Everything you need to know in the run-up to Christmas

December is hectic enough. Here are all the key dates you need to keep in mind up until the 25th.

Christmas Dates

Get your letter sent to Santa… by December 8

Post your kids’ letters to Santa to the Royal Mail and they’ll get a reply from the big man himself, as long as you send the letter before December 8. The RNIB runs a similar scheme, but you need to have got in touch with St Nick by December 1. Running late? Santa is also contactable by email via the RNIB and will be sending replies until mid-December.

Buy your Christmas tree… December 15

If you want a real tree, they’re at their best for about three weeks, so bringing it indoors in mid-December will give you the best chance of it stilling looking lush and green come 12th night. If you can’t wait that long, choose a Norway fir as they don’t drop as many needles. Norway spruces should be bought nearer Christmas.

Post your Christmas cards… by December 19

If you want to take advantage of cheaper second class stamps, you need to have all your Christmas cards in the post by Tuesday December 19. Even if you splash out on first class, you still need to have them all signed, sealed and delivered by December 20 to guarantee delivery.

Buy your sprouts on… December 23 

The Christmas food shop is a competitive sport and retail experts have devoted considerable time and effort to finding out exactly when you should buy your sprouts and parsnips. Set your alarm because it’s between 6.30 and 7.30am on December 23. Any earlier and you compromise on freshness and any later and you run the risk of tussling over the last bag of carrots.

Do your Amazon order… by around December 20 

Amazon hasn’t confirmed its final order dates for Christmas delivery, but based on last year, you’ll need to do your online shopping by December 20 to qualify for free postage, December 21 for standard delivery and December 23 for express delivery, although availability is limited.

Buy your Christmas decorations… the third week of December

There’re no guarantees, but for the last few years M&S, John Lewis and House of Fraser have all offered significant discounts on their Christmas decorations in the third week of December. So if you fancy some new sparkle for your tree or need to top up your tinsel stocks it’s worth waiting until then.

Hit the sales on… Christmas Eve

On December 24 the high street is no longer reserved for people frantically buying last-minute gifts, it’s also when many major retailers start their sales. Do you dare brave the crowds to bag a bargain, or will you be sat at home with a glass of mulled wine?