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Turn Back Time This Christmas

Making plans for the festive season has been tricky over the past couple of years as Covid continues to turn the world upside down. The big question is not so much who to celebrate with, but how many. No-one quite knows what Christmas will bring this year, but large gatherings are not expected to be part of it. Instead, it's likely that smaller groups of family and friends will come together over the festive holiday, to stay safe and avoid travel restrictions.

But what is the best way to celebrate away from crowded venues such as theatres and pubs? Perhaps 2021 is the moment to turn back time and return to the simple, homely pleasures of Christmas from years gone by.It can be great fun, especially with only a few guests.

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In most homes, gifts will be opened in the morning. Then, once the wrapping paper has been gathered up, thoughts will turn to Christmas lunch. No matter what's on your menu, give your guests their own kitchen task or dish to serve. When everyone contributes it makes a meal feel like a real team effort - and more fun!

Another way to give a nod to Christmas past is by serving delicious, mulled wine and making it yourself couldn't be easier. You don't need an expensive wine. It's more important that it's full-bodied and fruity so a wine like Merlot is ideal.

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Add a quarter of a cup of brandy, one sliced orange, eight whole cloves, two-star anise and four tablespoons of sugar or honey. Combine the ingredients in a saucepan and simmer until hot. Don't let it bubble or you'll boil the alcohol away! Once strained, it's ready to serve.

A walk is also an essential element of a traditional Christmas. It doesn't need to turn into a hike but it's a great way to re-invigorate after Christmas lunch and kids can let off steam.

Games are another simple way of bringing everyone together. Choose a board game like Trivial Pursuit, Monopoly or Cluedo. Most newspapers at Christmas feature quizzes and crosswords that make for ideal shared fun. Or you could split up into teams for Charades.

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Back in the day, families would gather to sing carols. You can revive this charming tradition and give it a modern twist by creating a playlist. As well as traditional carols, mix it up by including some classic festive hits like Last Christmas, I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day and Wonderful Christmastime. Download and print off the lyrics so everyone has the words and away you go -- your very own Christmas karaoke!

If you are spending Christmas with children, prepare in advance for some craft fun -- make decorations for the table, for example. There are plenty of really useful Christmas craft guides online. Another traditional pursuit is a treasure hunt, excellent for burning up energy and it can take place inside or outside the home.

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Many families watch television on Christmas Day, but you can make more of an event of this by choosing a Christmas film as your entertainment, serving popcorn and announcing a showing time! The beauty is that virtually every movie genre has a Christmas movie.

Family film? Home Alone or Little Women. Comedy? Bad Santa or Elf. Rom-com? Love Actually or The Holiday. Action? Die Hard or Die Hard 2! Hollywood Golden Age? It's A Wonderful Life or White Christmas. A good festive film -- and there are lots of great ones -- will put everyone in a good mood.

Your traditional Christmas shouldn't end when you retire to bed and turn off the lights on the 25th.

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There are plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy. The stunning light installation at Kew Gardens, for example, is on until January 9th. Or take your friends ice-skating at Somerset House. The beautiful rink and 40-foot-tall Christmas tree can be enjoyed until January 16th. Or visit Skylight at Tobacco Dock where you can view London's skyline from your own private igloo-shaped pod. On until January 30th.

However, you choose to spend your Christmas, stay safe and have a very merry one!

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