Making time to be Christmassy
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Whether it's to make time for tea with a neighbour, or to go to a carol service, will this be the year to do some of the festive things you promise yourself every year? We've 18 ideas for starters.
1 See a neighbour
'You must pop in' we have been saying for months as another year races by. But rather than just slipping a card through the letterbox and dashing off, offer an invitation for a definite time, put the kettle on and chat with them for an hour.
2 Go to a Christmas fair
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We see the adverts and notices, maybe even put it on the calendar… and then forget. Support your local charities, craftspeople and producers and go to a festive fair. If it's a local one, it's usually a good place to catch up with nearby friends and neighbours too – you could even arrange to meet them there.
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3 Dine out
Why not make this the year you have Christmas lunch, or New Year's Eve dinner somewhere different? Our area has a fantastic selection of pubs, restaurants and hotels offering superb festive menus featuring local produce, so many in fact that you can choose your favourite food style – traditional, ethnic, vegan, Indian and so on – and guarantee to find somewhere that suits.
4 Shop at a town or farmers market
They set up their stands and stalls on various days all over Norfolk and Suffolk, so make the most of some of the best, freshest and most interesting produce sold by local businesses, growers and producers. As Christmas approaches, they'll be offering festive wreathes and decorations, foodie treats and locally made crafts too. See dates at www.norfolkfarmersmarket.org and www.suffolkmarketevents.co.uk
5 Tour the festive lights
Take a walk, cycle or drive around your local streets and housing estates and enjoy the results of the huge effort put in by many householders to transform their homes at Christmas. From inflatable Nativity scenes to giant sleighs perched on rooftops, snow cannons and plenty of colour, you will see it all with many displays raising money for charity too.
6 Buy new decorations
Every year you promise yourself to replace the dwindling number of baubles, the faded fairy and the dusty table centrepiece, and every year you forget until dragging the battered box of decorations out of the loft again. Shopping early is the way to go.
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7 Go to a carol service
They're a chance to think about the Christian meaning of Christmas, and to have a jolly good sing with others. Every parish will have services over the festive period, or join a large service such as the Christingle on December 8, 3.30pm at Norwich Cathedral, the EDP/Evening News Christmas Carol service, December 11, 7pm (tickets £5 at www.edp24.co.uk) and the Pantomime Carol Service, December 21, 11am at St Peter Mancroft in Norwich, or carols on December 8 at St Mary's Church in Bury St Edmunds with RAF Honington Voluntary Band and The Combined Military Wives Choirs of Wattisham Air Station, RAF Honington and RAF Marham.
8 Make a New Year's Resolution
Perhaps you want to run a mile, change your job, clear that clutter, eat less sugar or take up yoga. Could 2019 be the year? People wanting to turn over a new leaf, in whatever direction, can hang their New Year's Resolutions (in envelopes) on a Resolutions Tree at Norwich Cathedral on New Year's Eve from 10am to 5pm. Members of the cathedral team will be available to talk and pray with people. The Resolutions will be offered to God at the 12 noon Holy Communion New Year's Day service.
9 Hang a Christmas wreath
Maybe it's time to stop just admiring those beautifully adorned front doors and decorate your own for Christmas. Wrap it with a bow – which doesn't involve adding hooks to the inside or outside, or add a bought or homemade wreath.
10 Go to a party
You've nothing to wear, no babysitter, don't like driving in the dark, have no one to go with, no energy or simply can't be bothered. Quieten the excuses and accept an invitation to go out. If you tell your host your worries, they should be able to help by either pointing out a dress code doesn't exist at Christmas, to finding someone to meet you outside so you don't have to walk in on your own.
11 Organise New Year's Eve
There are masses of events, parties and dances to join for the New Year – there must be something you like. Perhaps a dinner and dance at a big hotel, a theme night at a local pub, some live music or a tasting menu at a restaurant – booking ahead means it's easier to try something different.
12 Join a winter activity
Make the most of winter and go ice skating at the Bakers and Larners of Holt sponsored rink in Norwich (www.icerinknorwich.co.uk), watch the swan feeding at WWT Welney (www.wwt.org.uk), or see the seals at Blakeney or Horsey.
13 Stay in
Have an afternoon of no chores, no present wrapping, and no social media and instead have board games, jigsaw puzzles and Christmas stories, with some festive tunes on in the background of course.
14 Watch the Christmas movie
We used to joke about how sick we were of Mary Poppins or Chitty Chitty Bang Bang or the Sound of Music being on every Christmas when we were kids, but now almost everyone can watch almost anything at any time, we miss that 'everyone's watching this now' tradition. So turn on the TV and watch a festive movie on 'normal' TV, knowing that you're joined by millions of others around Britain.
15 Make something
Cards, Christmas cake, Christmas pudding, a gingerbread house, chutney or a pot of bulbs as a gift – have a festive craft time of your own.
16 Have a festive drink
Hot chocolate, mulled wine, sherry, port… whatever you feel your Christmas tipple could be, don't let time escape until it's Christmas Eve and you've no chocolate/marshmallows/port in the house.
17 Do some fancy wrapping
We all know that those beautifully wrapped presents; the ones with sprigs of rosemary, beads, wire, sticks of cinnamon, fir cones, leaves, gold sprayed acorns, hand-made tags and funky bows around hand-printed brown paper or cellophane and tissue paper are created by those who are either super organised and started wrapping in September, or by those who only have a handful of gifts to wrap. The rest of us have far too many to try anything more complicated than paper and tape. But we might try it on just one gift!
18 Follow Santa
The North American Aerospace Defence Command (NORAD) runs the original Santa-tracking service beginning on December 1, www.noradsanta.org, or there's lots of news from the North Pole at www.santaupdate.com