Stuff's Christmas survival guide

We've gathered together a host of handy tips to help you go the distance over the holidays
Stuff's Christmas survival guide

'Tis the season to be jolly but let's face it Christmas can also be a time of great stress.

You've got your family to deal with, decorations to sort and dinner to cook. The roads are clogged, the shops are even worse and wherever you go you'll be followed by the sound of Cliff Richard. 

All of which explains why we've put together a selection of Yuletide tips for everything from cooking the perfect sprouts to making your own SMS-controlled Christmas tree.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Supercharge your Christmas lights

Stuff's Christmas survival guide
Stuff's Christmas survival guide

Make a cheertreeCheerLights (cheerlights.com) syncs the colour of Christmas lights around the world. Tweet #cheerlights with one of ten colours (eg: ‘Paint the town red’) and CheerLights around the planet will dutifully obey.

Fancy making a ‘Cheertree’? You’ll need Colour Effects Lights (£25), an Arduino Uno board (€24) and an IoBridge monitor (£100). For a full list check out cheerlights.com 

2 Now head to bit.ly/cheertree and follow the instruction video carefully. It’s involved stuff, but there’s no soldering – just splicing – and you’ll need to follow the easy coding example. 

Finally, wrap your tree in lights and get tweeting. If Santa gave you a 3D printer, print off a Star Wars Thermal Detonator bauble (thingiverse.com). Then hide it before your family disowns you.

Make voice-activated Christmas lightsGet a Belkin WeMo Switch (£40, belkin.com) and create an account at ifttt.com – then enable the SMS and set up a ‘Santa’ contact for the number it provides.

Plug your Christmas lights into the WeMo Switch and enable the WeMo channel in IFTTT. Now create a recipe: ‘if this SMS then turn on WeMo’. 

Now gather your relations, open Siri and say: “Send a message to Santa saying turn on the Christmas lights.” After a short delay, the lights should shine. Magic!

Set the mood with some alternative Christmas anthems

Stuff's Christmas survival guide
Stuff's Christmas survival guide
Stuff's Christmas survival guide
Stuff's Christmas survival guide

Halford 3: 'Winter Songs'Judas Priest’s Rob Halford is a man with heavy metal running through his veins. So he can’t help but add a metal slant to familiar Christmas songs.

Leon Redbone: 'Christmas Island'Did you know that the voice of Leon the snowman in Elf is actually blues singer Leon Redbone? Oh. Did you know he had a Christmas album?

Al Green: 'Feels Like Christmas'So it might not be up there with Let’s Stay Together but soul legend Al Green’s cheesy ’80s Christmas album is certainly, er, different. 

The Vandals: 'Oi To The World'Punk band The Vandals put on a Christmas gig each year and this album contains hits such as My First Xmas (As A Woman).

Do a Japanese wrap

Stuff's Christmas survival guide
Stuff's Christmas survival guide
Stuff's Christmas survival guide
Stuff's Christmas survival guide

Impress with some eco-friendly gift wrap

1 Buy Japanese Furoshiki cloths (from £9, ecoshiki.co.uk) for each of your presents. Place gift in the middle of a Furoshiki.

2 Bring corner ‘B’ up and over the gift, tucking it underneath. Now pull corner ‘D’ over the gift, making sure it wraps tightly around to cover the present.

3 Pull corners ‘A’ and ‘C’ together and tie in a knot, preferably in the durable Ma-Musubi knot (ecoshiki.co.uk has the right technique) – it’s decorative and resistant to tampering. 

4 Once the recipient has untied the knot and revealed their present, either politely request the return of your Furoshiki, or teach them steps 1-3 so they can repeat the technique.

Drive home in style (and safety)

Stuff's Christmas survival guide
Stuff's Christmas survival guide
Stuff's Christmas survival guide
Stuff's Christmas survival guide

1 Pre-de-ice 

Fill a plant sprayer with half cheap white vinegar, half water. Spritz your windscreen at night for easier de-icing in the morning. 

2 Plug in the coffee machineSpice up those winter traffic jams with the Handpresso Auto (£130, handpresso.co.uk), which makes decent coffee on the go.

3 Download AA Roadwatch ProGoogle Maps has unbeatable traffic info, but the AA’s app will alert you if there’s a crash on your route – before the jam appears. 

4 Fire up 'The Very Best Of Chris Rea'Six hours of Christmas Day on the M25 would be hell without the great seasonal transport crooner in the Rea-view mirror.

Enjoy a tipple

Stuff's Christmas survival guide

How to make the perfect christmas cocktail

1 Sterilise a bottleWash a glass bottle and top in hot water, then dry upside-down in an oven (120°C, fan 100°C) for 15-20 minutes. Meanwhile, put a small tumbler in the freezer.

2 Make spiced syrupHeat 200ml water, 200g caster sugar, 12 dried allspice berries, a cinnamon stick and 2 pieces orange peel. Stir to dissolve the sugar, boil, then cool. Strain into the bottle.

3 Assemble the cocktailFill the chilled tumbler with ice, then add 50ml brandy, 25ml homemade spiced syrup and 25ml freshly squeezed lemon juice. 

4 Finish in styleStir with a cinnamon stick. Pare a strip of orange zest, then twist over and put into the glass. Sprinkle 4-5 drops of orange bitters on top. 

If all else fails... Get away from it all

Stuff's Christmas survival guide

Book a bargain break

The Daily Telegraph’s travel expert Donald Strachan reveals how to book a trip away from Christmas detritus and January sales…

1 Pick the best dates Christmas to New Year is one of the priciest weeks of the year. Save money by flying on Boxing Day or late on New Year’s Eve. Or return on New Year’s Day.

2 Aggregate the aggregators Skyscanner, Kayak and Momondo trawl through airline, agency and discount ticket websites for the best fares. They all have iOS/Android apps.

3 Go off-piste There’s more to Naples than pizza and Pompeii. You can make merry in its lively centre. Belgrade has bags of history and its nightlife has real swagger.