20 tasks to complete before Christmas Day

The countdown to Christmas is on!
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Is ‘less stress’ at the very top of your Christmas wish list? Tick the jobs off on our Christmas countdown checklist to ensure your big day is easy-breezy and enjoyable for everyone.

There’s no doubt the pressure of planning the perfect Christmas Day can be a little overwhelming. There are all the practicalities to consider – mouths to feed, guest rooms to prepare, kids to entertain. Then there are the touches that turn a regular day into the most magical time of the year: DIY decorations, serving up fabulous Christmas fare and sharing gifts with loved ones. The earlier you start, the more achievable – and relaxed – it all is.

Here’s our guide to preparing the best Christmas Day yet. 

Tara Dennis Christmas table decorations dinnerware
Interior designer Tara Dennis creates a laid-back Christmas lunch at her beautiful home on the river. (Photography: Martyn Rushby)

With two weeks until Christmas…

1. Deep clean your kitchen

Now’s the time to declutter your kitchen. Clean the oven, scrub the stovetop and sort through supplies in the pantry and fridge to check expiration dates.

Make a list of what you need to replace so you’ll be stocked and ready to go when it’s time to start prep. Test out small appliances to make sure they’re in working order.

2. Get the barbecue ready

Give your barbecue a good clean and make sure that it’s set up in a safe area with plenty of workspace. Stock up on bottled gas and barbecue wipes – they’re great for keeping it looking good between big clean-ups.

3. Beat the supermarket rush

Two weeks out is when cook and television presenter Justine Schofield likes to shop for nonperishables, beating the crowd.

“Before you go, check the pantry to ensure you don’t double up on ingredients such as herbs and spices,” she suggests. “Shopping now also means you’re likely to get the exact ingredients you need.”

Countdown to Christmas - our perfect planning guide
Stock your fridge and pantry ahead of time with all the fixings for the perfect cheese board. (Photography: Chris Warnes)

4. Get crafty with the kids

If you have small children, shelve the precious ornaments for a few years and embrace kid-friendly decorations.

“Make pompoms, string them into bunting and drape all over the tree,” says event stylist Alexis Teasdale. “Fake flowers also look amazing. Add paperclip hooks to easily slip them onto branches.”

Anna Spiro's Christmas tree
Interior designer Anna Spiro’s Christmas tree is adorned with handmade decorations made from leftover fabric and wallpaper. (Credit: Photography: Martina Gemmola)

5. Choose your table theme

Your centrepiece is the heart of your table, so it pays to prep early. For Justine, knowing how much space you have is key. “Lay your table and do a trial run,” she says. As for Justine’s go-to Christmas table centrepiece? “I like to use different-shaped glasses and fill them with native flowers and foliage,” she says.

“I plan to combine my Grandma’s old plates and glassware with colourful tablecloths, serviettes and placemats”

Justine Schofield, Cook and TV host

6. Prep your linen

“I love the opulence of table linen and fabric napkins at Christmas time,” says interior stylist and former Home Beautiful creative director, Imogene Abady. “Once I’ve confirmed the number of guests, I make sure I have my tablecloths and napkins laundered so they’re pressed and ready for the big day.”

With one week until Christmas…

7. Hide oversized gifts

Struggling to wrap oversized gifts? “Take a photo of the gift and wrap the photo in a box along with instructions on where to find the present,” says Vivienne Anthon, expert gift wrapper and founder of Daily Wrap.

“You could even give treasure hunt- style directions to where the gift is hidden.”

Front door decorated for Christmas
Interior designer Amy Spargo of Maine House Interiors goes big with her front door Christmas decorations each year. (Photography: Martina Gemmola)

8. Prepare your servingware

Once your menu is set, it’s time to work out how and what to serve it on as you count down to Christmas. “I like to dedicate a sideboard where I start placing the servingware, dinnerware, glasses and cutlery for use on the day,” says Imogene.

“I use Post-it notes to write the name of each dish on the servingware and I give everything a polish at the same time.”

9. Donate unwanted toys

“The week between the end of school and Christmas Day is a great time to declutter toys with your kids,” says professional organiser Amy Revell.

“Help them donate toys that they’ve outgrown and create space for any new toys. This creates a lovely opportunity to talk about the spirit of Christmas and helping those less fortunate.”

Kids bedroom with shelves
Get the jump on Christmas junk and declutter your kids’ room now. (Photography: Shania Shegedyn / Styling: Alana Langan)

10. Clear the decks

Start to think about the weather. “If you have an outdoor table, invest in a large outdoor umbrella to keep the area cool,” says interior stylist Aimee Tarulli of Archer Interiors. “Add some outdoor bean bags to create an informal break-out space where your guests can relax and unwind after a big lunch.”

11. Stock the bar

“It’s far better to have more booze than to run out,” says sommelier Virginia Selleck. “Prepare to get the party started with a bubbly, or greet guests with a cocktail. This year, try something light and fresh such as The Ruby, with Campari, Escubac, freshly squeezed grapefruit and juice from a lime.”

Want more cocktail recipe ideas? Try: 

Cherry cocktail Christmas recipe
This cherry cocktail is perfect for Christmas Day.

12. Refresh your spaces

Give your bathroom and powder room a quick zhoosh as you countdown to Christmas day. “Add some new hand towels, a special pump soap and, in the days leading to Christmas, a little bunch of flowers,” says Amber Clohesy from Down To The Woods.

“I love Ashley & Co’s soap, and Mud’s tear vase is the perfect size for a bathroom. This makes your bathroom special for guests, but is also a cheeky Christmas gift to yourself.”

13. Get guest- ready

Put the final touches on the guest room: fresh linen, a carafe of water, a spare phone charger, a hairdryer and extra toilet paper in the bathroom, and a note with the wi-fi password on the bedside table.

Coastal style bedroom
(Photography: Louise Roche | Styling: Kylie Jackes)

14. Set the table

It’s always a nice idea to lay the table the night before – it takes way longer than you think. Kids about? Leave off the glassware and throw a sheet over it all so it remains safe from little hands.

15. Buy your blooms

Get the pick of the bunch by visiting your local flower market on Christmas Eve. “The best flowers are available from 5am,” says Imogene.

Silver and white Christmas table setting
(Photography: Will Horner | Styling: Kayla Gex)

16. Plug in and recharge

“Stock up on batteries and put all your devices on charge,” says Alexis. “There’s nothing like not being able to play with new toys to really bring down the festive mood.”

17. Prep the drinks station

“Make sure your bubbles, white and rosé wines are in the fridge chilling and ready to be cracked,” says Magnum & Queens’ Virginia Selleck. “Wash and polish wine glasses and decanters, and cut up limes and lemon slices for cocktails. If your cocktail recipes need freshly squeezed juice, do this ahead of time and store in the fridge.”

bar cart

The cane bar cart in this Mornington Peninsula home was designed by Maine House Interiors.

18. Recycle and re-use

“Gift wrapping is like Christmas fare – you have to plan for leftovers,” says expert gift wrapper Vivienne Anthon. “Have a box ready for paper, plus a basket for ribbons. Store re-usable paper in long cardboard cylinders.”

19. Light the way

Just after the sun sets on Christmas Eve, allocate 30 minutes to test your lighting. “Whether you’re using candles, tea lights or fairy lights, it’s a great way to see what will work as day turns to night and make last-minute touches,” says HB food director Imogene Abady.

Coffee table Christmas decorations
(Photography: Cath Muscat)

20. Savour the season’s seafood

Chef and restaurateur Guillaume Brahimi recommends heading to the fishmonger on Christmas Eve to pick up the freshest catch.

“This gives you enough time to prepare it before the big day,” he says. To keep seafood at its very best, “Wrap your fish in Chux cloths to keep it dry,” suggests Lennox Hastie, chef and owner of Firedoor restaurant in Sydney.

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