Kirstie Allsopp puts the ho, ho, ho back into Christmas
Say no to drama and tension and embrace some seasonal joy. As the countdown begins, Kirstie's Handmade Christmas presenter Kirstie Allsopp tells Susan Griffin her secrets to fun and no-nonsense festivities
Kirstie Allsopp watched last year's Christmas adverts with sheer exasperation, witnessed all those miserable-looking mothers portrayed as stressed out and close to tears, as they attempt to cope with annual gathering of family and friends.
Because in Allsopp's eyes, the festive season is here to be enjoyed - not endured.
"What you get a chance to do is decorate your house and eat loads and drink loads and exchange gifts - and it's really brilliant," enthuses the presenter, who came to fame hosting house-hunting TV hit Location, Location, Location, alongside Phil Spencer. And even though the title of her new show, Kirstie's Handmade Christmas, might suggest she wants us all to whip up our own DIY decorations and gifts, the truth is, "the series is supposed to be fun and cosy," says the London-born 44-year-old, who has two sons and two step-sons with her partner, property developer Ben Anderson.
"A lot of people who are keen on crafts get particularly keen around Christmas, but if you've never made a craft in your life, you can still switch on the show, settle down and enjoy it."
Ahead of the three-part series, Allsopp shares her top tips on taking the stress out of the big day ...
Don't be a martyr
"Send a note out early in December and ask if people want to get involved, or if anyone wants to bring a pudding or a starter, or help with the stockings on Christmas Eve, or to come around earlier and decorate the tree - whatever it is. Don't go around with a sort of Christmas martyr face on and grumbling about no one helping. Get people involved. My brother is really territorial about the roast potatoes, so why would I try and do those - he does them better."
Breakfast like a king
"I am a fan of a really lavish Christmas breakfast, so scrambled eggs and smoked salmon and lots of toast, and then having a supper about 5pm or 6pm and not trying to do a lunch, because that's quite a lot of pressure."
Don't always keep with tradition
"Try doing a roast beef, or a couple of chickens. I don't want hate mail from the turkey farmers of the world - you can cook turkey in a really delicious way - but this year we'll probably have beef, or even steak, as the boys are huge fans, with lots of trimmings, the vegetables and the potatoes."
Ham it up
"Ham is an absolute Christmas staple. You can have ham and eggs, ham and cheese toasties. All that time you're having to feed people, there's usually the one big meal, and the rest of the time you're sitting around grazing."
Don't panic buy
"I'm not rushing around on Christmas Eve looking for presents. Not that I'm ultra-organised. I'm a big TK Maxx fan and if I go there at any time of the year and find a really good deal on scented candles, or scarves, or something for the house, then I'll buy it and put it in the present cupboard. It's worth it, because I think people make expensive mistakes at the last minute. You're better off buying good value things throughout the year and storing them in one place. Don't store them throughout the house, because you'll forget about them."
Go big on the big man
"I go big on Father Christmas and I do a lot to encourage the children to believe in Father Christmas - though I think only one out of the four still believes. There's one great Christmas cliche which I think is probably the most true, which is that it's all about the children."
Tune into her new show
"I think we're quite punchy now about taking ownership of Christmas crafts shows. I think this is our sixth year of having a Christmas show and we've got three episodes this year. So we've got 'getting started', 'mid-way' and 'last-minute' all covered. It's slightly themed about what you can do ahead of time, what you can do mid-December, and what you can do last-minute."
Embrace the escapism
"Remember you're coming straight from Channel 4 news into my show. Everyone needs a little something to lighten the mood and that's what we set out to do and we're really proud of that. It's 100% escapism. Glitter and warm and cosy and we hope it's inspiring and a really valuable hour of your time before Christmas. We don't take a Christmas hour lightly, so if you're prepared to commit an hour of your time in December to us, we're going to make the most of it."
- Kirstie's Handmade Christmas starts on Channel 4 on Tuesday, December 1