Christmas craziness has hit a new peak this year, with Australians stressing about their festive feast earlier than ever before.
Christmas recipe searches began on taste.com.au — the country’s biggest food site — as early as August, a whole month earlier than last year.
And those initial searches are up 24 per cent on 2018.
But while some get ahead of the game with their planning, last-minute frenzies have also become a hallmark of the big day, as hosts strive for the perfect spread.
Last year, taste.com.au recorded its biggest day ever with 2.8 million views on December 23 as Australians searched for last-minute recipes, smashing the previous record of 2.4 million views on December 24, 2017.
Taste’s newly released data also shows the top recipes Aussies are searching for this year — often with more than one variation on a dish, like ham or gingerbread; with some interesting state-by-state variations when it comes to local favourites.
In NSW, the traditional Christmas trifle and traditional shortbread are the heroes of the day.
Victorians, on the other hand, can’t get enough of mini Christmas puddings, as well as mulled wine.
Queensland is the only state that is obsessed with rum balls, while South Australia’s top 20 most-searched-for recipes include Christmas pudding truffles and mini gingerbread cheesecakes.
Taste’s trove of data has provided the secret sauce for its first foray into books.
There are more than 26 million recipe searches on the site each year; and Taste Top 100 Summer Fresh, in stores on Monday, was compiled from the most popular warm weather recipes on the site.
And it is making a mark already, hitting the Booktopia cookbook top ten before it was even on shelves, due to pre-order demand alone.
Taste editor-in-chief Brodee Myers-Cooke says Christmas can be at time of “great stress”.
“Every year we see more and more people planning earlier and earlier. But this year it’s really exploded, in a way we’ve never seen.
“What we know is there are two sides to the story. Sure, it’s about a lot more people genuinely excited about Christmas, but we also know Christmas is a time of great stress for people who don’t know where to start, especially with their Christmas dishes.
“Our hope is this book will help everyone, and bring down those stress levels.”
Sydney marketing director Rebecca Sherrard is one of those who get into the Christmas groove early — getting everyone together and making it a fun event.
“I start thinking about Christmas in late September and then the planing and co-ordination kicks in around November,” she said.
Ms Sherrard hosts two festive functions at her home in Ingleburn — a lunch for 15 friends in the run-up to Christmas followed by a family lunch for 17 on the big day.
Her planning comes right down to the small details — guests are greeted with printed menus and small gifts at their place settings.
“It’s all about making it fun, getting everyone together and socialising.”
Family pets Daisy and Diesel — a bull mastiff and a French mastiff — also get in on the fun, sporting cute Christmas headpieces.
She enjoys serving up a mix of meat mains and “hero” salads. The centrepiece of her Christmas lunch is usually a full snapper or salmon.
For this year’s lunch with friends, dessert will be the main event and she plans on making a vegan cheesecake and a Christmas trifle.
As an avowed Christmas fan, she doesn’t find the entertaining aspect stressful, but says finding the right gifts can be tricky.
Melbourne businesswoman Emma Sidaoui is also one of those who is nuts about Christmas — literally.
As the managing director of her family’s nuts and spices business, Christmas fever kicks off in September as she deals with the soaring demand in online orders.
Her own celebrations, at the family home on The Boulevard in Ivanhoe, the street famed for its annual Christmas lights display, have a firm focus on family.
“On December 1, we put the Christmas lights up and everyone gets so excited.
“We host a Christmas Eve Party and put on a massive BBQ for about 50 to 60 people. It’s an open house vibe and everyone brings something.
“We them have a fun competition to see who can make the best meal or the best dessert.”
Food served includes chicken skewers, Lebanese bread with hummus, labneh and Lebanese sweets.
Her advice to those who may be feeling stressed about the day is to relax.
“Don’t put too much stress and pressure on yourself — everyone just wants to have a good time and live in the moment,” she says.
Adelaide HR manager Sarah Barter’s Christmas preparations could not possibly start any earlier in the year.
“I start planning for Christmas in January,” she says.
“As soon as the sales start, I am already on the hunt for items that will tie in with my next Christmas theme.”
Some of the busy mum’s previous themes have included Winter Wonderland, woodland animals and The Nutcracker.
The super-organised Ms Barter, who usually hosts between 12 and 20 people for lunch at her home in Glen Osmond, has even got her Christmas 2020 theme sorted — Australiana.
This year’s theme is birds.
“I’ve got a bird wreath, bird cushions, a bird topper on my tree and my tree is covered in birds,” she says.
“Once Halloween is over, the work (for Christmas) begins in earnest.”
As a lifelong Christmas enthusiast, Ms Barter loves spending time on the big day with her large extended family.
She jokes that she sometimes feels “like one of those adults who still looks up at the sky expecting to see something”.
Linda Fowler is also one of those who get into the holiday groove early — when the mid-year sales start.
From tinsel earrings to a 27-hour festive music playlist, the Brisbane mum-of-four is clearly crackers about Christmas.
Her food prep starts in October, when she gets the Strawberry Champagne Cocktail mix prepared and into ice cube trays in the freezer, ready for the big day.
In November she makes brandy puddings, chocolate rum truffles, choc nut clusters and gingerbread.
This year, the teachers’ aide will host a Christmas drinks function and a works party at her Albany Creek home.
“It’s my favourite time of the year,” she says. “It brings out the best in people in terms of generosity and kindness.”
TOP 20 CHRISTMAS RECIPES (Nationally)
Top 100 Summer Fresh, published by HarperCollins Australia, will be released on November 18. Pre-order your copy at Booktopia