If you have ever hosted at Christmas, you’ll know that a successful day is not something that just comes together in a single night. Food has to be planned, drinks stocked, decorations bought and family schedules have to be meticulously synchronised so that everyone turns up on the right day at the right time.
As ever, technology has the ability to take the stress out of planning the big occasion, letting you focus on being a great host.
Planning the day
It seems like global shipping lanes require less logistical planning than getting the average family together at Christmas. All is not lost however and technology can help you every step of the way from sending out invites to helping with the directions.
First make a comprehensive to-do list using a digital organiser like the Wunderlist app. It’s free to download and works on phone or tablet.
If you’re hosting friends and family on a day that isn’t Christmas Day itself, why not create a Doodle to find out which dates work for everyone. Invitees log in, let you know when they are available and you can pick the date that suits the most people.
Next, let your various family members know what’s happening and what time they need to be there by either creating a private event within Facebook or sending everyone a shared calendar invite using an email service like Gmail.
If there are new additions this year and you’re worried about them finding you, simply create your own Google Map by entering your home address Into Google Maps and linking to the website address from your Facebook event.
Own the feast
Food is such an integral part of what makes Christmas special, from the great smells of early-morning cooking to that feeling of being ever so slightly too full in the afternoon.
Catering for Christmas is a big undertaking and making sure that everything falls into place can initially appear daunting.
Keep a running list of the food you want or need so you’re prepared well in advance. The Wunderlist app that you downloaded earlier can also act as your hub for this.
If this is the first time you've donned the apron and peeled the sprouts, smart displays like the Lenovo Smart Display, Google Home Hub or Echo Show can help take the pain out of learning something new.
Ever wondered how to make the perfect Yorkshire pud? Simply ask Alexa or Google Assistant and both will take you through the step-by-step process of getting it spot on first time.
Alternatively YouTube contains a small army of experts who are ready and willing to help lend their cooking know-how. Jamie Oliver’s fail-safe stuffing recipe is always a solid choice, or alternatively check out the superb BBC Good Food YouTube channel for expert advice on getting those basics right.
Now with so many things cooking at the same time keeping track of it all can sometimes appear a bit overwhelming. However, with Google Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa it’s actually easy to stay on top of everything.
Both voice assistants let you set multiple timers using your voice. Simply name it after the food you’re cooking and you’ll have restored order in no time.
Be the perfect host
Christmas is as much about the smells, sights and sounds as it is the food and presents. For some that’ll be an open fire at home, for others a particular scented candle. Almost all of us, though, remember the lights.
Wi-fi-connected lighting systems such as Ikea, Hive or Philips Hue let you take the lighting to a whole new level by giving you control over its brightness, colour and intensity using an app on your smartphone.
You can create ‘scenes’ allowing the house to transition from a multi-coloured treat in the morning to a warming glow of yellows and oranges when everyone’s getting ready for that post-turkey nap.
They’re fantastically simple to set up and Philips’ Hue contains hundreds of lighting presets, so if you’re short of time there’s almost certainly a lighting scheme that will suit your home.
Music plays a huge part in creating a Christmassy atmosphere and whether you’re the family that wakes up to carols or jams to Wham, the right sounds are crucial to getting the day off to a good start.
Rather than everyone fighting over what to play, wireless speaker systems like Sonos or Samsung’s SmartThings also let guests have their say on what’s playing, all they have to do is download an app and start adding their own requests to the queue.
Because every speaker is connected over Wi-Fi you can play different songs in each room or have the same tune play in harmony throughout the house.
If you’d rather leave it to the experts, why not try these official playlists from Spotify or Apple Music
Classical Christmas (Spotify)
Pop Christmas (Spotify)
Essential Christmas (Apple Music)
Classic Christmas Carols (Apple Music)
Finally, would it really be Christmas if there wasn’t at least one argument over a board game?
Rather than digging out that 20-year-old version of Trivial Pursuit, why not hand over the quizzing duties to your Amazon Echo smart speaker? The voice assistant can learn thousands of new ‘Skills’ and many of those include popular quiz games.
Bring the family together
It's a sign of the times that while the first thing everyone says when they arrive is still "Merry Christmas", the second is almost certainly "What’s the Wi-Fi password?"
Rather than going through the ordeal of reading out the same long number 15 separate times, there are some incredibly simple alternatives.
If you’re all using Apple devices simply ask your guests to select the wi-fi network as they normally would. Then at the password screen simply tap your phone with theirs and you’ll be asked if you want to share the Wi-Fi password.
Alternatively if you have BT’s Whole Home Wi-Fi, why not create your own temporary guest Wi-Fi network which lets you set any password and even share the details via text before they’ve arrived.
Of course technology’s one great influence on Christmas hasn’t been helping with recipes or even controlling the lights on the tree, it has been its ability to bring families together over 1000s of miles.
Use either FaceTime or Skype to video call those who can’t be there and put them on the big screen by using the Lightning AV Adaptor for iPhone or iPad or a USB-C adaptor for the latest Android smartphones.
Everyone will have taken some pictures throughout the day, however as is usually the case they’ll almost always end up getting lost and rarely shared.
Create a shared album using either your BT Cloud account or Google Photos and then create a link which you can send to every family member.