The Countdown to Christmas – how many sleeps and getting ready for Christmas like a pro

If you're one for prepping and getting ready for Christmas like it's a military operation, our Countdown to Christmas will help you avoid last-minute panics this Christmas 2020

Countdown to Christmas: Egg timer wearing a Christmas hat
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

The countdown to Christmas is in full swing and with not so many sleeps until Saint Nick pays us all a visit, there is some prep to do.

If your Christmas has all been a bit last minute in previous 'normal' years, then this year, the pandemic year, you will need to take a few extra steps to ensure that all is merry and bright when getting ready for Christmas. Because we can't change the fact that the pandemic has changed our lifestyles, and therefore we are adapting every day, but even more-so at Christmastime.

So, if you are one for thinking you're sorted, only to then realise that you've forgotten batteries for the kids’ toys, you've run out of wrapping paper after the shops have closed on Christmas Eve, or before you can order some online for same or next day delivery – you know how it is – then we can help. 

No more panic-buying and overpaying for Christmas gifts and no more wondering how you defrost a turkey at 5am in time for Christmas Day dinner, this is your ultimate guide to getting ready for Christmas. 

Where to start with getting ready for Christmas

(Image credit: Getty)

Decide on who goes or Zooms where/when

While early October is usually the time to – if you haven’t already been pinned down by your mother(-in-law) in June about who’s coming to whom at Christmas – finally decide who is going where, this year we were actually anticipating the rules of Christmas with Covid to know whether or not we could even have guests round. 

Now we have a little more clarity but to finalise your plans, get clued up on the latest Christmas Covid rules which will help you get ready for Christmas with a bit more ease.

The positives? 

Less diary-filled stress, and more time to casually browse and create your own Christmas wish lists online. We can't lie, we were looking out for all the Christmas decorating ideas back in October...

red wrapping paper for christmas by john lewis

Red wrapping paper by John Lewis

(Image credit: John Lewis)

Get your diary organised

Because socially-distanced walks with mugs of mulled cider and the likes are still a Christmas event. And, if you’ve got children – especially children with birthdays in the run up to Christmas – now’s the time to double check their school’s website in tandem with the rules for all the crazy virtual or IRL Christmas events that may or may not be happening.

Revisit your Christmas budget

If you're halfway through your Christmas gift or even food shopping list, take another look at what you have left to get and how much of your budget is still there. Make any changes you need to ensure Christmas doesn't burn a hole in your pocket

What you should have done in November

If you haven't done the following yet, don't panic but get to it quickly!

Stock up on stocking fillers

The one thing parents (aka Santa) has to get right is the stocking fillers, and the better they get every year, the quicker they sellout so grab the best ones while you still can!

Finalise gifts

With the UK now out of Lockdown 2.0 and most non-essential (but still rather essential) shops now open, it's time to shop shop shop if you haven't got everything you need just yet. If you prefer to do this online (like us) and if you need inspiration (we understand) we have gift guides for every recipient imaginable. From Christmas gifts for girls to gifts for dogs and eco-friendly Christmas gifts, and we could go on, just check out our main Christmas page for the latest inspiration. 

Christmas baubles by Maisons du Monde

Christmas baubles by Maisons du Monde

(Image credit: Maisons du Monde)

Shop for household essentials

If you need a new fridge freezer on sale or a great washing machine deal then take a look now so that you can get yours in time for the festivities.

Wrap, wrap, wrap

Yup, really. If you wrap as you get your gifts in, you’ll save yourself those prolonged evenings of wrapping the week before Christmas (when you’d rather be lying down in a dark room). Plus, it’ll stop the kids spotting what you’ve bought them. Hide the wrapped gifts away from little ones unless you want long conversations about how early Father Christmas is this year. And make sure you’ve written down what you’ve already bought for whom so you don’t double up – you know it happens. Haven't got a clue how to wrap nicely? Our gift wrapping ideas piece can help.

Decide on your Christmas menu

Now that we know just about what we can and can't do on Christmas, you can decide on your Christmas dinner menu with more ease too. And, if it's the case of catering for one or two more/less on the day itself, you shouldn't waste anything even if you stock up.

Do you want a cheese board this year? Are you going to make the Christmas cake or buy it? Do you need to practice making Yorkshire puddings? So many food-related questions, that must all be answered. And, there are so many things you can do in advance like make cranberry sauce and drink mulled wine.

Thanksgiving table decor

(Image credit: Lights4fun)

Order your turkey 

Once decided on your menu, and provided that you aren't vegetarian, whether you’re going to cook a turkey or a goose, and like to be sure of quality, you might want to order from a butcher if possible rather than do a supermarket shop. Ask your local butcher now if you can put your order in so you get choice pickings.

Book your grocery delivery slot

It’s around now that Christmas delivery slots for supermarkets can be booked. You may not know what you want on your Christmas grocery list just yet, but you can book a slot, put a few basics in your baskets, checkout and revisit nearer the time.

Order your Christmas tree 

It's no secret that we were all putting our Christmas trees up end of November this year! And if you're late to the party, that's okay. Treat yourself to the best real Christmas tree or find a showstopper artificial Christmas tree – they are lovely this year and loads are now on sale because we all started shopping so early!

Refresh your Christmas decorations

And with every tree, comes decorations. Was the tree on its last legs last Christmas? Did your Christmas lights create more of an ‘awww’ than an ‘oooh’? Did you have a major bauble breakage when dismantling the tree last year? Whatever the case may be, now’s the time to find the best Christmas tree decorating ideas for your home and to put them into practice.

Pick up new Christmas fairy lights, to finally create that cool Scandi Christmas theme you've always wanted, or go for a traditional Christmas look, it's your choice!

Second week of December – what you should be doing now

Begin posting Christmas cards and packages

The Post Office’s last posting dates for Christmas start from the first week of December for posting abroad, so start getting Christmas cards off now if you haven't done so already. There is bound to be even more postal traffic this year due to Covid so if you are sending gifts, get it does asap.

Decorate the rest of the house!

Got the tree? Great start, and now It’s a good time to stock up on Christmas foliage if you’re making your own Christmas wreath or garlands.

You can cheat of course, we've rounded up the best Christmas wreaths still in stock (you'd better hurry though!) and the best Christmas garlands about this year, and they are sure to make a world of difference to your space. If you're on a tight budget, be inspired by our budget Christmas decorating ideas that are still super merry and bright.

Check out your catering kit

If you're the one cooking and (somewhat) hosting over Christmas or New Year, then now’s the time to check you have all the dishes, plates, cutlery and glassware you need, not to mention baking trays – especially a big one for that turkey. By the way, have you checked you've the best oven and that it's big enough for the turkey you’ve ordered? 

Decide on your Christmas table decor

Simply because, if you're not a fan of your current cutlery, glassware and all the rest then. you need the latest Christmas table decorations and ideas to act fast and put your favourite looks into practice.

Order the booze

Quite possibly one of the most important aspects of Christmas entertaining, find your favourite alcohol delivery services online and make sure you're sorted to make all the Christmas cocktails you could want.

Decide on entertainment

Whether you're one for watching the best Christmas movies on repeat throughout the holidays, more into a game of Cluedo or happiest keeping your bar cart well stocked, it's time to fix your entertainment so that you enjoy the ultimate Christmas experience indoors.

Movie lover? Deck out your home cinema. Want all the best TV shows on demand? Make sure you've got your Netflix, Amazon Prime, NOW TV and all the other streaming services sorted. Maybe you want to watch them on a brand new 75inch TV, that you may or may not have found at a steal on Black Friday... we really hope you were that organised!

little girl with christmas present by getty images

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Third week of December

Clear and clean the fridge

Clear it out and then clean the fridge properly. Especially if your grocery order is set to arrive any day now, so make sure you have all the space you need and that it's all clean and hygienic for the giant Christmas order you’ve put in. 

Finalise your list of Christmas groceries

Include everything from (more) alcohol to party nibbles, the main meal and post-Christmas snacks. Don’t forget to stock up on bin bags, batteries, indigestion and headache tablets too for the inevitable hangovers

Painted Glass Fox Bauble, £4.50 by Gisela Graham

Painted Glass Fox Bauble by Gisela Graham

(Image credit: Gisela Graham)

The countdown to Christmas Eve

Nearly there, so darn exciting – speaking for the kids – and blood pressure rising as there are still a few bits to do!

Get ahead with laundry

BORING… but the last thing you want is to discover that none of you have the outfits you want clean for the various virtual/IRL Christmas events you’ll be attending.

Clean the house

Change the beds, vacuum under the sofa, give the kitchen a wipe over… Also BORING, but it’s not something you want to do just before guests are arriving on Christmas Day.

Restock the fridge and begin food prep

Don't leave it until Christmas Eve, if you've eaten all the Quality Street already, go get another box now. Then check the weight of your bird if frozen to know how to defrost your turkey properly in time for Christmas Day dinner. Take out any frozen mincemeat or other bits you need in the next few hours/days.

Wrapuccino furoshiki

(Image credit: Wrapuccino)

Christmas Eve

Set the table

Too obvious? Too early? 

Start cooking

Peeling spuds, prepping veg, defrosting homemade mince pies, pre-roasting potatoes… anything you can do on Christmas Eve to get ahead will make for a much more enjoyable Christmas Day if you’re hosting. 


Not yourself (just yet), but your phone, your camera, all your devices for virtual calls and anything you might need on the big day. 

Make a timeline for Christmas Day

Sounds slightly over-organised, we acknowledge that. BUT if you got a giant turkey that needs to go in the oven, now-ish? Yup, that needs to go on your timeline.

Finish wrapping

Save this till the kids have gone to bed, oiling yourself with a glass of something nice… but not too nice because you’ve still got to get all the other presents out and under the tree or at the end of their beds (packed with stocking fillers, obvs). THEN put your feet up and enjoy a box set. 

Christmas baubles in a bowl

(Image credit: The White Company)

Christmas Day

Have an early morning walk, make the best pancakes, cook some more, Zoom your distant fam, eat some more, drink, be merry, argue, make up, fall asleep in a chair, wake up groggy, have a pick me up, play a board game, eat more cheese, go to bed vowing to do it differently next year.

Boxing Day

Thought it was all done? Ha! No, no, no… it’s time to start rolling out all your best leftover turkey recipes and shopping those New Year sales. The upside? You can do it all from your armchair because we’ll be uploading sales’ deals on everything you might like for your home as they come in (so keep checking back). 

Plus, you've got New Year's Eve to get ready for. So, shop, snooze and start again.

Lucy Searle
Lucy Searle

Lucy is Editor-in-Chief of, having worked on numerous interiors and property titles. She was founding Editor of Channel 4’s 4Homes magazine, was Associate Editor at Ideal Home. She has also written for Huffington Post, AOL, UKTV, MSN, House Beautiful, Good Homes, and many women’s titles. Find her writing about everything from buying and selling property, self build, DIY, design and consumer issues to gardening.