As well as the turkey, presents and decorations, should this year’s pandemic regulations allow us something approaching a normal Christmas, for us there is a backlog of tasks that we have let slide in the absence of big gatherings over the past 18 months.
I mean the everyday things that make a house run smoothly, but which I only get around to sorting out if there is an imminent risk of guests. As well as cleaning, there is fixing and replacing to be organised.
We manage fine through the year with unmatched wine glasses for instance. But the race to find a set of flutes, preferably sans dust, for fizz as guests arrive on Christmas Eve always promotes mild panic. Much better to try and think of these things ahead of time.
Chairs are another problem if hosting a larger gathering. Anyone who has had to eat their Christmas dinner while perched on a footstool or deckchair will know what I mean.
We are well-supplied with dining chairs but our stock of breakfast bar stools has depleted over the year, both through wear and tear and as a direct result of having a teething puppy.
We are down to just a pair, and one of those is alarmingly shoogly. While there are just the two of us in the house we cope, as my other half chivalrously takes the suspect stool, gingerly lowering himself on to it and remaining attuned to any forewarnings of collapse, but it is not a thing you want to have to advise a guest to do. We’ll either have to bite the bullet and buy a set of new stools, or remove them altogether and just allow guests to stand about.
Overnight visits cause more anguish - have we enough matching linen, non-scratchy towels and functional bedside lamps?
In our case it is time to replace an ancient single bed to make the best use of the space, but getting rid of it and arranging delivery of a new double in the next couple of weeks is not something I had accounted for in cost or hassle.
My parents, who are hosting us all for Christmas lunch, are a lot better at these things, having built up a lifetime of well looked-after, matching crockery, cutlery and glassware. But their American style fridge has malfunctioned and the ice maker is no longer producing any cubes.
My dad, in the absence of ice trays, has been coping with this by freezing bowls of water. The resulting blocks are then wrapped in a tea towel and hit with a hammer every time they require ice.
It is a system that has worked perfectly well for months, but again, it isn’t something you want to be attempting with a houseful of guests waiting for gin and tonic. Time to get the fridge fixed.
You could say that all this panic and preparation is ridiculous for just one short week and no one expects your hosting to be advert-perfect. But actually, the annual race to sort things out serves its purpose, and a least there is an end date, unlike the dreaded Spring cleaning.
The Christmas deadline can be stressful, but getting the house fully-equipped and in tip-top shape, however briefly, is a good thing whatever the season.
- Kirsty McLuckie is property editor at The Scotsman