INTERIORS

OUR ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO CELEBRATING THE SEASON

Because Christmas isn't cancelled!

November 11, 2020

Christmas is right around the corner, and if you’re like us, you may be wondering how on earth you’re going to celebrate this year which is definitely going to be a bit different. The events of 2020 have given us a greater appreciation of our homes. They have become offices, schools, playgrounds, but now is the time for them to transform into magical places for joy, comfort, and celebration. Read more, ‘Time Tested Tips for a Stress-Free Christmas.’

Necessity dictates that Christmas is more likely to be a more intimate affair this year, but that doesn’t mean it can’t look fabulous.

We still need that feeling of festivity, and familiarity that the holidays and the foods that go with them provide. Making merry at Melissa’s country home this season. Photo:Abbie Melle.

This Christmas is an opportunity to think outside the box.

It may inspire you to throw out your traditional playbook and opt for an entirely new menu (maybe that’s something you’ve secretly wanted to do for years anyway). Or you may be seeking just the opposite, longing to replicate some semblance of your family’s Christmas traditions because you find them comforting in these uncertain times. Perhaps you’re looking for thoughtful ways to show your family and loved ones, that you care even if you can’t do it in person. Regardless of which camp you fall into, we’ve put together a list of low-stress ways to safely celebrate Christmas amid the pandemic. Read more, ‘Tablescapes: Elevating Dinner At Home During Isolation.’

In many ways, this Christmas will be different from other Christmas seasons. We won’t be cooking the same feasts we would have in years past, because we won’t be gathering in groups as we have in years past. But we still need that feeling of festivity, familiarity and togetherness that the holidays and the foods that go with them provide. Here’s how to make merry – with our essential guide to hosting a Covid Christmas, that’s packed full of comfort and joy. Read more, ‘A Return To Dining Together; And New Rules For Group Eating.’

Tie simple garlands of foliage with ribbon around stairways to add cheer to your interior. Imagee via Elle Decoration UK.

Dine together virtually

If you live close to family or friends, a fun way to piece together your Christmas feast is by organising a meal exchange among a few households. After deciding on a menu together, you can add all of your recipe links to a shared spreadsheet like Google Sheets. Each household signs up for a dish or two to make in bulk, divvies them up into equal portions and delivers them to the other households on Christmas Eve or Christmas Morning. The spreadsheet helps keep everything organised so no one accidentally makes the same dish twice (though too much stuffing is never a bad thing). You can also add a column for allergies or dietary restrictions, which is helpful when you’re juggling multiple dishes and mouths to feed. Once the dropoff is complete, everyone can enjoy their meals together on a video call. Read more, ‘A Guide to Mastering The Virtual Dinner Party.’

Broadcasting your computer display on your TV can make your far-away family feel a little more life-size.

Alternatively, for some people, the best part of Christmas is the joy and frenzy of cooking together with family and friends. If you can’t all be in the same kitchen this year, one way to re-create that feeling is for each household to prepare the same batch of recipes independently. That way you can experience the same meal over a long-distance video chat. Again, once you agree on a menu, you can add all of your recipe links to a shared spreadsheet. You can also create columns in the spreadsheet for each household to write comments—whether they’re helpful tips, suggested ingredient variations, or cooking woes. Read more, ‘Essential Christmas: A Last-Minute Check List.’

Of course, dining virtually can be a challenge when you’re limited to the small screen on your smartphone or laptop. One way to enhance your viewing experience is by taking advantage of other electronics you may already have. Read more, ‘The Last Minute Hostess: How To Fake The Perfect Holiday Party.’

Christmas isn’t cancelled at Melissa’s country house this year where it will be a smaller outdoors gathering with a scaled back menu.

Order or send food

If you’re looking to cut yourself some slack, ordering side dishes is far less stressful than preparing an entire Christmas feast yourself. Even if you want to make some dishes yourself, it can be nice to supplement them with a few ready-made options. You can always order basic precooked sides from the grocery store. But also consider picking up food from a local restaurant or caterer, which is a great way to support businesses hit hard by the pandemic. Getting specialty foods online is another option. Read more, ‘Why Christmas Is About Food.’

You might also consider sending specialty foods or a bountiful gift basket to your loved ones. We’re big fans of surprising family and friends with a box of bounty which we tested for our guide to the best gift baskets. A box of specialty coffee makes another lovely gift. We love Hampers with Bite, which have launched a new Chirstmas range with every member of your family covered.

If you’re like me, you’ve probably done your fair share of stress baking (and eating) during the pandemic.

You could send something you’ve made yourself instead of ordering food online. Shipping some of those calories to family and friends is a great way to show them you’re thinking of them, even if you can’t celebrate the holiday together. When it comes to cookies, it’s best to send bar or drop varieties that aren’t too delicate—other kinds will arrive in a pile of crumbs. Read more, ‘Dreading Christmas? Ham it Up With Peter Rowland.’

A Christmas ham by Peter Rowland wins our vote every time. Photo: Blake Heywood

Scale it back

Your guest list is likely to be much smaller than usual this year, which means you can scale your menu back a bit. If you don’t plan to repurpose the turkey after Christmas for sandwiches, cooking  a breast instead of a whole bird might make more sense. You can also try mixing things up by cooking duck instead of turkey. Consider halving recipes and making fewer sides. And again, don’t be afraid to get sides from your local restaurant, bakery, caterer or supermarket. Read more, ‘A Guide to All Things Christmas.’

If this is your first year cooking Christmas, don’t sweat it.

There couldn’t be a better time to give it a try than during a pandemic when the stakes are so low. The focus will be on seeing family or friends, not on worrying about a turkey that may taste a little dry. Read more, ‘When The Next Generation Has To Step Up For Christmas.’

Christmas at Home with Melissa Penfold, Photo:Abbie Melle

Cut down your guest list

The most difficult choice you have to make this Christmas may be winnowing down your guest list. Experts advise keeping it small and limiting the number of households attending. It’s really best not to mix households at all. Enjoying turkey and all the fixings is safest if your table is only set for the members of your household. A recent survey showed that 30% of people planned to host only their immediate family this year (up from 18% last year). Small Christmas gatherings are the lowest risk celebration while attending large indoor gatherings with people from outside of your household is the highest risk. Read more, ‘The Politics Of The Dinner Party Seating Plan.’

There is no “ideal” number of guests, but as the guest list increases,

so do the odds of transmitting COVID-19.

Assess the risk

To start, answer a series of questions to determine the potential risks of your gathering. Do you have a vulnerable person at your family table? Are virus cases on the rise in your area? Are guests travelling from hot spots? If the answer to any of those questions is yes, you should reconsider bringing those guests into your home.

Ask your guests to take early precautions

Once you’ve decided to invite additional guests, ask them to be vigilant in reducing their contacts and potential exposures for at least a week, and preferably two weeks, before Christmas. Just trying, to the best of your ability, to be more conscious of the contacts you have before and after you gather can be a risk reduction strategy.”

It’s really best not to mix households at all and whittle the list down to immediate family this Christmas with small gatherings. Photo Abbie Melle

Celebrate al fresco

Consider taking advantage of the nice weather by throwing an outdoor party. It’s easier for multiple families to gather at a safe distance outside. Plus the odds of transmitting COVID-19 are almost 19 times higher in indoor settings than outdoors.  If the weather temperatures allow, host Christmas outdoors. Read more, ‘How To Entertain Australian Style.’

A  designated food station allows each household to take turns dishing up their plates.

Alternatively, you can portion the food in advance from separate platters and distribute it at the gathering. You can cook your turkey or ham on a barbecue. Read more, ‘How To Set a Stunning Table.’

Consider taking advantage of the nice weather by throwing an outdoor party this Christmas. Photo of festive preparations at Melissa’s country house. Photo:Abbie Melle.

Assign a Server

Ask one person to serve the food to limit the number of people touching the dishes. Anytime you can minimize how many people touch the same surfaces, it’s safer.

Ditch tradition (or begin new ones) 

Perhaps this is the year to break free of familial traditions and choose something nontraditional to cook. If you have a growing stack of recipes you’ve saved or a new cookbook you’ve yet to try, now is the perfect time to rummage through them and choose dishes that inspire you. It’s much easier to try new recipes when you have fewer people to please, especially if that one grumpy relative won’t be joining you this year. Don’t feel beholden to the usual suspects like doing both a ham and turkey. Do one or the other. Read more, ‘How To Be The Perfect Host.’

One way to plan a menu is to highlight seasonal food unique to your area.

Maybe something as simple as replacing turkey with fresh seafood could be nice to try. Or a great carbonara.  Any nice meal paired with a great bottle of wine can be just as meaningful as a traditional Christmas feast with all the trimmings.

Perhaps this is the year to break free of familial traditions and choose something non-traditional to serve such as Christmas stollen or panetonne instead of a pudding. Photo: Abbie Melle

Open the windows

Many of us feel safer gathering in our homes, rather than at a restaurant or public space, but experts say we underestimate the risk when it comes to private get-togethers. Make sure your home is properly ventilated. Most homes typically don’t have the kinds of efficient mechanical ventilation systems most commercial spaces have, and indoor air changes far more slowly as it leaks through small cracks or gaps around windows and doors. Many homes, in fact, are sealed up tight to make them more energy efficient. Depending on the home, weather conditions and other variables, research shows that opening multiple windows — the wider, the better, and in every room if possible — can increase the air exchange rate to as much as three times an hour. Turn on exhaust fans, which are typically found over the stove and in bathrooms and over the stove. The most difficult choice you have to make this Christmas may be winnowing down your guest list. Experts advise keeping it small and limiting the number of households attending. It’s best not to mix households at all.

Still Life

No room for a tree? Create a festive vignette by decorating a branch. For an extra layer of magic, scatter baubles beneath it and add your favourite scented candle. Read more, ‘The Most Decadent Christmas Candles.’

Tailgate

Hosting a “Tailgating Christmas” in your backyard. Set up cooking stations, folding tables and chairs, and Children can roast marshmallows over fire pits. Read more, ‘4 Secrets to Throwing The Perfect Holiday Party.’

Curated Objects

You don’t need to buy new Christmas decorations every year. Dress the table with existing mismatched candlesticks, low vases, heirloom decorations, and simple white table linen.

Christmas via Elle Decoration UK

Joy to the World

Brighten the mood and embrace gift wrap that will make you and the recipient smile. Playful patterns and gorgeous baubles in beautiful colours remind us that this is the time for having fun.

All That Glitters

If you are going to have a Christmas tree, then make sure it’s the star attraction. Drip it from head to toes with vintage decorations.

Welcome Home

A large dramatic wreath on your front door will give your home a suitable grand entrance. You could buy a lavish design from a professional florist or chose to embellish a plain florist-bought wreath.

Donate to those in need

This Christmas is especially poignant due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as many people have lost loved ones or are experiencing financial hardships.  Consider volunteering your time or donating money to an organization or charity that’s meaningful to you in lieu of having a big feast. You can also donate your time by checking in on elderly neighbors and offering to run their errands.

Melissa’s Daughter, Isabella, pictured at home for the festive season.

related stories

Living By Design

MP

Don’t miss the style set’s fave newsletter

Get Melissa's weekly rundown of where top interior designers source their things and find inspiration - that will instantly transform your pad.

Close and please don't show again