Tired of shopping for presents? Don’t feel like writing another card? Fear not. Suzanne Harrington has found the professionals who will look after Christmas for you
Season of tinsel and stressed women.
According to a UK study, one third of all womankind are more stressed in December than any other month (which makes January my favourite winter month, due to its lack of cultural demands).
And yet to cancel Christmas would be deemed churlish. So can you outsource it instead?
The answer is yes of course you can - with enough money you can outsource anything, including childbirth.
But for the non-billionaires amongst us, does it pay to get others to tackle the slog of Chirstmas so that we’re not suffering from nervous exhaustion by December 26th? Or is hiring someone else to wrap your presents missing the festive point by a North Pole mile?
Doing Christmas ‘properly’ – that is, buckling under the marketing blitz that urges festive ‘perfection’ – involves card writing, present shopping, gift wrapping, food shopping, tree buying, house cleaning, house decorating, table dressing, wardrobe overhauling, food preparing, food serving, mess clearing, house undecorating, and a partridge in a pear tree.
Oh, and don’t forget to do it all while wearing your fluffy mules, novelty reindeer jumper, sparkly antlers and a great big joyful grin, or you’ll look like a Christmas curmudgeon.
Feeling stressed yet?
Imagine then if there were a collective of elves who would gladly do the heavy lifting for you, so that you can waft around in feather-light cashmere, Aperol spritz in one hand, iPhone X in the other, with Santa on speed dial.
Do such elves exist? Of course they do.
Just show them the money.
It’s the emotional labour of present choosing which is the slog.
Each meticulously chosesn gift must reflect the age, preferences, and personality of the loved one, while being original, throughtful and having a unique wow factor.
Otherwise angle grinders would end up in the hands of toddlers, bottles of champagne unwrapped by recovering alcoholics, and your mum probably doesn’t want Call of Duty: Black Ops III Solution: Two options here.
A tedious afternoon on Amazon, or getting someone else to buy them for you.
Debenhams do a free personal shopper service.
You fill in an online form, and their elf will run around the shop for you, choosing gifts for 3 people in 45 minutes, based on your budget and the information you provide – eg, nan, uncle, niece age 6, plus a few details (nan likes football, uncle likes musicals, niece likes Lego).
You can book as many slots as you like, for multiples of three people.
And bingo! Go and have a lie down.
WRAPPING Actually, don’t.
You still have to wrap the feckers, and it always takes until 3am on Christmas Eve.
You’ll have run out of sellotape and human kindness, and be left wondering how you ever thought gift wrapping a rocking horse was a good idea.
Solution: There are wrapping elves.
Small companies like Wrap It - www.wrapit.ie – provide personalised Christmas sacks and stockings as well as standard gift wrapping services.
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They do personalised elf hats as well, if you want to pretend it was you who did all the hard work.
Prices start at €12 plus p&p.
Sending ecards is quick, easy and green, but a bit lame if you’re a traditionalist.
Buying and writing loads of cards is a drag, but if you still want to receive loads, it’s quid pro quo.
Lick those stamps, bitch.
Solution: Depending on their age, children can be bribed to do this task with either cash or chocolate coins – plus wonky kids handwriting is deemed cute.
If none are available, and you’ve left it a bit last minute, go to www.gifts.ie, where you can personalise your card with individual names and photos, and have it arrive overnight – so it’s easy and fast.
Not cheap at €3.99 per card plus 99c p&p, but hey ho (ho ho).
Ramming the tree into the back of the car, hauling it indoors without knocking anything over, engaging with broken fairy lights, knackered baubles, floppy holly, and please God, not that horrible tinsel from 1975.
You want a magical wonderland, not a Woolworth’s shop window.
Solution: This time the elf is a fairy.
Sophia Weir runs Christmas Fairy Decorators – christmasfairydecorators.com – and says she is “absolutely inundated”, even though the Christmas Fairy is “not budget” - prices start around €3,000.
“We work with set designers and interior designers,” she says.
“We do the hall, sitting room, dining room, the lighting and garlands, the tree, the garden – we purchase, assemble, decorate, and then in January, we undecorate and hand you an inventory of all your stock, which you keep to use again. We even leave some glitter by the door. It’s the luxury of not having to engage, so that you have a winter wonderland created for you.”
The most an inidividual household has spent on the Christmas Fairy’s decorating? “About €18,000,” she says.
That’s a lot of fairy dust.
So for Christmas lunch you’ll be hosting carnivore traditionalists, gluten free vegans, and Cousin It who is allergic to shellfish.
You’re working until Chirstmas Eve yourself, and even if you weren’t, the idea of all that food shopping, prepping and cooking is giving you the dry heaves.
Yet this is the one day of the year where you really can’t phone out for pizza.
Solution: Order everything in ready made from Marks & Spencers.
This is absolutely foolproof, but what if you’d like to pretend that you’ve done it all yourself, like Nigella?
Claire Nash of Cork restaurant Nash 19 – www.nash19.com – will “recreate taste memories” for you, preparing everything at her restaurant for collection up until lunchtime on Christmas Eve – just get your orders in by December 1st.
What started out as friends asking her to make extra when she was preparing her own Christmas food has turned into Claire making homemade gravy, stuffing, plum pudding, brandy butter, cranberry, home made mince in the mince pies, even providing goosefat for the spuds.
“We do everything except the turkey,” she says.
“We even chop the onions, put them in clicky tubs. We use Hennessy brandy, and good butter. Basically, it’s my own Christmas dinner.”
The average spend is around €200 for a table of six. Excellent.
Because as well as sorting out all of the other stuff, you still have to look fabulous at all times.
Just brace yourself for another hellish shopping trip - can you really stomach the obligatory sequinned frock? Why does effortless chic always seem like such bloody hard work? And yet, if you are catching up with rellies you haven’t seen for ages, do you want their looks of pity as you turn up in a Santa fascinator and stripey elf tights? No.
You do not.
Solution: Call in the professionals - hire a stylist.
Orla Sheridan – www.orlasheridan.com – will do what she terms a wardrobe analysis for €150, and will go shopping with you for €80 an hour (she recommends three hours, with a clothes budget of least €1,000 to make it worthwhile).
“A common situation is people having a wardrobe full of clothes and nothing to wear,” she says.
“We all buy too many clothes – my advice would be buy less, but better quality.”
She recommends staples like a good coat and boots, a black dress, a cashmere sweater.
She is not keen on novelty fast fashion – so no reindeer jumpers.
“There’s pressure to buy whole new outfits,” she says.
“Irish people really like to dress up when we are out and about.”
Less is more, she advises.
All of the above will cost you a fortune.
You could just leave the country – or even pretend to - from mid December, and arrive back on New Year’s Eve.
No one would ever know.
Quick, run away!
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