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How to save Christmas 2020

Christmas cancelled? Not on our watch! It might look a little different this year, but here's how to make the most of the festive season in 2020.

There’s no question that this Christmas is going to need a slight rethink – after all, many of the things we take for granted just aren’t going to be possible this year. But instead of lamenting what could have been, here at Muddy we’re embracing the change and looking on the bright side. No more rubbish office parties, or trying to accommodate 5,000 different dietary requirements for Christmas lunch, or running yourself so ragged that you start the new year in need of a holiday. Instead, this is the year of starting new traditions, focusing on just the important things, and looking forward to a bright, shiny new 2021. Onwards!

Buy early and local

Christmas gifts

If you haven’t started ticking off your Christmas list yet, now’s the time! Getting ahead of your shopping will a) make you feel like some kind of super-organised genius, and b) ensure that you have plenty of time to post presents to friends or relatives you might not be able to see over the festive period.

Instead of getting sucked in by the lure of Amazon Prime, this year (of all years) is the best time to support all your lovely local indies and small makers, who sorely need a boost after the retail nightmare of 2020. Treat someone special (er, you) to a pair of divine boots from local brand Fairfax & Favor, or check out Bruce Bamfield or Thistle & Wax for gorgeous interiors stocking fillers, or for the pampered pooch, try Woofers & Barkers. We’ve made it mega easy for you with our Muddy-curated round-up The Indie Store – check it out and start ordering, ASAP!

Try a new dish

With only a few of us allowed to meet up on Christmas Day, you might want to give the massive turkey a swerve this year (the perfect excuse if you’ve never been a huge fan but wanted to avoid rocking the boat of tradition up until now). Your local farm shop or butcher will be able to advise you – for example, Creake Abbey are running their December Farmer’s Market on Saturday 5th, the Christmas Fair on Saturday 12th and Christmas Market on the 19th, which will see over 45 regulars producers and farmers plus a few guest producers with Christmas puddings, Christmas cakes, mulled wine, foodie gifts, cheese and sweet treats. Head over to Holkham for their Christmas Market in the Lady Elizabeth Wing, with take-aways from local foodies set out in the courtyard – weekends from 5 to 20 Dec (pre-booking essential. You can also get your tree here.

Can’t be bothered to put together a Christmas menu at all? Why not forget about cooking altogether, make a treat of it gather your nearest and dearest and venture out for a slap up meal? Here’s my round-up of where to go for Christmas Day lunch in Norfolk. Unsurprisingly (and pleasingly) everyone seems to be getting into the festive sprit early this year, so if you’ve not got yours yet check out my local top five places to get your Christmas tree.

Stock your wine cellar

Christmas wines

Once you’ve ordered in all your delicious Christmas food, it stands to reason that you’ll need something nice to wash it down with! As we’re less likely to be playing taxi service/designated driver this year (praise be), make the most of staying in and splash out on some excellent wine to keep all to yourself. LEVIN Wines has put together an specially curated Muddy six-pack to see you through the season – just use code FESTIVE for a £40 discount and free shipping. More of a spirits kinda gal? I’ll be ordering in ready-made cocktails from Norfolk-based connoisseurs Cocktail Canaries. Salted Caramel Espresso Martini, or a Christmas Negroni? Both, please!

Book a panto

The classic panto is one of those traditions that some people would rather eat a kilo of Brussel sprouts than miss (“Oh no it isn’t!”, etc) so we’re glad to hear that performances are still happening around the counties. Our top pick is socially-distanced show A Right Royal Christmas which includes Panto in a Pickle, A Circus Carol (see our guest interview with Artistic Director) and She Go Does it under the Christmas Tree, with Friends. Performances kick off from Sat 16 Dec and run until 23/24 Dec, with seats split into bubbles. More panto mash-ups from Diss Corn Hall, with The Magic of Panto. Dec 19 – 24. Sheringham Little Theatre are going for a pandemic take on the fairy tale with Repunzel, The Lockdown Pantomime, running for just a couple of days 22 – 24 Dec. Get booking now!

See the Christmas lights

The Enchanted Journey of Light

Indoor attractions might be thin on the ground this year, but there are plenty of excellent light shows to keep the spirits lifted and the little ones entertained. The Enchanted Journey of Light replaces the usual and famously popular Thursford Spectacular. Stroll through a magical tour of stunning Christmassy sculptures, inside and out, following the Wonderland Trail. 3 Dec to 10 Jan, 3 till 9pm (pre-booking essential). Get your Royal fix at Luminate Sandringham from 17 Dec to 17 Jan (pre-booking essential) where the country trail takes you on a mesmerising journey of lights and music. The North Norfolk Railway are doing three options for Christmas track trundleson their heritage trains; take the Lights Express for a neon journey at night, the Santa Special for that magical meeting, or the Mince Pie Special for, um, mince pies. Prices from £7 upwards. Pre-booking essential.

Haven’t managed to snaffle tickets to one of the biggies? There are plenty of light trails around the counties, including the Haddenham Festive Trail, running between 6-8pm from Sat 12 to Thurs 31 Dec, illuminations at Fairytale Farm in Chipping Norton, Sat 5 to Thurs 24 Dec (pre-booking essential), Festive Illuminations at Missenden Abbey from Thurs 3 to Wed 23 Dec (pre-booking essential), and Waterperry Winter Trail near Wheatley, up until Wed 23 Dec.

Give back

If 2020 has proven anything, it’s the importance of being kind, so a little extra charity contribution this year is sure to be appreciated more than ever. There are plenty of local charities with projects to get stuck into – I’ll be donning my best Lycra to help out child bereavement charity Nelson’s Journey.

DIY your decor

Christmas wreath

You’ve got time in lockdown, so why not add a handmade touch to your decs this year? Wreath DIY is a great way to spend a festive weekend (it beats getting crushed at the local shopping centre or getting stuck in an online queue), or you can turn your hand to one of the activities on Kirstie Allsopp’s brand new Channel 4 show, Kirstie’s Christmas: Quick and Easy Craft.

Buy a great board game

Because there’s only so many times you can play charades before murder is on the literal cards. The experts at Norfolk board game shop Zatu are always happy to give recommendations based on what kind of games your family likes, but here at Muddy HQ we’re partial to a little Santa Banter.

Dress up

Pleated skirt

After a year spent in pyjamas and elasticated waists (jeans? What are those again?), we’re taking any opportunity to don velvet and sequins – even if it’s for a Zoom call with the extended fam. Treat yourself to some new threads for the big day and you’ll feel at least 50% more festive – we promise.

Keep calm and carry on!

Let’s face it, Christmas can be stressful enough without the anxiety of a global pandemic factored in, so this year you absolutely have permission to write the whole thing off. Strip back anything you don’t deem essential, limit family visits if it’ll keep you sane, try and get some vitamin D where possible, and remember that in years to come, this will all be a distant memory. We’ll cheers to that!

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