How to feel festiveMonday, November 25, 2013
It's exactly one month until Christmas and I'm trying to resist the temptation to marvel at the passage of time. I usually prefer to wait until December before I really go completely bonkers, but there's no harm in laying the groundwork a bit early. The 25th of November is a perfectly respectable date to start planning ahead for some festive cheer.
When it comes to heralding the coming of Christmas, I'm a traditionalist. Don't even talk to me about Starbucks red cups. It's a miracle of modern marketing that drinking an overpriced coffee from a disposable cup sold by a tax-avoiding mega-corporation has somehow come to embody the season for a worryingly large segment of the population.
(Top tip: if you want a wintery hot drink that actually tastes nice, forget the pumpkin spice crap and try the Scots pine and smoked salt hot chocolate that Urban Angel are serving up at the St Andrew Square Scottish market, or have a hot toddy from the Royal Dick instead. Delicioso.)
If it takes more than a Christmas-themed beverage to get you in the mood, here are three things you can plan right now that will have you feeling more festive than a dog in a Santa hat come December, according to this fool-proof formula: doing something fun + helping other people = warm fuzzy Christmas glow.
1. Buy a tree + help the homelessWe've been buying our Christmas tree from Caring Christmas Trees for years and would never buy it from anywhere else. The quality is lovely, you can pick it up at a time that suits you, and the profits go to a wonderful cause.
The trees aren't cheap, but guess what? CHRISTMAS TREES ARE EXPENSIVE. One year, we thought it would be cheaper to buy our tree from one of the slightly dodgy-looking roadside sellers, which sold trees by the foot. It ended up costing exactly the same, the quality was rubbish, and the money went straight into someone's pocket instead of going towards helping Edinburgh's homeless. Where's the Christmas cheer in that?
If you live in Aberdeen, Dumfries, Dundee, Perth, Edinburgh, East Lothian, Fife, Glasgow or South East London, I can't recommend Caring Christmas Trees enough. We've volunteered as tree distributors with them for several years, so here's a little inside info: most of the trees are a good 6-10 inches taller than they say they will be. If you're torn between two sizes, go for the smaller one. You'll get extra height for your buck (except with the 4 foot trees, but what they lack in height they make up for in girth, being practically spherical). You have to order in advance, so buy your tree now.
2. Learn a new skill + support independent businesses
Two of my favourite florists are running festive floral workshops this year and I couldn't be more excited, not least because all of the classes also involve cake.
For the Glaswegians, the very talented and lovely Sophie of I Heart Flowers is running a Christmas wreath workshop THIS THURSDAY at the Hidden Lane Tearoom (which sounds like it should be in a Harry Potter novel, but is in fact on Argyle Street). For more information and to book your spot, click here (and to see more of Sophie's amazing skills, check out this shoot that we did together).
Those of you on the East coast can join in the fun with Pyrus, run by creative geniuses Fiona and Natalya. They have classes on various dates in December, held in gorgeous venues in Edinburgh and East Lothian, where you can learn to make wreaths and garlands and even go out and pick your own foliage. Full details and booking information here.
3. Sing carols + help people with breast cancerI love carols. Love love love them. The one sad thing about getting married in July was that we couldn't have 'Hark! The Herald Angels Sing' and 'O Come All Ye Faithful' as our wedding hymns. Apparently it's a bit weird to want Christmas carols at your summer wedding. Whatevs.
To compensate for this tragedy I try to sing carols at every possible opportunity, so obviously I had to buy tickets for Carols by Candlelight at St John's Cathedral in support of Breast Cancer Care. If there's one thing I love nearly as much as carols, it's candles, and if there's one thing I love more than either of those things, it's supporting people affected by breast cancer. Done deal.
Londoners, fret not - there's a carol concert for you, too. Breast Cancer Care are also holding a carol concert at St Paul's Cathedral, and they've only gone and got Simon bloody Callow to do a reading. I'm totally not jealous, though. Not even a little bit.
So, there you go. Three easy ways to get into the Christmas spirit. I'm interested, what is it that triggers that festive feeling for you? The John Lewis Christmas advert? Your first glass of mulled wine? The compulsory appearance of sparkly dresses in every shop window? Please don't say the red cups.
Image: Ling Design charity Christmas cards, £2.99 for 6 from John Lewis (bonus points if you noticed the Christmas tree, the wreath, the carol singers and the dog in a Santa hat).