As we prepare to prepare to revel in capitalistic excess (or at least a much-deserved day off) tomorrow, one hopes that all yuletide affairs are in order and all that’s left is for Santa to, in the words of a true holiday saint, “squeeze his fat white a*s down that chimney tonight.”
That being said, if you’re anything like us, this probably isn’t quite the case.
And thus we bring you this: a 10-step guide to navigating Christmas Eve like a pro, from eleventh-hour gifts to cheap (but still good!) party booze to a couple ways you can spread some holiday cheer to those in need.
So go forth, be of good cheer, and have the happiest of holidays — no matter what holiday it is you may be celebrating.
Step One: The Gift Scramble
The goal here is to avoid the mall gauntlet at all costs. Luckily, Amazon Prime Now is now available in more than 50 cities (you can check here to see if yours is one of them) and ready to deliver some 25,000 items to your doorstep in under two hours. It certainly ain’t the full Amazon gamut (and selection varies from city to city), but between categories like electronics, toys and games, clothing, and sport/outdoor equipment, you should be able to sort out an eleventh-hour gift for anyone on your list. Hell, they’ll even bring you the wrapping paper.
Ed Note: for you unlucky souls who must brave the mall, be advised that J.Crew is having an absolutely ridiculous sale with an extra 40% off existing sale items.
Step Two: Spreading Some Cheer
While you’re in the spirit of giving, it’s nice to remember those in need. Charity Navigator thoroughly vets organizations to help you donate intelligently across a variety of causes, but if you’d just like to cut to the charitable chase, we’ve recently been enamored of Choose Love, the world’s first store that allows you to buy “gifts” (children's coats, blankets, hot meals) for refugees around the globe.
Step Three: Christmas Breakfast Prep
Each year, your correspondent’s mother makes a delightful concoction known as “monkey bread” for breakfast on Christmas morning, frequently upstaging the actual presents. Super easy to execute (see here), but must be started the day before to allow the dough to rise properly. Pro tip: Prime Now is also great for groceries. Look how much you’re accomplishing from the couch!
Step Four: Tipping Time
If you haven’t done it already, now’s a good time to show the various and sundry folks who make your life easier how much you appreciate their efforts. Here's a handy guide to the appropriate amounts for everyone from your doorman to your barber to your dog walker.
Step Five: Holiday Hooch
Whether you’re hosting a soirèe or just attending, tracking down some quality sauce that won’t break the bank is the order of the day. So step right this way for our line on the 30 best bottles of holiday party booze under $30, as recommended by some of the country’s best mixologists. Sightly more thrifty? We’ve also got Chicago’s premier wine pros on their favorite vino under $20. Celebrating with beer junkies? NYC cicerone Anne Becerra also helped us identify the ideal suds to pair with 11 popular holiday foods, from gingerbread cookies to charcuterie to Christmas ham.
Step Six: Party Etiquette
And at said soirèe, here’s our helpful primer on how not to act like an a-hole.
Step Seven: Festive Tunes
Our Holiday Playlist is also great for the party circuit, but works just as well for those spending their Christmas Eve at home frantically wrapping gifts.
Which brings us to …
Step Eight: Beat the Wrap
For those looking to, you know, actually wrap things properly, your correspondent found this video to be quite helpful. For those looking for a, shall we say, lighter lift, here are some tips from our Editor in Chief Walker Loetscher, a staunch proponent of the gift bag:
- Get a bag. Any bag. Gift bags work but so do brown paper ones.
- Put a piece of tissue paper (or newspaper) in that bag, holding the center of the paper like you would a pocket square, and pinning it in the bottom of the box.
- Place your gift on top of the tissue paper.
- Stuff another piece of tissue paper on top of the item, so as to conceal it. The edges of this paper should artfully protrude from the top of the bag.
- Tie the bag's handles together with ribbon or twine.
- Sign that sh*t with love.
Step Nine: Yuletide Tippling
Any wrapping session done without a holiday drink in hand is the very definition of missed opportunity. Here’s our booze editor Kirk Miller on the one you should be fixing:
“Everything tastes better with coffee. Fact. And everything, including your eggnog, tastes better with Mr. Black, a newly-imported Australian coffee liqueur produced from 100% Arabica coffees. Buy a bottle, grab some bourbon from your shelf and you’re most of the way there for this really simple holiday treat.”
MR BLACK EGGNOG
Created by Parker Boase, Liquid Lab NYC
- 375 ml (half bottle) Mr. Black Cold Brew Coffee Liqueur
- 1 cup of bourbon*
- 6 whole eggs
- 1 cup of sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 2.5 cups of milk
- 1/2 cup of heavy cream
- Pinch of nutmeg
Whisk sugar, salt and eggs together (or use a blender or stand mixer if available). Slowly add in the milk, cream, Mr. Black and bourbon. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour so ingredients have time to marry together. Whisk vigorously before serving. Pour completed mixture into mugs or a rocks glass and top with some fresh grated nutmeg for garnish.
*May we suggest another new spirit here? As far as new-to-market bourbons go, New Riff is fantastic — and boasts a healthy ABV for the category.
Step Ten: Visions of Sugarplums (or John Cusack)
The stockings are stuffed, the presents wrapped neatly beneath the tree, and your work is done. Time for you to fix yourself another ‘nog and call it a night. As you drift off, might we suggest a selection from our guide to obscure and unsung holiday movies, TV shows and albums?
To all a good night!
Main image via Christmas Vacation / Warner Bros.