How to Plan Ahead for Christmas

Stress-Free Christmas Planning Tips

There’s something about the holidays that can bring on the stress. Scurrying around for gifts, getting groceries and preparing to entertain family and friends can cause some panic. But Christmas doesn’t have to be that way.

You just need a plan.

Here we’ve gathered our best ideas on how to prepare for the season all year, right up to a countdown to Christmas schedule. With these tips, you’ll be calm for Christmas.

  • All-Year

    Don’t leave it all to the last minute. You can get ahead of the holidays with this advice:

    • Shop for gifts all year long when the stores have a good selection and you can take advantage of sales. 
    • Vacations are a great time to spot unusual gifts for those on your list. 
    • Start handmade gift items or crafts early in the year to ensure they’re ready on time. 
    • Check out clearance areas for interesting or unusual containers you can use for handmade edible gifts.
    • In the summer, make a few extra cans of preserves and keep them on hand for Christmas gifts.
    • Collect all your gifts in one place and list the items, along with who they’re for, so you know at a glance who you can check off your list. 
  • Two to Three Months Ahead
    • Start a master grocery list, so you can buy items on sale and as your budget allows. 
    • Decide when you want to entertain guests and mark those dates on your calendar.
    • Begin planning your guest list and what you want to serve. 
    • Bake and season your dark fruitcakes. (We’ve got recipes on our Holiday Baking page.)
    • Start stocking up on gift wrap, ribbon, tape, cards, candles, napkins and decorations if you’re low on supplies and save yourself the last-minute rush.
    • Keep an eye out for sales on specialty food items, like candy, nuts and crackers, so you’re ready for entertaining.
    • Check the post office for mailing deadlines to make sure your gifts will get there on time.
    • Book your babysitter when party invitations start to arrive.
  • One Month Ahead
    • Write and send your holiday newsletter, cards or e-cards.
    • Start wrapping gifts, saving all your receipts in one spot until after Christmas.
    • Send overseas gifts in the mail.
    • Polish your silver and wrap it up in clean clothes.
    • Clean and iron tablecloths and napkins, folding them over a padded hanger, if you have one, to keep them from wrinkling.
    • Make and season light fruitcakes, Christmas puddings and some other holiday baking. (Check out our Holiday Baking page for recipes.)
    • Check your Christmas lights and get them up before that winter deep freeze sets in.
    • If you’re expecting guests, check the spare room to make sure it’s ready.
    • Prepare and freeze some meals for busy nights in December, along with make-ahead appetizers for planned parties. (Find great recipes perfect for freezing on our Cooking for the Holidays page.)
  • December

    Now the countdown is really on. We’ve broken it down day by day, to make this month as stress-free as possible.


    • Buy your non-perishable groceries.
    • Start decorating the house. Find ideas over on our Christmas Decorations page.
    • Finalize your menus.
    • Send your Christmas plans to key friends and family.



    • Time to get those decorations up.
    • Make bread for turkey stuffing and cranberry sauce and then freeze them.



    • Buy your turkey or, if you already have one in the freezer, estimate the thawing time.
    • Sharpen your knives so they’re ready for slicing and dicing.
    • Reorganize your fridge so you have extra space.
    • If they’re stored in an inaccessible place, bring out our serving platters, china, glassware etc.



    • Buy your produce and other perishable groceries
    • Put nuts and candy into serving dishes, then cover them and set aside.



    • Wash and prepare any salad greens.
    • Thaw frozen food prepared for Christmas dinner in the fridge.
    • Put any condiments you’re using for the holiday mean in serving dishes and refrigerate.


    Christmas Eve

    • Set the table with cutlery, napkins, wine and water glasses, candles and your centrepiece.
    • If serving punch, mix all the ingredients, except the carbonated ones. 
    • Make soup or any other starters and refrigerate.
    • Get ready for breakfast by making any overnight dishes or stratas, coffee cakes or sweet rolls. 

Holiday Hosting Checklist

When counting down to a party, it’s great to have a guideline of what needs to get done. Follow along with our checklist so you’re full prepared.