10 Steps To Instant Christmas 

Sometimes, no matter how much we wish things were different, we just don't have time to ease into Christmas. Work commitments, the demands of family and all the unexpected complications of life just get in the way. Yes, we all have a heap of things to deal with, especially at this time of year, but each year I determine to Christmassify myself, come what may. Regulars may recall that last year our Christmas lead-in was put on hold when my Mum broke her ankle five days before the Big Day. Would we spend Christmas at home, all safely tucked up? Or would we be at the local hospital, gathered around the invalid's bed? As it happened we got her home safe, sound and limb solidly pinned by Christmas Eve, and just having Mum home made it the best Christmas ever. But it made me even more determined to get every last drop out of this Christmas's festivities. So, to avoid the chaos of previous years, I've put together my guide to 10 simple things that "make" Christmas in (almost) an instant. They certainly get me in Yuletide mode. Will they work for you? Well, you won't know until you try …

1 A Christmas-only drink

A warming glass of mulled wine, an eggnog, a cup of peppermint hot chocolate … these are the drinks that make Christmas cosy. Every family, every individual seems to have a drink, whether intoxicating or not, that they consume only come Yuletide. In my case, and this'll probably not surprise you, I have a few favourites. Babycham probably being the number one. Each Boxing Day from about the age of eight my Granddad Buckler would try to get me to drink a traditional Christmas sherry. It never worked. I still can't stand the stuff (believe me, you haven't lived until you've swapped it for whiskey in a trifle). What I yearned for, perhaps at the time only because my fabulous Grandma would drink it, was a Babycham. It's still my favourite. I have a special ritual. It has to be pre-dinner, topped with a cocktail stick spearing two maraschino cherries. I even have a vintage 1960s saucer-shaped glass and a proper ice bucket, both bought on Ebay. Yes, it's frivolous, girly and very retro, but even a Raggedy Ann Girl needs a bit of that come the dark nights …

This year, however, I've been tempted out of my routine. There'll still be Babycham but now I've found Winter-Edition Malibu (with flakes of coconut suspended in the liquid like falling snowflakes and the Glitterberry edition of J2O with a golden sparkle and a mulled flavour. And I do like an eggnog, and a snowball, and perhaps a Bucks Fizz and a Bellini. Good job there are twelve days of Christmas …

2 Warm a mince pie or two

As a teenager I would always help Mum with preparing the food. The day we baked the first mince pies, and maybe marzipaned the cake, was always special. Nothing beats homemade mince pies. But, I have to admit, I'll eat most mince pies if I get the chance. Not out of season, thank you very much Marks and Spencer, but with a nice glass of mulled something, or even just a nice cup of tea, you can't really beat a mince pie. Especially if it's warm from the oven. This year, out of curiosity, I'v sampled Heston Blumenthal's Waitrose/Ocado mince pies. You have to heat them in the oven and then sprinkle over the accompanying powdered "pine sugar". It sounds weird, but, oh my gosh, are they good! It's like eating your mince pie in a forest full of Scots pine. Fabulous!

3 Shop online but walk around busy shopping centres

I know this sounds nuts, but bear with me. I do most of my Christmas shopping online these days but the one year I did the lot, I felt strangely deflated. Oh I was proud of my achievements, I'd saved a fortune on bus and taxi fares, and avoided losing my rag with fellow shoppers but somehow I seemed to have by-passed it all. And it didn't feel right. Now I make sure to at least visit a crowded shopping mall, if only to be rather smug that I don't have to stand in the queue at Debenhams while the chaps gather round the perfume counter looking for that last-minute gift. I always do the Christmas food shop in person. Granted this has a lot to do with the delivery charges being three times the price it is for the rest of the year, and the fact that you have to book your Christmas week slot some time back in mid-October. But there is just something about a busy supermarket at Christmas. My first proper job was in a huge Sainsbury's in my hometown for the three months leading into Christmas. I loved how heavingly busy the store got, the buzz of people getting ready for such a important celebration and how happy people were. If the idea of this just fills you with horror, use my tactics: smile at everyone, say "Merry Christmas" repeatedly and just accept it's going to be busy.

4 Light a scented candle

When you get back home after all that shopping, you really need to relax and lighting a Christmas-appropriate fragranced candle is the perfect solution. Whether you want to fake the scent of a real tree, convince everyone you've been busy baking or just enjoy a bit of berry, spice or peppermint to lull you into North Pole mode, there is a candle out there. Just make sure to buy something of good quality (Yankee Candle, Kindle Candle and Price's are very good) because cheap candles mean cheap smells, smoking wicks and a candle that melts all too quickly. Better to buy one really good candle than a dozen really bad ones.

5 Buy new nightwear

There is nothing, and I mean nothing, more luxuriant than slipping into a brand-new snuggly nightie or cosy pair of pyjamas come Christmas Eve. PJs, jammies, 'jamas, or whatever you call them make great Christmas gifts and an even better treat for yourself. Good old M & S, Next and Debenhams have a really good range right now. But for me it's QVC UK's Carole Hochman every time. It's nearly Christmas so indulge yourself right now so that, while Father Christmas drives his reindeer-powered sleigh high above your head, you'll be sleeping soundly in your new nightwear!

6 Tune in to Christmas movies

There's nothing more likely to get you in the mood for Christmas than to flick on a seasonal film. And viewers with Sky packages even get two dedicated Christmas movie channels. Granted some of them are a bit, well, predictable, but Christmas is no time to start getting all adventurous, now is it? 

7 Build a gingerbread house

No need to panic – this really is a quick one. Plenty of shops – Lakeland, Debenhams and IKEA amongst them – have their own build-your-own gingerbread house kits. Those first two include everything you need from moulded gingerbread pieces, decorations and even icing. You could, of course, make one from scratch but you don't need to and you can play at Hansel and Gretel without getting icing sugar and black treacle all over yourself and your kitchen.

8 Eat Brussels Sprouts

Don't groan! Providing they've been cooked properly (and it's not hard to do), sprouts are delicious. And besides, if you're a Brit, it's practically illegal not to eat them. Do your bit, be patriotic. Eat those greens!

9 Get your Christmas "Radio Times"

Settle down with a cup of coffee and your big red marker and draw a big circle around all your Christmas viewing. From your favourite soaps to the blockbuster films, comedy specials and costume dramas, the essential Christmas edition of "Radio Times", has them all. And you know, come Christmas time, you don't want to risk being reliant on those Sky Plus or TiVo programme guides.

10 Read "A Christmas Carol"

I know, I know, there'll be at least four adaptations of this classic Christmas tale on telly this holiday season but Charles Dickens was a wordsmith and his most famous, and copied, work deserves a visit "in person". The first few paragraphs alone are a masterpiece. There's drama, there's humour and a wonderful, and timely, moral tale. So whether you prefer to buy a cheap copy from Amazon, download it to your Kindle or just read it online, please do. If you're the kind of person who thinks it's all just a bit silly, then this fabulous book is aimed right at you. And if you don't really like reading, by the standards of novels, and Dickens, it's really pretty short.