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Happy Holidays?

Rethinking the Christmas season

 The end of year is finally here and the odds are that you’ve been looking forward to this break for a long time. The holiday season is supposed to be about taking a well-deserved break and reconnecting with our loved ones but let’s face it, it can be one of the most stressful (and expensive) times of year. Long queues at the mall trying to get that perfect last minute gift, hours spent in the kitchen slaving over a roast in 30 degree celsius heat and the presence of your mother-in-law who is suddenly always around, there’s a lot to be stressed out about.

That’s why this year I’ve decided to take a deep breath and rethink how I’m doing Christmas. So much of how we think we need to celebrate is based on outdated ideas usually filtered down from American Hallmark movies (snowmen, in South Africa, really?) and while I love tradition, it’s time to shake things up to make this a truly enjoyable time.

The weather outside is frightful…ly warm

Like I said, South Africa in December is about as far away from snowmen and reindeer as you can get, so why do we base our celebrations and Christmas food around the Northern Hemisphere? Why not shake things up a bit this year and indulge in things like seafood platters, fish, cold turkey and ham, pavlova, and of course, a glass of ultra-chilled bubbly to help you keep cool. The idea of a massive sit down Christmas lunch or dinner is absolutely lovely but can isolate the chefs from the rest of the group if they’re spending hours in the kitchen and can have the whole house feeling like a furnace, why not try something different this year like a poolside Christmas braai or a picnic? They’re more social and more appropriate for the beautiful summer we’re set to expect.

Wastefulness gets you on the naughty list

Sustainability is a cause I’m hugely passionate about and the holiday season is a terrible time of waste in most households. (One study in the UK estimates that around ​​five million Christmas puddings, two million turkeys, and 74 million mince pies succumb to the scrap heap while still edible every year.) There are a few tips and tricks to remember to cut down your waste this year, and the best one is to ensure you eat with the seasons and fruits and veg like artichokes, asparagus, aubergines, baby marrow, beans, corn, apples, bananas, blueberries, cherries, granadillas and grapes are all in season and easier to source. Doing a family-style meal (where everyone shares) instead of portioned plates with also assist with reducing waste (i.e. one large bread loaf for the table and opposed to individual buns for every person).

Gifting also builds up a large amount of waste so rather  avoid things you can’t or probably won’t recycle, like wrapping paper, and use gift bags which the next person can repurpose later. And don’t forget that tape cannot be recycled. So try and find creative ways to ensure tape isn’t used! As for the Christmas tree, do not cut down trees that aren’t specifically grown for this purpose!

Don’t break the bank

Many people let this time of year become a financial strain that can affect us well into the new year, but this really doesn’t have to be the case.

If you’ve got a lot of people to buy presents for, like extended family and friend groups, suggesting a Secret Santa is a great way to keep the costs down. A large box of chocolate, tin of biscuits or sweets or a board game can be a great family gift rather than buying individual presents for each person. Buying someone a secondhand present used to be a bit of a no-no, but not anymore! Shopping second hand is more sustainable and frugal, and you can find some treasures.

As for the food, if friends or family are coming to your house, ask them to bring a plate to share, like a starter, some sides, or a desert, and their own drinks. A Christmas potluck will help split the costs and ease the workload as well as pressure in the kitchen.

There are often leftovers at Christmas so prevent food waste by using up the leftover food. Re-use the turkey or chicken in a delicious boxing day curry, or chop and mix into mashed potato and turn into patties or use some of the leftover veggies in a frittata