The festive season is upon us, so with only 24 days until C Day (and until we find out who’s been naughty and who’s been nice) we’ve teamed up with our foodie contributor Fiona Archibold (who is a snow canon of knowledge on all things Christmas) to bring you 25 tasks to get you in the holiday spirit and to help you feel organised mamas!
1. Open the first door on your Advent Calendar
Start the countdown to the big day – if you haven’t bought a calendar then it’s as easy as 1,2 3 (4 – 25) and fun to make one with the kiddos.
What you’ll need:
25 brown-paper envelopes (for a rustic feel) – coloured or white envelopes look just as pretty
1m each of five different ribbons
Number stamps and ink pad – or number stickers/stencils
Stickers, sequins, buttons, glitter – anything to decorate the envelopes
Glue and stapler
Sweets or small toys – or if you prefer (and don’t want the kids eating too much candy) you can add a fun little message or fun activity to try that day to each envelope
Get creative! Decorate the envelopes with anything you like (remembering to add numbers 1-25 to each)
Choose five lengths of ribbon, lace or braid and lay them out flat. Evenly space the envelopes in the centre of the tape or ribbon and staple on
String them up – either bunting style or on a piece of foam board and place your goodies inside each!
See, we told you it was easy.
2. Order your turkey (or roast of choice)
What was once a five star hotel treat has now become a massively competitive business in the UAE. Wonderful news for us mamas as right now we are literally spoilt for choice when it comes to picking who should cook our festive food for us! Go for a hotel close to your home, order in advance, pick up on the day of your party and serve …. Festive offerings vary considerably in scope and price, therefore it is worthwhile researching to align your aspirations and budget.
No time to pick up? Order online from Casseroleonline.com, or Facebook casserolerestaurant – they will deliver directly to your home. The Ivy can roast up a turkey with all trimmings including gravy plus 2 sauces, 4 vegetables, Christmas Pudding and Mince Pies serving 8 generously for AED 999. We’re not just talking turkey, they also offer a Roast Rib Eye of Beef including trimmings for for the same price. For a sophisticated French Christmas, Reflets Par Pierre Gagniere can roast a goose complete with foie gras, chestnuts & gratin dauphinoise. Chef’s favourite Market & Platters have ready plated offerings that cover the spectrum of seafood, sushi & cheese for instant catering. No cooking required…
3. Borrow a tradition
Living in this wonderful multicultural city gives us the opportunity to adopt traditions from all over the world and experience Christmas around the world without ever leaving Dubers. Here are just a few of our favourites:
Sweden: Candles and lights are the big thing in Sweden each winter – on each Sunday in December before Christmas day, a candle is lit in anticipation of the big day getting ever closer – until 4 candles are eventually lit.
France: The 6th December marks St. Nicholas Day when, in some parts of France, children leave their shoes out over night for them to be filled with treats and gifts (a cute pre-cursor to Christmas day – we love! Plus a good way to inspire good behavior for the month of December.
Poland: As with many European countries, in Poland Christmas is celebrated on Christmas eve and the meal begins with the sighting of the first star. Telescopes at the ready mamas!
4. Buy a fresh tree in Satwa
Nothing beats the smell of a real Christmas tree – and although you can pick one up at most supermarkets, ACE Hardware or Dubai Garden Centre, heading to plant street in Satwa is not only a cheaper option but a real family adventure. Many of the plant stores here will display fresh trees out front –but go inside for a Narnia-esque experience and the chance to pick out your tree from a mini forest out back. You can also drive out to the plant souk out towards Dragonmart for fresh pine trees at a cheaper price. Haggling totally expected mamas! You’ll also be able to pick up a stand that holds water to keep your tree looking perky. We’ve got a few tips below:
– Look for the freshest tree and check for dried leaves.
– It’s best to pick a tree that is at least a foot shorter than the ceiling.
– Try not to place your tree in direct sunlight
– Keep your tree well hydrated by topping up the water in the stand and even spraying the leaves.
5. Take a trip to Ikea for Christmas essentials
There’s a time and place for Ikea and the holiday season is definitely it. Our favourite Swedish superstore is a fab place to pick up everything from Christmas decs to wrapping paper (plus extra glasses and plates for any additional guests). We love the festive lighting (golden stars, fairy lights, lanterns and candles galore). Expect to fill your car with home ware you never knew you needed (and probably don’t but heck it’s all too darn tempting) and also with stocking stuffers from the marketplace and the kiddie section. Get there early to beat the crowds!
6. Decorate the tree
It’s time to get that tree blinged up mamas – whether you want to go for the traditional red, green and gold or a colour scheme to match your home (pink and sparkly anyone?), head to Crate & Barrel for amazing hand painted baubles, cute felt animals and a heap of sparkly stuff. We love their laser cut wood snowflake garland and wooden tree beads. Home Centre has bauble sets in various colours, glittery ornaments from reindeer to crown tree toppers and lights galore. Make your own orange slices, they smell great and look beautiful with the tree lights.
What you’ll need:
String twine or thin sparkly ribbon
Cut oranges crosswise into ¾ inch slices to create a pinwheel effect (try to keep the thickness the same)
Lay on a baking sheet in the oven set at the lowest temperature (around 150 degrees f)
Bake for approximately 4 hours then turn with a spatula and check until they are almost dry but still with a little moisture in them and an orange colour (they continue to dry at room temp)
Make a tiny hole in the top of each with a sharp knife and thread your ribbon or string through before hanging on the tree!
7. Write a list for Santa with the kids
Ok so some of you might be more organised than us and have all your Christmas shopping wrapped up – but for those mamas who still need to hit the shops and trawl the web, make sure you get your little people to give you some pointers (nobody wants tears on Christmas day) and get those lists in time to act on them! Let them write/dictate the letter – there’s lots of fun to be had in the physical creation of their list so let them get on with it and encourage them to draw and decorate. Remember to set a limit on the amount of toys they can ask for (however many you decide). Put lists in an envelope addressed to Santa and leave out overnight, whisking away when the smalls are snoring and leaving a little glitter trail where they were. Magic.
8. Visit Santa at WAFI Mall
Every year Santa and his team travel all the way from the North Pole to Dubai where they take up residence in a sparkly little grotto and create a lot of Christmas cheer. This is one not to miss mamas, purely to see the look on your kids faces when they catch sight of the big man in red.
Make sure you get there first thing to avoid enormous queues.
Starting 9th December at 6pm for lighting of the Christmas tree followed by the opening of Santa’s grotto from 7pm – 10pm.
Daily from 10th – 24th December 10am – 10pm
Cost: AED 60 per child inclusive of a gift and photo with santa, pass for Kids Connection and entry to a WAFI raffle
9. Must-have music
Nothing beats a little music to set the mood – so compile a playlist for happy holidays, starting with these favourites:
Fairytale of New York by Stars
The Christmas Song by The Raveonettes
Last Christmas by Wham
I Saw Three Ships by Sufjan Stevens
All I Want For Christmas by The Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Merry Christmas Everybody by Slade (if only to yell IT’S CHRISTMASSSS at the top of your voice)
Santa Claus Is Coming To Town by Santa Claus
Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree by Brenda Lee
I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus by The Ronettes
Santa Baby by Eartha Kitt
There’s more to Christmas than shopping til you drop and eating til you pop. Spare a thought and lend a hand to those in need through one of the UAE’s volunteering programmes – visit www.volunteerinuae.com to find out how you can give back to the community.
11. Teachers gifts
They’ve put up with your little darlings for a term – it’s time to thank the teachers and their assistants with a gift that’s worthy of an A+ (and we’re not saying you need to throw money at it mamas). Which teacher couldn’t do with a little silence and a lie-down at the end of term? Treat them to pampering vouchers at SensAsia or The Nail Spa – or if you’d rather give something more personal, head to Arte in Times Square Mall (next one December 12th) for a whole lot of choice including homemade chutneys, arts & crafts and other locally made products.
12. Front door decoration
Let the world know that Christmas has arrived in your abode with a festive wreath or door decoration. Yes you can go for a shop-bought option (and if you do, The White Company has a beautiful fake frosted pine cone version complete with sparkly snow) but making your own is fun and much more cost-effective and we promise it’s not that hard! We LOVE this super easy frame option:
What you’ll need:
1 picture frame – your trip to Ikea will have you sorted!
Small pot of festive coloured paint – glossy is best
A few baubles or sparkly decorations (that can be easily tied/hung)
2 types of ribbon, 1 thick and 1 thinner for hanging the baubles
Step by step:
Remove glass and back and lay frame on newspaper ready to paint
Paint in your colour of choice
While waiting for the frame to dry, thread ribbon onto each of your baubles
Once frame is dry, tie your thick piece of ribbon at the top to create a bow and tie your baubles to this at various lengths.
Gorgeous! Your door will be the talk of the town.
13. Go ice skating or skiing
While the weather outside is…well warm and sunny actually, head indoors for skiing or skating and get that wintry feel. The ice rink at Dubai Mall is perfect for all ages – let your tiddlers (below 100cm) learn to skate with Penguin skating aids to grip onto and guide them over the ice. Prefer a snowy scene? Ski Dubai’s snow park offers 3,000 square meters of the white stuff with hills to toboggan on, a snow cavern and plenty of space for silliness and snowball fights, plus Ski Discovery lessons for the more adventurous kiddos. Children must be over the age of 2 to get into Ski Dubai (but take the babies and enjoy a hot chocolate overlooking the slopes instead).
14. Be the hostess with the mostess
Got guests coming for holiday drinkies and nibbles? wow them with a few super simple canapes mamas! Mini sassy soup shots will look beautiful and are soooo easy (tip – buy good quality ready made soup from Covent Garden – it’s all about how you serve it). Place in shot glasses on a piece of slate garnished with flowers, herbs etc et voila! Serve with candy cane cheese straws:
What you’ll need:
2 sheets (1 box) frozen puff pastry defrosted overnight in the refrigerator
1 extra-large egg
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup finely grated Gruyère cheese
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon salt and some freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Roll out each sheet of puff pastry on a lightly floured board until it’s 10 x 12 inches
Beat the egg with 1 tablespoon of water and brush the surface of the pastry
Sprinkle each sheet evenly with 1/4 cup of the Parmesan, 1/2 cup of the Gruyère, 1/2 teaspoon of the thyme, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, and some pepper.
With the rolling pin, lightly press the flavorings into the puff pastry.
Cut each sheet crosswise with a floured knife or pizza wheel into 11 or 12 strips.
Twist each strip, shape into a candy cane and lay on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.
Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until lightly browned and puffed. Turn each straw and bake for another 2 minutes. Don’t overbake or the cheese will burn. Cool and serve at room temperature.
15. Make Christmas cards with the kiddos
Unleash your arty side and get creative as a family with these simple Christmas cards they’ll love to make for teachers, friends and visiting relatives (big brownie points from grandma). Make a day of it by busting out the coloured pencils and vibrant paper with the kiddos; you can even do Christmas trees, snowmen or Christmas bauble themed ones for that extra dose of festivity! Otherwise you can forego the traditional paper route and make some cute heart shaped salt dough notes to attach to your fab presents.
16. Send paperless Christmas cards
Ok so we don’t have a door to door postal system in Dubai – but who needs a postman anyways when you’ve got Paperless Post – the best (and most eco-friendly) way to send holiday greetings (and perfect for keeping in touch with friends and relatives across the globe)?! Create an account, pick your design, input your email addresses and hit send! Too easy!
17. Make Sassy cheat cakes
Stretch your imagination for alternative Christmas cakes, which can also double as a fab centerpiece! Fashion a tree from white chocolate, crunchy cereal and dried cranberries or make adorable icing stars to stick on cupcakes as adorable embellishments. See Fiona’s recipes here.
18. Put on a Christmas movie
Get Christmas cosy with a festive film en famille. Snuggle up with popcorn, cocoa and a kid-friendly flick – we recommend:
The Muppet Christmas Carol
19. Get pre-christmas pampered
You’ve decked your home to the nines so make sure you follow suit with a little pampering to get mama looking (and feeling) sparkly for all those holiday parties! Perk up dull hair with highlights (see our recommended list of salons here) or book in for a blow dry at The Marquee or Be Bar Blow Dry Bar, get your nails looking as polished as your tree baubles at The Nail Spa, N-Bar, Sisters Beauty Lounge or The Beauty Connection Spa and eliminate Christmas stress with a little help from Dr. Maurizio Viel, apparently the man to see for the best botox in Dubai (we won’t tell anyone.)
20. Stock up on last minute stocking fillers
Ok Christmas Eve shoppers, we see you (because we’re usually there too!). Need to plump up those stockings mamas? You’ll find everything you need at Lakeland (from mini finger painting kits for the kids to retro table games for the hubster), Crate & Barrel (kitchen gadgets for foodies), Pottery Barn Kids (mini toys, beach accessories and bedroom decor for little interiors enthusiasts), Muji (we just love their coloured pens, note books and mini travel essentials) and Daiso (this Japanese store is a treasure trove – dig around and you’ll find everything from toys to weird and wonderful tools for your home – a little kitsch and lots of fun.)
21. Mamas wishlist
Christmas is for giving – and receiving – but as mamas we’re usually doing more of the former. We deserve a little special something during the holiday season but you can forget the subtle hints mamas, your husbands will need shopping for you made easy. Set up a pinterest page with all of your favourite things and direct him to the link. Sign up to Wishlistr, an easy to use web-based app that will help you collect, organize and keep track of the things you want before sharing with your friends and fam. Failing that, write it all down and put it under his nose!
22. Make Christmas cookies as last minute gifts or fore impromptu guests
We’re not entirely sure how the gingerbread tradition came about mamas, but it never really feels quite like Christmas without a gingerbread house somewhere in sight. For really easy gingerbread men, give the following a go:
What you’ll need:
350g/12oz plain flour, plus extra for rolling out
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
175g/6oz light soft brown sugar
1 free-range egg
4 tbsp golden syrup
Sift together the flour, bicarbonate of soda, ginger and cinnamon and pour into the bowl of a food processor. Add the butter and blend until the mix looks like breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar.
Lightly beat the egg and golden syrup together, add to the food processor and pulse until the mixture clumps together. Tip the dough out, knead briefly until smooth, wrap in clingfim and leave to chill in the fridge for 15 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Line two baking trays with greaseproof paper.
Roll the dough out to a 0.5cm/¼in thickness on a lightly floured surface. Using cutters, cut out the gingerbread men shapes and place on the baking tray, leaving a gap between them.
Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until lightly golden-brown. Leave on the tray for 10 minutes and then move to a wire rack to finish cooling. When cooled decorate with the writing icing and cake decorations.
23. Wrap gifts
All that wrapping paper tossed in the trash – so much waste (and no this isn’t our inner scrooge talking mamas, we all know that wrapping paper isn’t very eco-friendly!). Wrapping paper companies everywhere go absolutely crazy for Christmas and every bookshop’s stationery section becomes a mass of red, green and gold, however why not go a different route this year? For your mama friends more likely to wear scarves, try grabbing a few cheap ones and wrapping your presents up in those – they can even keep the scarves afterwards! Try using newspaper or magazine pages to wrap your gifts, it looks fab when paired with sparkly ribbon and festive bows (promise!) Think about repurposing jars as well if you’re giving away smaller gifts and embellish with some festive ribbon and a sprig of fake holly.
24. Set the Christmas table
Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring – except for mama who was busy making everything look beautiful for the following day. Create a dreamy tablescape whether you’ve got guests coming or you’ll be sitting down to eat as a fam, this is one occasion to go all out and make your meal magical.
Before setting your table, lay the foundation with a table runner sprinkled with glitter or Christmas confetti – use a strip of fabric (our good old friend Satwa is the place to go) or even crepe paper. Set the mood with lots of little tea-light candles and a couple of tall vases filled with sparkly baubles. Make each diner feel special with a little place card – try tying a name tag to a bauble or wrapping a sprig of rosemary and cinnamon stick with ribbon for easy but effective place settings. The Linen Souk has a huge range of gorgeous napkins guaranteed to add sophistication.
25. Family breakfast while opening gifts
Now we’re all hotly anticipating the traditional Christmas Day lunch mamas but don’t forget about a bit of brekkie! Fiona Archibold’s come up with a few tasty treats for you to tuck into this Christmas morning: spiced onion and apple confit, a festive cherry and granola mix as well a tantalizing festive cheese cake…take a peek at her recipes here!