How Real Housewives celebrate Christmas
Who will you be spending Christmas Day with?
Christmas Eve is traditionally a Gazal family Christmas that consists of a Swedish-Lebanese dinner at home followed by the opening of our Christmas presents, and even a visit from Santa. Christmas Day is spent with the O'Neils, which is a traditional seafood lunch. Christmas is always spent with family and friends who have nowhere else to go.
Where will you be?
Christmas Eve is always spent at my Mum's place in Sydney where I grew up, and Christmas Day is spent by the sea in Palm Beach.
Tell us how your day usually plays out (ie what do you do in the morning, afternoon and evening?)
The morning of Christmas Eve is usually spent running around gathering last minute gifts and picking up the last bits of ingredients to finish Christmas dinner. No matter how organised I think I am, it's always a crazy day. At around 5pm, all the family gather at my Mum's place dressed in our finest red and green outfits. The evening commences with traditional Swedish glogg - a hot spiced mulled wine - and gingerbread cookies. At around 7.30pm we are seated together around a beautifully decorated table to share in our Swedish-Lebanese feast. Towards the end of dinner, there is a knock at the door and it's usually a visit from Santa. We then gather round the Christmas tree and exchange and open gifts.
What is your drink of choice on Christmas Day?
I'm a vodka and soda girl, however at Christmas I always drink Swedish glogg - which is traditionally drunk warm, but if the weather is particularly hot we drink it on ice. It is a type of mulled wine served with flaked almonds and currants. To me, it epitomises everything that is Christmas. It smells of cinnamon, cloves and orange peel.
What's on the menu this year?
Every year we eat the same food that we have been eating since I can remember. Christmas is about traditions and rituals. Our Christmas feast is a real nod to my upbringing. Being half Lebanese and half Swedish, my mother has always honoured both cultures and the menu reflects that. Our Christmas table always consists of Swedish meatballs, Swedish beetroot salad, Lebanese garlic chicken, tabouli, Swedish herring, freshly baked bread by my grandmother and Christmas ham.
Who does the cooking?
Traditionally my mother and Grandmother have always done the cooking, with help from my sister and I. And this year my daughters Neve and Nawal will help out too, as they are old enough to learn our family traditions. You can never have too many hands rolling kilos of meatballs.
You are an events planner … do you enjoy putting on your own events (such as Christmas Day) or does it feel a little like work?
I love the festivities and traditions that come with Christmas and I look forward to hosting my family and friends once we are settled in our new home. I love the madness and the chaos surrounding Christmas, and I love the idea that while things change year to year, Christmas is a time that doesn't bring too many surprises.
What's your best tip for people who are hosting Christmas this year?
Christmas is traditionally a very stressful time of year, with people starting to panic as early as November. My main tip would be to plan your menu early, and pre-order ham, meats and seafood. Ensure you have all your long-life shelf items pre-purchased so that the day before you only have to collect fresh fruit and vegetables. Do as much shopping online as you can so it can be delivered to you directly, as this will ensure there is little hassle closer to the big day. Also wrap your gifts as you buy them, or even better, gift people with experiences, which you know they'll appreciate and you don't have to wrap! Who wouldn't want an afternoon at a spa?
Who do you find it most difficult to buy a gift for?
Family and friends that already have everything are the hardest to buy for. I find that the better I know someone, the more difficult they are to buy for. I call them the 'un-giftables'! This year I am buying them all experiences from Groupon that I know they'll love. My brothers this year are both getting a Go-Karting experience, my mum is getting some Cryotherapy sessions, and my sister is getting an 8-week dance course.
Have you started on your Christmas shopping yet, or do you tend to leave it to the last minute? Where are your favourite places to shop?
I have been collecting bits and pieces on my travels this year but the majority of my gifts this year will be found online, simply because of the convenience. It is so much easier to sit down at the end of a long day with a vodka and soda in one hand and the mouse in the other and click away. And in a few days, everything arrives at your door.
Where is your favourite place in the world to spend Christmas?
Christmas for me is about warm long balmy summer nights, the smell of gardenia in the air and the cicada's singing in the evening. I couldn't imagine celebrating anywhere else in the world other than Sydney.
What are you hoping to receive this year, gift wise?
All I ever wish for Christmas are healthy, happy children, and some beautiful handmade cards. However, in saying that, a day at a beautiful spa where I could relax for a few hours and enjoy some pampering would never be wasted, as this is something special that I would not normally do for myself.
New research from Groupon has shown that 70% of Aussies are stressing over Christmas. Do you love Christmas, or do you often find it stressful?
I love Christmas, and all the pomp and ceremony that comes with it, however it can be a very stressful manic time of the year. All the running around and making sure that every gift gets bought, everything gets wrapped, the table is set, etc! It's the one time of the year that brings my whole family together, both Gazals and O'Neils. I find it such a beautiful relaxing time spent together, and I love how one day just rolls into another over that period. And then suddenly you realise it New Year's Eve!
* Nicole O'Neil is an ambassador for Groupon.com.au