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How to be elegant: at Christmas

Grace Kelly prepares Christmas presents on the floor of her bedroom

I know many of us while in the throes of preparing for Christmas are juggling last-minute panic, and the management of children who are about to explode from all the excitement, so I just wanted to pop in to remind us all of a few things.

Tensions can sometimes be rather fraught at this time of year and it might feel unavoidable. Not everyone embraces the month of December, and though it is sold as such, Christmas isn’t always a happy time for some of us. The desire to have a “perfect Christmas”, added to that the financial pressure it often leaves us feeling exasperated and/or exhausted. Many may feel lonely and the rest of us need not to mention the dread of being forced to spend some time with people we’d rather not.

How to keep your poise and remain elegant this Christmas

Remember it’s just one day.

These days it seems as though Christmas starts in September! We’ve all had it at the forefront of our minds for the past three months or so, but please remember it is just one day out of 365. Every day is precious the time you spend today is just as wonderful as the 24 hours that dominate us all on the 25th. Engage with those around you, remember to stop and smell the Hellebores and relax. Christmas comes but once a year - you needn’t allow it to consume every day in the lead up.

In fact I order you to stop right now and make yourself a cup of tea, sit and gaze at that tree and just be. Relax darling, you’ve got this.

Stay organised and in control

There are plenty of resources online on how to make sure that Christmas Day goes without a hitch (or, at least that’s the promise they make). The Doyenne’s of Christmas, Mary Berry and Martha Stewart have equally good resources. In fact, grab a diary for the new year and pop the tips in on corresponding days for next December. A smart cookie knows that organisation and knowing her tasks for the day keeps her life free of so much stress and anguish.

Christmas doesn’t have to be perfect (learn to embrace the quirks)

All those tear-jerker adverts churned out by John Lewis and Marks & Spencer this time of year are good for making us feel warm and fluffy - but get real darling, they don’t do much for our sense of reality.

It probably won’t snow
The kids will likely fight
You’ll forget the milk, or to cook the sprouts
You mother in law might interfere
Your Dad might drink too much
Marriages and relationships will probably suffer under the strain
Something might get burnt and become inedible
One thing is bound to break

Jilly Cooper - How to survive Christmas

Fellow Cotswold-dwelling Jilly Cooper will have you in fits of giggles with her book on surviving Christmas. A great festive read that will open your eyes to the fact that we all suffer in some small way at this time of year.

So how do you make it Christmas truly perfect? Recognise and embrace the best parts! A “perfect” time is found in both the flaws and the fun, that’s the beauty of life - it never goes smoothly but it’s how you deal with it that refines your journey. You have time off work, or your spouse does. There are no commutes or school run to contend with, and it is acceptable to stay in your PJ’s until noon. Christmas cake and chocolate make a suitable breakfast, and best of all people have it in their hearts to spend time together. We are all in a similar frame of mind! Cheers to Christmas cheer!

Whether you are spiritual or not, Christmas is the perfect time to celebrate and reflect on your blessings. This should be the first thing on your minds, before food and fancy presents.

Can you tell I’ve been leading this post so far with elegance of the mind!? That’s what it’s all about! You have to start training your mind to be elegant before you can become so. No matter how your Christmas may look, or how you think it may compare to other people’s (seriously, stop fretting about that), you can always have a nice time if you have the right frame of mind. Elegance is a sense of refined taste, grace and restraint. Something we all should be looking to achieve.

How to be elegant at Christmas

  • Get enough sleep, take advantage of these dark nights and use the time wisely. Enjoy every early night and alarm-less morning. There’s no use in spending this time of rest half-asleep because of too many late nights.
  • Behave yourself at Christmas parties. Lots of people will allow the “festive spirit” to give them free-run with the spirits. Drink-driving, dalliances with Derek or Debbie in accounting, and dancing naked round the village Christmas tree are many a person’s December downfall. Your head and your conscience will not thank you for a Christmas Party faux-pas come January. By all means, have a great time but be aware of your behaviour throughout the season. Self-control shouldn’t take a break with the rest of us.
  • Give only sentimental gifts, or try and remember to next year. You’ll end up spending less if you think really hard about what you give rather than running wild with the credit card. The best things are items of quality - do not favour quantity.
  • People over presents. Seriously, if you cry over the fact that Santa didn’t deliver what you asked for, you’ve got it all wrong. Stay off social media if they act like “material” triggers to you. What do you have around you that you can be thankful for? A roof over your head, a nice fire, a cute tree, children at your feet, friends who call in or invite you over, parents who’ve fed you, siblings to spend time with, a job to return to in January, a simple supper to fill your belly, a warm bed, your health! Many have far less than you and it’ll do you good to remember that.
  • Don’t go overboard on the mince pies. While it’s nice to indulge in all the rich Christmas foods, remember your body needs a break from time to time! Fruit and water are still available to you and your health will thank you for it. I believe half of all cliché “New Year New Me” diets could be avoided if people made their health a priority all the time rather than reacting to what the scales tell them immediately after Christmas. Moderate what you put in your body this season as well as any other. Choose quality over quantity (are you noticing a theme)?
  • Remember to sparkle! This is the time of year to get festive and fancy, so bring out those jewels, the velvet, tartan, faux fur and glitter. There won’t be many occasions to go all out glamour-puss in the next 300 or so days so embrace it! Life was meant for living and those clothes and jewels you adore should be worn, not simply looked at. A party dress on Christmas morning? Cooking in couture? Why ever not!? Let your inner Joan Collins run free! Just don’t take it too far by emulating the resting b**ch face, okay?

Joan Collins - Dynasty ladies like us

  • Don’t forget to embrace and make traditions. Personally I love watching Carol’s from King’s or listening to it on the radio. The Queen’s Christmas broadcast at 3pm is always a must watch (bless her socks for working on Christmas Day). These two broadcasts are perfect for ladies like me who like to shy away from modernity and look to tradition for but a day (who am I kidding, I live for the richness and elegance of the past). These broadcasts should also be available to view via online services for those outside of the UK. Other traditions include, hot chocolate with marshmallows in the morning, going to Church, a brisk post-lunch walk in the country, coming home and doing a puzzle together (so nice to disconnect from screens) and after the kids have gone to bed my husband and I eat gourmet cheese and smoked salmon (with bubbly to wash it down) by the fire. If you don’t have any set traditions then make some!
  • Mind your manners. Etiquette and charm never take a day off, even for Christmas. Poise and a positive frame of mind is everything at this time of year and you’ll probably have to flex those grace muscles more than ever. This lady is your example.

The Queen and Christmas at The Darling Academy

  • There IS a reason for the season. People are celebrating different things at this time of year. Personally my small nuclear unit like to celebrate the birth of Christ, but my larger extended family like to think of it as a time to simply get together and spend time with one another. Other friends do not celebrate “Christmas” at all, but will still take time to relax and enjoy the peace that comes mid-Winter. Remember and be graceful about the fact that everyone has a different opinion on whether this is a Christian/Roman takeover, Germanic, Pagan holiday, or just simply a Winter Festival. No one will ever really know who is right (and by goodness I’m done with all the fighting over it) but we should be in agreement about one thing….

Christmas should be about love and togetherness

Enjoy those around you this month, they are a blessing to you and even though you may argue over who gets to snap the wishbone or at what time you should open presents (or even bring up old sour grudges after one too many glasses of sherry) their presence is worth celebrating in itself.

Joy to the World, a time for focusing on love is here.

I wish you all a very merry Christmas, and a happy and glorious new year.

With love to you and yours darling.

Alena x


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