Kirstie Allsopp’s guide to having the Christmas you’ve always wanted

Eleanor Steafel
·7-min read
Allsopp's new show Kirstie’s Christmas: Quick & Easy Craft begins on Sunday
Allsopp's new show Kirstie’s Christmas: Quick & Easy Craft begins on Sunday

The festive season is upon us at the end of the toughest of years, and, with just a month to go, most of us still have no idea what Christmas is going to look like this year. 

Will we be able to do any shopping in person? Will there be a run on turkeys and Stilton? And, the real clincher, will we be able to see loved ones or does a Zoom Christmas beckon? 

With so much up in the air, many are wondering whether (whisper it) this could in fact be the year to finally throw caution to the wind.

One person who agrees is the doyenne of domesticity, Kirstie Allsopp. For her, 2020 is the year to “have the Christmas you’ve always wanted”.

“I think if you want to have the Christmas in which you lie in bed in your pyjamas all day and order pizza then have it – and don’t feel a single moment of guilt,” says Allsopp, whose new show Kirstie’s Christmas: Quick & Easy Craft begins on Sunday (Another, Kirstie’s Handmade Christmas, will start on November 30).

“I think there will be people who think great, we don’t have to meet up as a family... so no pressure. 

“If you really like Christmas and you feel a bit disheartened by the whole thing then go big and decorate and get the tree out, because you will feel great about it if you do it.” 

For those who are going all-in no matter what happens – after all, there’s nothing like a bit of tinsel to lift the spirits – Allsopp has tips and tricks to make it as fun as possible. The key (aside from her top tip, which is to put a box of After Eights in the freezer to get them as crisp and chewy as possible) is flexibility. 

Get ahead... without losing your head

You need to bank on the fact you may have to arrange for all presents and foodie bits to be delivered, says Allsopp, otherwise you are setting yourself up for the kind of last- minute stress none of us needs this year. “Don’t try to plan too much,” she advises, but get going with the few things you know you’ll need to get done, whatever the rules and regulations. “The postal service is going to be overwhelmed, so plan ahead. This is not the Christmas when you can afford to leave everything to the last minute because you might find there just isn’t a shop open. 

“And don’t bank on being able to hand over the presents personally. Make sure that you factor in enough time.”

This year, it’s all about being flexible, she adds. “We won’t know until December 2 whether the current lockdown is even going to be lifted. My sister lives in Scotland, I have family and friends in Wales. That element of it is quite difficult. 

“We don’t know on Christmas Day what the case is going to be. So I think it’s about adaptability.” 

When it comes to gifts, that means focusing on the “smaller, lighter presents, things that can be easily wrapped and reposted. Or companies that will deliver something, wrapped and with a note saying ‘don’t open until the 25th of December and hopefully I’ll be seeing you then anyway’.”

Gift, set and match!

For many, being apart from loved ones is going to be the hardest thing, particularly after a year when we have seen so little of each other. Zoom is a poor replacement for sitting around the same Christmas tree, but Allsopp says there are things you can do to feel connected, and it all starts with sensory cues. 

“Find things which make you feel physically linked,” she recommends. “Maybe think of something that you could make, like jars of cranberry sauce, and then send them to people so that you’re all having one common sensory experience, even if you’re not together. 

“Hopefully it won’t happen and you might all arrive at the same house with five different jars of cranberry sauce. But it’s a nice idea that you could all be smelling the same things or eating the same things.” 

Matching presents could also help everyone feel connected at opposite ends of the country. “I’m a great one for themes,” says Allsopp. “I’ve got quite a big family and increasing numbers of nephews and nieces, so if I find something which knocks off a whole load of people, I’m thrilled. 

“Last year, for all my brothers-in-law and my dad, I got socks from Johnstons of Elgin with their initials on. Just a stupid thing that you’d never buy for yourself but they were all thrilled with them. 

“If you were doing the opening of presents on FaceTime or Zoom, everyone’s there like ‘ooh I got the green socks’, ‘I got the blue socks’. I think it’s one of the fun things about Christmas, you all open your presents and you’ve basically got four versions of the same Santa jumper.” 

Take board games digital

In a year when most of us have spent rather too much time looking at screens, the thought of spending Boxing Day at your laptop may not appeal. But Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without some organised fun, would it? 

Allsopp suggests finding “games you can play when you’re not necessarily together,” such as her current obsession, Linkee – a quiz for all ages.

“I am a big fan of human communication, human touch, human everything. I would never imagine myself to be making suggestions for something that was going to happen on Zoom. And I am not a person for a single second who thinks that it in any way replaces real things, but realistically it’s probably a good idea to find some things that work on video calls,” she says. 

Kirstie has a number of guests on her new show, such as long-time co-presenter Phil Spencer - Raise the Roof Productions
Kirstie has a number of guests on her new show, such as long-time co-presenter Phil Spencer - Raise the Roof Productions

Decorate, but don’t try to do it all

Allsopp’s advice is to work with what you’ve got rather than splashing out on new decorations. “A little bit of holly or tinsel across the top of all your pictures, that kind of thing. It’s what you do when you’re filming – you dot decorations all over the place, you don’t just focus on the tree. You don’t go too big on any one thing. 

“I’m a great fan of mixing artificial and real – green tinsel and holly and anything you can forage.” 

And don’t tell yourself you’re going to make all your decorations this year. “My thing with Christmas is just always try to have one thing that you either make or decorate yourself. Don’t try to do it all under any circumstances. No one likes spending Christmas with a martyr, there’s nothing worse.” 

Invest in a winter picnic kit 

There is a good chance outdoor festivities will be on the agenda. A big Thermos, then, is going to be crucial, Allsopp says.

“Definitely bank on the fact that this Christmas, if you’re meeting people at all, it’s likely that it might be outdoors. We might, for example, be able to eat Christmas lunch outside, we don’t know. Buy a firepit, or my current favourite thing – which I’m obsessed by – is the Tartan Blanket Company. They have a recycled wool king size blanket in a huge variety of different tartans for £75.” 

And if you’re doing a Christmas picnic, “think about what would be warming. It’s all a case of scale up or scale downable things. I prefer winter picnics to summer picnics, actually.” 

Lean in to low key 

For Allsopp, a quiet Christmas can be glorious. “Since my mum died, I have had pretty low-key Christmases – either with the six of us [she has two children and two stepchildren] or four of us, or maybe one other family, and trust me when I say it is actually really nice. 

“It’s nice to let the children open their stockings and run around and make a mess and not be like, ‘right come on kids we’ve got hundreds of people for lunch, tidy up’. 

“It’s nice to let go and be cosy. And I’m not being Pollyannaish, I’m not accepting what’s happened with good grace – I’m a borderline lockdown sceptic. But I do know from personal experience that there is something to be said for a simple pared-back Christmas.” 

Kirstie’s Christmas: Quick & Easy Craft is on Channel 4 on Sunday November 22 at 8pm