We all have a default set of activities we make time for in the run-up to Christmas. We’ve done the prep so many times, so it’s almost too easy to fall into a well-worn pattern of Christmas routine: shopping days that seem to last for eternity, cooking industrial quantities of family meals and batch-producing sweet treats, and indulging wholeheartedly in Christmas drinks. When we see Advent calendars in the shops in mid-September, we all take a communal deep breath and recite our to-do lists feverishly.
But now you’ve changed your drinking, Christmas shouldn’t be about sticking to routine. This Christmas it is more important than ever to create new traditions, especially ones that will help you stay booze-free over the festive period and beyond. Rather than doing the same old thing year after year, changing your drinking might just have been the step you needed to fully embrace doing Christmas differently. Here come our festive favourites:
Even if 2017 turns out to be another snow-free year, there are still beautiful places around for a winter stroll. An early Sunday morning is the perfect time to put on your best bobble hat (use Kim’s for inspo) and crunch through the frosty grass. Take a pet, a child or a willing friend, or just enjoy a bit of me-time away from the Christmas bustle.
Or, if you’re not an early bird, the National Trust Winter Illuminations come alive all over the UK after 7pm (this picture is from Calke Abbey in Derbyshire). Wind down from a stressful day by taking in the twinkling lights, candle-lit churches and magical gardens.
Escape the bright lights of John Lewis and do your shopping a little differently this year. Christmas markets often have homemade or local gifts where you can hunt out the best bargains for the perfect stocking-fillers. Keep your eyes peeled for Christmas craft or food fairs near you that support charities or local businesses, like this Victorian Christmas Fayre at a beautiful stately home in Lincolnshire. You could even hop on a train and make a day or weekend of it! These European Christmas Markets provide the perfect inspiration for a winter adventure (and Manchester even gets a mention!)
Whether it’s your local carol service, a school nativity or a full-blown choral extravaganza, music is one of the most uplifting things about Christmas. Look up last-minute concerts going on in your area, or just grab some friends at work and belt out some Christmas classics for charity.
Holiday greenery doesn’t just have to be for Christmas. Add a bit of colour to your life by planting something in December and watching it thrive into 2018. Even the most forgetful of gardeners can keep a Christmas cactus alive (they last forever: fact). Read more about how to brighten up your living room for years to come, with very little effort.
Not everyone is guaranteed a safe home and warm bed this Christmas, and charities are always grateful for anything you can do to at the coldest time of year. Crisis, the homeless charity, will be opening seven centres in London this Christmas and is seeking volunteers for all of them to make vulnerable people feel at home. Those with skills such as hairdressing, dentistry, chiropody and medical training are all on hand, while others are needed to help in the kitchen, distribute clothing and make tea and coffee.
Helping someone vulnerable to feel comfortable at Christmas can be uplifting and rewarding. Age UK also looking for volunteers to prevent loneliness is prevalent, as are UK foodbanks – you can find your nearest one here. This Christmas is as good a time as any to make a difference.
Even if religion isn’t your thing, Christmas is a great time to reflect on where you are at the moment and how things might change so stay the same in the new year. Go to Church, head to stonehenge, or sit and ponder at one of the outdoor Light Festivals all over the North of England.
You don’t have to break the bank to catch amazing shows around Christmas, whether its nativity, opera or pantomime. Bag cheap tickets to Christmas classics like The Nutcracker, or go and support a small production at your local theatre.
Whether baking or crafts are your thing, go for it. You could start by making your own Christmas cards, or a pretty wreath to hang on your door. Instead of endless wrapping, you could make your own Christmas crackers and fill them with personalised gifts. Get your friends over for a craft session, sell your wares at work or school and donate the proceedings to charity. Trust me, coating everything in glitter with carefree abandon is seriously therapeutic.
If you’re lucky enough to live in a place with limitless walks, forest and greenery, go deer spotting! Take some binoculars, channel Chris Packham and see what you can find. If you’re a city dweller and green landscapes are limited to the park down the road, why not take your family on a trip to a Reindeer farm? Meet Rudolph and marvel at the natural world.
It’s not until you’re freezing and clinging helplessly onto the side of the ice rink’s barrier, that you remember why you don’t do this more often. However, the lights are pretty and it’s just as fun to watch your friends making a worse job of it than you are. Top spots are the beautiful grounds of Somerset House or Brighton’s Royal Pavilion (pictured), but really any ice will do.
When the house is full of people at Christmas, the table kind of becomes redundant anyway. Embrace it by putting on your own lunch or Christmas afternoon tea in true winter picnic style. You could buy your own hamper like Tesco’s alcohol-free one, or create your own and tailor it to your guests or family. We’ve got tons of fancy and festive drinks recipes. Or, if you want something gorgeously spiced and low-effort, gently warm some apple juice in a saucepan with a stick of cinnamon and a knob of butter. Smooth and delicious.
After the initial excitement of your own town’s festive glamour, it’s always nice to see somewhere new. Get the bus up the road and check out the competition, or go to the city for a steaming hot chocolate and a wander. You know you want to.
Is it even Christmas if you haven’t forced your entire family into Christmas jumpers? Keep those memories by getting some cheesy family snaps. If you do one every year, you can look back on them later and remember all the new memories you created and how they changed over time. See here for the obligatory Pinterest inspiration. Start new journey, record it, and make sure those traditions stay.
If you enjoyed this and need some inspiration, read more about how to avoid alcohol this Christmas. And you can still join our Sober Christmas Together online programme.