on Oxford Street are a testament to the effectiveness of that, despite our protests that we hate it and that it doesn’t work on us personally.

As you can probably tell from the above, I’m a bit ambivalent about Christmas; on the one hand I object to the rampant commerciality of it all; on the other hand I love that – at the core of it – there is something quite powerful and wonderful that shows up when the mania around it has subsided.

Which brings us to checklists.

(Those suffering from segue whiplash will be forgiven at this point, but stay with me – I think I can explain)

Checklists – for me – are for events or processes that come at me regularly, but not regularly enough that the process becomes second nature. A good checklist is one that saves me having to re-think, or re-remember things that I’ve done several times already, and instead allows me to use my brain to creatively implement what is already on the list.

So what do Christmas and checklists have in common, apart from a lot of shared letters? Well, over the years I found that the pressure of the season was getting in the way of what was fundamentally an enjoyable occasion, largely because I was either not preparing for it, or was getting blindsided by last minute requests that I could have probably anticipated.

By the time I got to writing the Christmas prep checklist a couple of years back, I was already convinced of the value of checklists in my life. My ‘travel’ checklist had been saving me worried journeys to the airport for years (and – conservatively – thousands in things that I didn’t need to purchase twice because I’d left the original at home), and the ‘cottage close up’ checklist was the only way that we could stay on top of the myriad details of prepping the cottage to withstand yet another winter at -40C.

There was more than one moment of frustration that prepared the ground for the creation of the Christmas checklist, but I think it was the second year of attempting to close up the turkey with a paperclip and a pair of pliers that precipitated the move to get serious and write things down.

So, in a spirit of Yuletide usefulness, I offer the current version of my Christmas checklist. It is in no way a ‘have-to’ list, but a list of options. It is also a work in progress. The benefit of having a checklist is that as things are forgotten they can be captured and then added to the list to avoid future frustration. I add a few items each year, and someday I hope it will be truly complete. If you have a similar list, or can see gaps in mine please feel free to send through suggestions.

This is not about making Christmas a ‘tick-box’ exercise, but about outsourcing the mechanical/logistical bits to the list so I can be free to improvise and be creative about how they get done.

I’ll be using it again this year to navigate the mania and maximize the time I can spend enjoying the heart of what Christmas is all about.

Christmas Season Checklist:

Arrange meeting about Christmas late nov / early dec
Decide on activities for Christmas season:

  • Go ice skating?
  • Choose Carol service?
  • Order tree
  • Order wreath for door

Cards list prepared
Purchase cards
Cards out
Generate draft gift list for the following people:

Get out gift file
Choose best method for getting gifts to where the individuals are living

Get out Christmas box
Decide on which decorations for tree
Get out Christmas movies (buy new ones?)
Get out Christmas CDs (buy new ones?)

Get seasonal food in:

  • order Turkey/Goose
  • Stilton
  • Panettone
  • farm hamper
  • mince pies
  • potatoes
  • carrots
  • onions
  • sausage meat (for stuffing)
  • decide re dessert

get roasting tin out
get skewers in for turkey
get goose fat for roasting potatoes
Get small tags for presents

Christmas eve:

do food/oven/cooking plan w timings
Go to St Pauls – Christmas eve 4pm?
Go to local church midnight mass?
Take turkey out of fridge to let it warm up

Christmas Day:


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