The great last minute Kiwi Christmas survival guide

Tis the season to be snowed under and over it. Fear not – we’re here to help.

Prezzies

You promised last year to be more organised. But here you are, days from the big 25 and there’s not a Christmas present in sight.

It’s okay, blame 2020 for it, just like you’ve blamed our year from hell for everything else.

Then get to work.

If you’re filling pillow cases or stockings for Santa, there’s plenty of good stuff still out there.

Must-have gifts for kids include lovely classic-style options, such as Kmart’s $27 On the Farm Wooden Train Set and the $89.99 Lego Super Mario Starter Course from Farmers.

Big kids don’t miss out – Noel Leeming is selling Play Sky Patrol Foldable Drones for $129, with winding up the neighbours on Christmas Day free.

Most malls have extended trading hours in the lead-up to Christmas, and the best time to shop is first thing on a weekday or between 8pm and 9pm, personal shopper Caitlin Taylor says.

Some prefer experiences over physical gifts and there’s plenty of options as we all rediscover the gems on our doorstep this Covid year.

Weta Workshop Unleashed, a peek behind the magic that’s helped create Lord of the Rings and other blockbusters, opened at Auckland’s SkyCity this week.

Meanwhile, SOS Business lets you buy vouchers and support Kiwi businesses, mostly cafes and restaurants.

And remember, the wallet doesn’t always have to take a hit – rustle up a homemade voucher (Google has a gazillion templates) offering back massages, homemade meals or kid-free nights out.

Rellies

Christmas is a time for giving, and for some that gift is trouble.

The best way to deal with troublesome relatives on the big day is to – like
a good boy scout – be prepared.

“That’s the advantage of relatives – you can predict how they’ll be,” psychotherapist Kyle MacDonald says.

He suggests thinking before Christmas festivities begin how you’ll deal with the most irksome of family members, including in consultation with family allies, and focusing on what you want to get out of this supposedly most wonderful time of the year.

“Your goal might be to have a peaceful Christmas Day. There can be a desire to be right … but the goal is to walk away.”

Going easy on the alcohol helps – overindulging makes us less likely to keep our cool when provoked.

There’s also the conundrum of whose family, especially if they’re in different centres, to spend Christmas Day with.

“If your families aren’t too demanding, don’t feel the need to stick to the regimented on/off cycle of Christmases,” Herald lifestyle columnist Lee Suckling says.

“If you can afford it, see that family earlier or later in the holiday season. We all know the entire week between Christmas and New Year’s is just as enjoyable.”

On the box

You’ve whinged about the rubbish weather all year. Now the sun’s out it’s time to pull the curtains and switch on the box.

Freeview is chock-full of Christmas fare, including hardy annual Home Alonefrom 7pm Christmas Eve on TV2, with its sequel same time, same channel on Christmas Day.

For the more discerning, the Queen’s annual Christmas message will screen on TV1 at 6.50pm on Christmas Day.

Meanwhile, streaming services such as Netflix have a swag of Christmas movies in the usual, albeit aggravatingly anti-feminist, traditions (think headstrong career woman gives up dream job to return to hokey small town and high school love).

Festive Holidate is already a winner with Kiwi viewers, as the most popular comedy movie on these shores this year, according to Netflix.

Proceed with caution though – Herald reviewer Vera Alves was scathing of a movie described as a rom com but which has “no moments of true comedy and there are no moments of true romance”.

Grub

It’s a Kiwi Christmas, so don’t bother going north of the equator traditional.

Baduzzi executive chef Ben Bayly told the Herald he loves making icecream sandwiches with his kids at Christmas.

And for mains you can’t go past Annabel Langbein’s Apricot and Brandy Glazed Ham – warm a whole cooked leg ham at 150C for 10-15 minutes, peel off ham skin and lightly score the fat in diagonal cross hatches before inserting a clove in the centre of each diamond.

Mix a cup of apricot jam with quarter of a cup of brandy, put ham in baking dish and spread over the glaze.

Bake at 180C for 50 to 60 minutes, brushing with glaze from the bottom of the roasting pan every 10 minutes or so.

And don’t forget about food safety now the warmer weather is upon us.

The best way to avoid food poisoning is cleaning surfaces and utensils in hot soapy water before use, cooking food till the juices run clear, reheat food until hot – warm doesn’t kill bacteria, hot does – and refrigerating cooked meat as soon as possible, with cooked and uncooked meat covered and separated in the fridge.

Then put your feet up with a Christmas cocktail.

An old Viva favourite is the Christmas Collins, a colourful creation by Bombay Sapphire’s resident bar man Dickie Cullimore.

First, place a roughly chopped strawberry and four torn basil leaves in a highball glass and gently muddle. Add 45ml Bombay Sapphire, 20ml lemon juice, 10ml strawberry syrup and ice to a shaker.

Then shake and strain into the glass. Fill the glass with ice and add 45ml soda, before garnishing with a sprig of basil and a strawberry heart.

Weather

It’s a bit ropey forecasting weather for our skinny, mountainous and mid-latitudes land almost a week out.

But there’s a good chance Christmas Day will be settled for many, MetService meteorologist Lewis Ferris says.

A low pressure system from the Tasman looks likely to bring wet weather to parts of the country, including Auckland, around Wednesday and Thursday, Christmas Eve.

“For Christmas Day there’s a reasonable signal the low will move smartly to the east, so it’s looking settled, albeit a bit cooler because of the southwesterly.”

There’s still a chance some places may be wet on Christmas Day, if the low moves east slower than expected, Ferris says.

As for Cyclone Yasa, which struck Fiji this week, its remnants – at this stage – look unlikely to make it to New Zealand, but experts will know more this week.

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