Company Blog

When Rain Stops Play… Weather-Proof Parties

When the weather rains on your parade, there’s no need to call the party off.
Weather-proof your celebration with our all-weather solutions.


  1. Even when you’re expecting your party weather to be fine and dry, it’s always advisable to make back-up plans. That way, there’s no last minute stresses when the inevitable threat of rain rears its head. Don’t make too many plans that are entirely reliant on it being a sunny day, that way not all is lost if it rains, and have a plan B in place for everything else. Borrow, hire, or buy marquees, gazebos and awnings – enough for everybody to be covered – and make them cosy spaces that will be appreciated by guests, whatever the weather. Furnish tents with comfy places to sit – chairs, cushions, blankets and outdoor heaters if you’re concerned about the temperatures. Set up children’s tents and fill them torches, bean bags and blankets so that it all becomes part of the entertainment if they have to take cover!
  2. Allocate an under-cover, or inside area for everything you set up outside, and jot it down in a quick plan so that if the heavens open, you won’t be thrown into confusion and things won’t get soggy while you work out what to do. Use food tables that can be quickly lifted and brought indoors, keep all food preparation areas under shelter, and clear out your garage if you have one, and hang some festival fairy lighting so that the space can be utilised if necessary too.
  3. The last thing you want to be doing on the day is mopping-up muddy footprints. If you’re having guests coming into the house, to use the kitchen or loos for example, then put down some plastic covering over the areas that are likely to get trampled. Tarpaulin or those large plastic sheets that cover furniture when you’re decorating are great, weighted down well on each side so they can’t slip loose and expose carpet.
  4. Be clear about which areas are out-of-bounds should guests need to come indoors. Put up ‘No Entry’ signs. It’s not rude – it’s entirely sensible!
  5. You don’t need to rip up your dress code if rain is forecast. A waterproof poncho and a pair of wellies are all that’s needed to make any outfit rain-proof. Ponchos come in every colour under the sun (or rain) so guests can co-ordinate with their outfits, or go for transparent clear macs so that their carefully chosen dresses or fancy dress outfits are still on full view. If you’re the party organiser, buy a box of lightweight, disposable ponchos for your guests to throw on if the heavens open. With clear-disposable ponchos selling for as little as a few pence each, it won’t cost much, but it’ll make the world of difference to your guests’ enjoyment.
  6. For those who haven’t brought wellies, invest in some plastic shoe-covers for guests to use in the event of unexpected downpours (the kind they make you wear over your shoes at the swimming pool). You can get them from festival gear websites and they’re cheap as chips.
  7. Consider hiring-in portable loos. They’re available in different sizes and prices from basic to luxury, to suit all occasions and budget, and all the necessary cleaning up afterwards is taken care of by the hire company… Which is more than can be said for your own bathroom or downstairs toilet after you’ve had two dozen muddy pairs of feet traipsing in and out of them all day.
  8. If your event involves moving between different locations or standing in outside areas without shelter, then it’s also worth considering hiring in umbrellas for your guests to use. If it’s a wedding or anniversary party, our Splash Love umbrellas are a stylish way to keep dry.
  9. Where rainy parties are concerned, planning and preparation are your best allies. Send out a weather report the day before your party, giving guests a heads up if the weather looks like it’s going to turn nasty, and making them aware of the provisions you have in place to ensure they can party on, whatever the weather. Advise them to put a pair of wellies and a brolly in their car boot and let them know you have a festival attitude and a practical head on. It’ll stop fair-weather guests from wavering about whether to come, and set the tone for what will be a great party, rain or shine.
  10. Keep smiling! Don’t get too down-hearted about the weather. It’s perfectly possible to have a fun-filled, chilled-out, happy-as-Larry outdoor event in even the most torrential of downpours. Afterall, we’re British! We don’t let a little bit of rain stop us having a good time.

Our Top Tips for Organising a Street Party

queen's 90th

Celebrate the Queen’s Official 90th Birthday this weekend with a Right Royal Knees Up!

It’s the Queen’s official birthday on Saturday which means it’s most definitely time for party! And what better way to join in and celebrate with her majesty, who this year celebrates 63 years on the throne and her 90th birthday, than by joining the Big Lunch taking place on June 12th.

The Big Lunch is an annual event which encourages people to sit down to eat with their neighbours in streets and community spaces. Everyone can get involved. You don’t need to be a professional party planner and it isn’t too late to set one up.

Street Party Myth-Busting Facts:

  • You don’t need to fill in complex forms to have the street closed to traffic. For most small parties in quiet streets, all your council needs to know is where and when the closure will take place so they can plan around it. And it doesn’t need to be a special occasion like the Queen’s birthday either. You could plan a summer street party, or a Halloween street party.
  • You are not required by law to pay a charge for closing your road for small residential street parties in England, so if asked for a payment make sure to check what the charges are for.
  • You do not require a music licence at a street party unless amplified music is one of the main purposes of the event.
  • There is no requirement from central government to have public liability insurance and many councils do not insist on it.
  • The Food Standards Agency has confirmed that one-off events such as street parties aren’t usually considered food businesses, so there are no forms to fill in and you don’t need a food licence.



  • Whether it’s a street party for all the neighbours, or a ‘street meet’ in someone’s back garden, it’s a great way to build a community spirit, have fun and for children to experience the simple joy of playing out in the street.
  • Share the responsibility for food, entertainment, music and organisation. People are often afraid of knocking door to door to ask for volunteers, but you most likely be surprised by the positive response you receive.
  • Ask people to ‘Bring a Dish’. You could ask the even house numbers to bring sweet dishes, and the odd house numbers to bring savouries. Or set up a Facebook page where people can list what food items they’re bringing, so avoiding having 12 trifles and no salad.
  • If you’re holding your party in the street, contact the council about applying for a street closure. You’ll probably need to do this at least 3 weeks in advance, but don’t worry if it’s too late. You can always organise a ‘Street Meet’ instead, and set up stalls, games and tables in people’s driveways and gardens instead.
  • Ask people to bring their own chairs – and ask for folding tables and other equipment such as BBQs to be contributed. Allocate food stuffs to different BBQs; one for sausages, one for burgers, one for veggie sausages etc, with the owner of the BBQ overseeing the cooking on each.
  • Keep music volume modest and always address any concerns of neighbours who don’t wish to take part in the proceedings, reassuring them that music will be turned off before it gets too late. Sometimes people have fears about what a street party will entail, such as late night music, which can be easily allayed.


  • Have a mixture of games, including teams games for all the family to join in, games that are just for children, competitions that people can work on before the day, and quizzes that don’t require any hard work on the day. The following are great for big community events and keep costs to a minimum.
  • Guess the number of sweets in a jar. Winner takes the jar home.
  • Guess the name of the cuddly toy. Winner takes the cuddly toy.
  • Put out chalk for children to draw on the pavement.
  • Design royal-themed pub quiz sheets and leave them on tables for people to complete over the course of the day.
  • Ask all party-goers to bring a photo of themselves as babies, and a pin board for them to be displayed. Ask people to guess who is who. And have a picture of the Queen as a baby too, of course!
  • Design a list of items for children to track down on a Street Scavenger Hunt.
  • Face-painting. There’s usually a parent, or a couple of older children who will happily paint faces.
  • Host a Great British Bake Off. Ask people to bring along their own show-stoppers and ask an elder, experienced home baker on the street to volunteer to be judge for the day.
  • A crown competition. Ask children to design homemade crowns to wear on the day. A prize for the best ones in each age category (and a sweet for all children who entered to save tears!)
  • Hold a colouring competition. Print out pictures of crowns, princesses, castles and corgis.

All the resources you need, including recipes, guides to making bunting and paper chains, and organisers’ tips are available on the official Big Lunch website



Best Ever Summer Party Hacks

Some of our favourite ever party hacks that’ll leave you wondering how you coped before.

Attach labels to guests’ drinks glasses.

No more drinks confusion. Parcel tags work brilliantly because there’s no sticky residue left on the glass. Fix the tags round the stems or the handles, leave a pen by the drinks table and wave goodbye to embarrassing, “I’m sorry but I think you’ve got my drink” moments.

Pre-scoop ice-cream and keep it in cupcake cases in the freezer.

Save yourself oodles of time and prevent that queue of eager ice-cream fans from building up by pre-scooping ice-cream before the party and storing it in cupcake cases in baking trays in the freezer. No more wrestling with rock hard tubs of ice-cream on the day, or worse, melted ice-cream dripping all down your arm!

Individual ice-cream scoops in cupcake cases, placed into the freezer.

Leave out sunscreen and insect repellent for guests to use.

Because we’ve all been at parties where we wish we’d brought some, but how many of us actually remember to pack it?

Put out containers for dirty plates, empty bottles and rubbish.

Signpost bins, baskets or buckets with ‘Dirty Plates’, ‘Empty Bottles’, ‘Non-Recyclable Rubbish’ and ‘Recyclable Rubbish’ and position at strategic places around the garden. Guests get to feel like they’re doing their bit to help, and you save yourself bags of time on the clean-up operation.


Use two skewers to cook kebabs.

Instead of putting your meat, fish and veggie kebabs on a single skewer, use two, an inch apart. That way you won’t get individual pieces of food flipping in all the wrong directions when you turn them over on the grill.

Tie a bottle opener to the drinks table.

Hang it from the table or drinks station with a piece of ribbon. No more hunting for bottle openers that have gone for a wander.

Set up a self-serve drinks station. Make it easy for guests to serves themselves. Place it in the shade, or fix up some awning over a table. Use water balloons or blocks of ice frozen in empty butter tubs to keep your drinks cool for longer. Guests don’t go thirsty and your time is freed up to mingle, cook, or dance on the tables if the mood takes you!

Place tea lights in washed out jam jars for instant high-romance evening lighting. 

Inexpensive and pretty. This is a great outdoor party lighting solution. Just ask your friends to keep their empty jam jars for you in the weeks running up to the party.

Keep your party pest-free with natural repellents that double as pretty table decorations. 

Cut lemons into halves, place them flesh up into miniature pretty bowls, and push cloves into the cut side of the lemon. They not only smell and look gorgeous, but are great at keeping the midgies away. Set out about 30 min before serving and keep food bug free in non-toxic style.

Spray paint a Twister board on the ground.

Bring out a game of Twister at any party and you’ve got guaranteed giggles. For a novel, even more fun, outdoor-friendly version of the game that all ages can enjoy, just spray paint red, blue, green and yellow circles using a simple stencil cut out of cardboard, in rows onto the grass. Voila, a Twister board that provides hours of entertainment.

Image of sun hat courtesy of 9comeback at

Roll up, roll up, summer parties are on their way…

The sun has started shining at long last! (Hands up if you thought Spring might never come this year…) So it’s time to start getting excited about those Summer celebrations you’ve got planned. And what better way to create wow-factor weddings, sensational summer shindigs and awesome pop-up parties, than with the best of the new wave of stunning designer partyware.

Head this way for all the dish on the season’s best designer plates, cups, favours and frills.


Keep cool this summer with a fresh mint colour scheme. And when paired with gold or silver, you’ve got an elegant match made in heaven. These cute little bags come with stickers, reversible inserts and pretty ribbons for absolute pretty perfection.

Mint-to-Be Treat Bags

treat bags mint

mint striped napkins meri meri

Scalloped Edge Napkins

mint striped plate meri meri

Scalloped edge paper plates

straws mint

Mint Green Striped Straws

pom poms gold

Gold Paper Pom Poms


Marshmallow Pink

Dusty, or marshmallow, pink is never out of season with its enduring delicate and pretty tone. Add some mix-and-match vintage chic, and its appeal is even greater though.

pink stripe cups

http://Pink Stripe Paper Cups with Gold Bunting

invitations - bridesmaid19

Pink ‘Pop the Question’ Bridesmaid Invitations

pink n mix bowls

Pink n Mix Ice-Cream Bowls

pink n mix plates

Pink n Mix Scalloped Plates


Circus Tent Chic

Create all the fun of the fair with big top colours and fantastical, fun accessories that grown-ups and children alike will love.

red and white stripe meri meri plates

Red Stripe Scalloped Edge Plates


Glittering Gold Disposable Cutlery

party bags PE sherbert blue striped

Sherbert Blue Striped Party Bags

Red Stripe Baking Cups

Red Stripe Baking Cups

Enjoy the Craic! The World’s Daftest, Funniest and Best Ways to Celebrate St Patrick’s Day

From dying your landmarks green, to dressing as a leprechaun, St Patrick’s Day, on 17th March, is an excuse for a party the world over.


Image courtesy of Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee at

  1. The annual New York City St. Patrick’s Day parade is the granddaddy of all St. Patrick’s Day parades. It’s the largest in the world, lasts for 6 hours and sees over two million spectators turn out each year. There are no cars or floats allowed at this pedestrian-powered procession, which sees 150,000 participants take part.
  2. The U.S city of Chicago celebrates St. Patrick’s Day on a grand scale by dying the Chicago River a brilliant shade of green for the day.

chicago river

According to the Chicago St Pats Day parade website, “In 1961 Stephen Bailey [friend of the mayor of Chicago] was approached by a plumber who was wearing some white coveralls… These coveralls had been mostly stained or dyed a perfect shade of green, an Irish green to better describe it. It was when Stephen Bailey asked how the coveralls got this way, that they discovered that the dye used to detect leaks into the river turned green, not just any color green, but the perfect emerald green.”
The annual tradition, which sees 45 pounds of vegetable dye thrown overboard has happened annually for over 40 years, organised every year by the Chicago Journeymen Plumbers, and overseen by thousands of spectators.
Other cities have tried to dye their rivers green, but none with as much success as Chicago. Windy City residents put this down to the components of the emerald-coloured dye, which, like the secret recipe for Coca Cola, is a closely guarded secret. Visitors to the celebrations are assured the ingredients are thoroughly-tested and non-toxic to the river life however.

3.    It wouldn’t be a proper St Patrick’s Day celebration without a pint of Guinness. An expected 7.5m pints of the black stuff are sold on the day – twice that of a normal day. And if you’re lucky enough to be called Patrick, Patricia, Patricio or any one of the many variants of the name Patrick, you’ll be able to receive free admission to the Guinness Storehouse’s own St Patrick’s Day celebrations in Dublin on March 17th this year!

Count yourself lucky if you can get a pint of Guinness anywhere in Ireland on the day though. Until the 1970s, all pubs were closed in Ireland on St Patrick’s Day out of respect for the religious feast day, and for fear that people would ‘break lent’. The only place you were allowed to drown the shamrock in pre-1970s Ireland, was the annual Royal Dublin Dog Show.

4. Nothing says St. Patrick’s Day, like turning your landmarks green. Places that have turned green around the world in honour of St Patrick include the Pyramids of Giza, Table Mountain, the Christ the Redeemer statue in Brazil, the leaning tower of Pisa, the London Eye, the Sydney Opera House, and Al Arab in Dubai.

5. St. Patrick’s Day must be one of the widest celebrated patron saints days in the world, with hibernophiles (someone fond of Irish culture, language and Ireland in general… there’s a new word for you) joining in March 17th celebrations in far flung places all over the globe. Japan plays host to Asia’s largest St Patrick’s Day parade. In Buenos Aires, much of the city is closed off to allow for St Patrick’s Day celebrations. In Moscow, a St Patrick’s Day parade is held, drawing thousands of people, as does the one in Sydney. A Guinness-fueled fiesta in Cabo Roig, Spain, sees flamenco dancers tap alongside Irish dancers, and in Lithuania, the Vilnele river in Vilnius, gets turned green in a smaller version of the Chicago tradition. Since 1961, St Patrick has been regarded as the patron saint of Nigeria too. It has the largest Guinness stout market in the world, accounting for around a fifth of Guinness’ global sales.

6. The tiny island of Montserrat in the West Indies is known as the ‘Emerald Isle of the Caribbean’ with St Patrick’s Day being an official public holiday. Founded by fleeing Irish servants who wanted to escape religious persecution from neighbouring islands in the 1600s, Shamrock passport stamps pay tribute to Montserrat’s Hibernian roots. Cue a whole week of calypso-Irish festivities which also commemorates an attempted slave revolt on March 17, 1768.

7. Wearing green on 17th March is a tradition which stretches back to the 17th century, although it is worth noting that blue, not green, was the colour originally associated with St Patrick with ‘St Patrick’s Blue’ being used on Ireland’s Presidential Standard. According to legend, people wear green to makes themselves invisible to leprechauns, who would pinch anyone they could see. In America, it is tradition to pinch anyone who isn’t wearing green on St. Patrick’s Day. However for leprechaun unbelievers, the explanation centres on green being a symbol of sympathy with Irish independence.

Enjoy your St Patrick’s Day celebrations, however you choose to celebrate it!


How to Wrap the Perfect Present

Whatever you choose to give to your mum this Mother’s Day, make sure it’s beautifully presented with our guide to flawless gift-wrapping.

Step 1.

Always put your gift into a box if it’s soft or awkwardly-shaped. It’s much easier to wrap a teddy bear in a box than it is to wrap a teddy bear. Stuff the box with tissue paper for extra luxury.



Using a gift box will make wrapping so much easier.

Step 2.

Put your box upside down in the centre of the wrapping paper. This way, your present will be the right way up when it’s wrapped. For a really smooth finish, wrap a sheet or two of tissue paper around the gift first. Bring paper from the long side of the box up to the middle. Do the same on the other side, wrapping the paper snugly around the present. For flawless wrapping, use double-sided sticky tape to fix the join and ensure the join is down the centre of the present so it can be hidden with a bow. (For how to seal the ends of the tissue paper, see Step 5)


Wrap your present in tissue paper first.


Turn your present upside down, to ensure it’s the right way up when wrapped.


Cut just enough paper to cover all sides.

Step 3.

Measure your paper correctly around the gift by flipping your box over on all sides along the paper to ensure it will meet all the way around. Always use sharp scissors to cut the paper and don’t cut more than you need. Too much paper gives a lumpy finish. When cut, fold the cut edges over to give a neat, even finish.

If you’re using patterned wrapping paper, try and match the patterns up when you join the edges. If you’re wrapping a really big present and need to use more than one sheet of paper, ensure the join is down the centre of the present so that you can cover and hide it with ribbon.


Fold the edge over on the cut side for a neat finish.


Use double-sided sticky tape instead of sellotape.

Step 5.

To fold the short ends, face the open end towards you and push the right and left edges of the paper in towards the middle, pushing them flat against the box, to form top and bottom flaps. Press the top flap down, running your fingernail along the edge to create a sharp fold. Tape with double-sided sticky tape. Pull the bottom flap up and tape into place in the same way. Repeat at the other end of the gift.

Push in the left and right sides at the ends.
Use a fingernail to give crisp edges to the triangular folds this makes.


Use scissors to cut any excess paper that is showing at the points.
Use double-sided sticky tape to fix the top and bottom folds in place.


The Bow

Step 6.

For a classic bow, lay a long piece of ribbon out flat and place your present onto it, topside down, with the ribbon running down the centre of the longest side of the gift. Pull the ribbon up from both sides, twist in the centre at the bottom of the present, then pull the ribbon up the shorter sides to create a criss-cross. Turn your present over and tie the ribbon in a knot at the centre of the package. Leave ends loose.


Place your gift wrong side up, on the length of ribbon.


Make a twist at the bottom in the centre, then bring the ribbon
up the sides of the box, and turn over.


Make a knot at the centre of the top of the box.
Take the ties under both pieces of ribbon to keep the cross centred.

IMG_1012 (1)

Step 7.

Using the loose ends create two loops, criss-cross the loops and bring one of the loops through the hole to the other side, and pull tight to form a bow. Fold the loose ties in half lengthways, and snip diagonally to form a V-shape. For a double bow, slide another piece of ribbon underneath the knot and tie a second bow.


Fold ribbon in half and cut diagonally to give fishtail tips.


Et voila! A beautifully wrapped present.

Champagne and…

Learn the food pairings that go best with Champagne and plan a Valentine’s meal your loved one will fall head over heels in love with! ID-10019111

Image courtesy of Simon Howden at

What better way to mark a celebration than with a glass or two of Champagne. But it’s also surprisingly versatile as a meal accompaniment too. Check out some of these lesser-known marriage-made-in-heaven combinations for a truly memorable Valentine’s meal.

  • Fried Food
    It’s a little known fact that fried food and Champagne are a great partnership. Fried mushrooms in particular, make a wonderful accompaniment, as do in fact, mushrooms of any variety.
  • Mac n’ Cheese
    Proof that celebration food can also be comfort food. Make your macaroni cheese with aged, hard cheeses such as Parmesan, smoked gouda or cheddar if you’re going for a full-bodied Champagne. Or with softer cheeses such as goats cheese and brie to compliment a lighter-bodied, or Blanc de Blanc Champagne. The acidity and the bubbles of the Champagne cut through the creaminess of the cheese sauce, making it a perfect combination.
  •  Veggie Chilli
    Another example of good honest food that goes up a notch when accompanied with a glass of bubbly. Vegetarian Chilli is so easy to make, yet when accompanied by a glass of Champagne, it’s elevated to food of the Gods! And unlike heavier, red meat based dishes which can be difficult to pair with Champagne, veggie chilli, especially when covered in melting grated cheese, works brilliantly.
  • Pasta or Risotto with cream or mushroom sauce
    Avoid tomato-based sauces for your pasta: the acidity of the tomatoes clashes with the high acidity of the champagne. Instead, go for creamy or mushroom-based sauces.
  • Desserts
    Because champagne contains high levels of acidity, it’s not a great accompaniment to sweet desserts but fruit tarts and light crumbles, shortbread and rice or plum puddings can be made extra special with a good Champagne. Remember the rule though, that a sweeter pudding needs a sweeter Champagne. Chocolate is okay with an extra-dry or demi sec, as long as it’s dark and bittersweet and not too gooey. Strawberries and Champagne are a classic pairing, but you need to be careful to choose the right Champagne to really offset strawberries. A sparkling wine that’s sweet and light, like Asti Spumanti or a Demi-Sec Champagne work best. 
  • Crisps/Popcorn/Crackers
    Eating out this Valentine’s? Then why not come home to a bottle of Champagne of ice? Then curl up on the sofa with the one you love, a big bowl of popcorn and a bag of Kettle Chips, because there is almost nothing that pairs as well with high acidity Brut Champagnes than crispy, salty snacks… and a cosy night in

It helps to know a little about the different types of Champagne when choosing your perfect meal accompaniment so here’s a few things to look out for:

Demi-sec – It means ‘half sweet’, signifying that it’s not as sweet as dessert wines, but this is the sweetest of all the Champagnes.
Dry – Drier than Demi-Sec.
Extra dry
Brut – The driest variety of Champagne, and the most popular.
Blanc de Blancs – Meaning white Champagne from a white grape and made solely from Chardonnay grapes. Good as a pre-dinner aperitif, and with lighter foods and seafood.
Blanc de Noirs – Meaning white Champagne made from the black Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes, resulting in a more golden colour than Blanc de Blancs. Works well with full-flavoured foods such as meat and cheese, but these Champagnes tend to be more rare and expensive.
Rosé – Ranging in colour from pale orange to luminescent pink, the colour most commonly comes from the addition of Pinot Noir wine at the second fermentation, when still wine becomes Champagne.

For a great selection of quality Champagnes this Valentine’s Day, and for any celebration, check out our selection of Bollinger in our Champagne Shop.


Chinese New Year 2016 – 8 Things You Need To Know About The Year of the Monkey


  1. On February 8th 2016, we move into the Chinese Year of the Monkey, the ninth animal in the Chinese Zodiac Calendar.
  2. Your Chinese zodiac sign is worked out from the year you were born in the Chinese lunar calendar. There are 12 signs in the Chinese Zodiac, just like the Western Zodiac Calendar, but each sign corresponds to a year, rather than a month. (It gets complicated if you were born in January or February though as the new year moves between 21 January and February 20. If If you want to know your exact Chinese zodiac sign is, visit )Rat: 2008, 1996, 1984, 1972, 1960
    Ox: 2009, 1997, 1985, 1973, 1961
    Tiger: 2010, 1998, 1986, 1974, 1962
    Rabbit: 2011, 1999, 1987, 1975, 1963
    Dragon: 2012, 2000, 1988, 1976, 1964
    Snake: 2013, 2001, 1989, 1977, 1965
    Horse: 2014, 2002, 1990, 1978, 1966
    Goat: 2015, 2003, 1991, 1979, 1967
    Monkey: 2016, 2004, 1992, 1980, 1968
    Rooster: 2017, 2005, 1993, 1981, 1969
    Dog: 2018, 2006, 1994, 1982, 1970
    Pig: 2019, 2007, 1995, 1983, 1971
  3. Those born in the Year of the Money are seen as intelligent and smart, innovative and creative, which makes them winners in the career and wealth stakes. And they’re sociable too, being lively, playful, self-assured and quick-witted. But be careful, these cheeky monkeys have a mischievous side too! They love practical jokes and their quick temper can get the better of them. Whatsmore, they have a tendency to be suspicious, cunning and jealous.
  4. The Chinese symbol for monkey is:
  5. Famous Monkeys include Julius Caesar, Leonardo da Vinci, Charles Dickens, Lord Byron, Celine Dion, Tom Hanks, Will Smith, Halle Berry, Christina Aguilera, Diana Ross, Elizabeth Taylor, Michael Douglas, Owen Wilson, Daniel Craig, Mick Jagger, Bette Davis, Annie Oakley, Eleanor Roosevelt, Miley Cyrus and Selena Gomez.
  6. The date of Chinese New Year varies from year to year. It’s based on the ancient Chinese lunar calendar. It’s also known as the Spring Festival as it falls on the second new moon after winter solstice – somewhere between 21 January and 19 February. This year, Chinese New Year falls on 8th February.
  7. The Year of the Monkey is seen as one of the most unlucky in China, so to keep luck on your side, watch out for the Monkey’s lucky signs: the numbers 1, 7 and 8; the colours white, gold and blue, and the flowers chrysanthemum and alliums.
  8. Celebrations take place up and down the UK, with the biggest party outside Asia being held in London on Valentine’s Day, Sunday February 14th. The highlight of the celebrations is always the colourful parade, starting at Charing Cross and culminating in Chinatown.Xīnnián hǎo!

Dates to Celebrate 2016

Make sure you don’t miss those all important dates in 2016 with our Special High Days and Holidays Calendar. There certainly are plenty of reasons to celebrate this year!



1st           New Year’s Day
25th         Robert Burns’ Night
18-31st   Australian Open Tennis, Melbourne


8th           Chinese New Year (Year of the Monkey)
9th           Pancake Day (Shrove Tuesday)
14th         Valentine’s Day
17th         Random Acts of Kindness Day
18th         Ash Wednesday
29th         Leap Year Day


1st           St. David’s Day
6th           Mother’s Day UK
8th           International Women’s Day
9th           Commonwealth Day
17th         St. Patrick’s Day
20th         Spring Equinox
20th         Palm Sunday
25th         Good Friday
27th         Easter Sunday
27th         British Summertime Begins (clocks go forward)


1st           April Fool’s Day
7-10th     US Masters Golf, Augusta
9th           Grand National Horse Racing, Aintree
23rd        St. George’s Day

2nd          May Bank Holiday
21st         FA Cup Final, Wembley
22nd-Jun 5th French Open Tennis, Paris
30th         Spring Bank Holiday


6th           Ramadan Begins
10th–July 10th Euro 2016 Football
11th          Trooping the Colour
16-19th   US Open Golf, Oakmont
19th         Father’s Day UK
19th         National Kissing Day
20th        Summer Solstice (Longest Day)
27-July 10th Wimbledon Tennis


2-24th     Tour de France Cycling
5th           Ramadan Ends
6th           International Kissing Day
14-17th    British Open Golf, Troon
30th         International Day of Friendship


1st           Summer Bank Holiday
2nd          National Sister’s Day
5-21st     Summer Olympics, Rio de Janiero
29th        August Bank Holiday
29th-September 11th US Open Tennis, New Year


7-18th     Paralympic Games, Rio de Janiero
22nd        Autumn Equinox
30th-2nd October Ryder Cup, USA


2nd          Grandparents’ Day
2-4th       Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year)
5th           National Teachers’ Day
11-12th    Yom Kippur
25th         Mother-in-Law Day
30th         Diwali
30th         British Summertime Ends (clocks go back)
31st          Halloween


1st           All Saints Day
5th           Bonfire Night
11th         Armistice Day
13th         Kindness Day UK
13th         Remembrance Sunday
25th         Thanksgiving (USA)
30th         St. Andrew’s Day


21st         Winter Solstice
24th         Christmas Eve
24th         Hanukkah Begins
25th         Christmas Day
26th         Boxing Day
31st         New Year’s Eve / Hogmanay

Have we forgotten anything? Do let us know what days you celebrate!

12 Things You Must Do Before Christmas


Image courtesy of OZphotography at

Forget basting the turkey and roasting chestnuts, these are the things that we should all make time for in the final run-up to Christmas!

Play Christmas songs
Cheesy, tuneful, old, new… it’s got to be done. And it’s got to be done ‘til you’re sick to the back teeth of them.

Buy the Christmas edition of the Radio Times and go through it circling everything you want to watch.
Okay TiVo could do the job far more efficiently, but it’s just not the same as sitting down with a glass of wine, a red pen, and a copy of the Christmas listings.

Take a tour of the neighbours’ Christmas illuminations.
I’m so thankful that we have neighbours who are happy to plaster their houses with Christmas lights. Not only does it mean I don’t feel like a Scrooge when I say it isn’t happening to ours, but it’s given us one of the most eagerly-awaited dates in our pre-Christmas calendar. Driving around the neighbourhood ogling the lights is a treat we all look forward to every year.

Watch Christmas movies.
Personally, it has to be The Muppet Christmas Carol and Elf for me, but I know plenty of equally fervent fans of It’s A Wonderful Life and The Grinch; everyone has their favourites. No matter that I’ve watched The Muppet Christmas Carol every Christmas for 20 years… it just wouldn’t be the festive period without it.

As my Christmas hero, Elf, says, ‘The best way to spread Christmas Cheer is singing loud for all to hear.’ If you can’t make it to a carol concert, then why not have an impromptu sing-a-long in the kitchen on Christmas morning whilst preparing the spuds. Or whilst in the shower, if you’d rather it was a concert for one.

Make one Christmas bake.
Every year I watch the Christmas cookery shows and find inspiration in their incredible festive bakes. Only to realise I haven’t got anywhere near enough time to reproduce what I’ve seen, and that it isn’t anywhere near as easy or enjoyable as Nigella, Jamie and Heston made it look. So this year, I’ve resolved to limiting myself to just one batch of mince pies. Jar of mincemeat. Sheet of crumbly butter pastry. Icing Sugar. Done.

Take an easy option for pre-Christmas dinner.
In our family, it’s always takeaway fish ‘n’ chips on Christmas Eve. Yes, it feels distinctly un-festive, but somehow it’s become as much a part of the ritual as turkey and stuffing the following day. And it’s one less food headache in a week where there are many.

Buy a new board game for Christmas Day.
I’m not a big fan of board games – there, I said it – and I’m generally first to find a reason to be excused (“Turkey sandwiches anyone..?”) But even I can be persuaded to join in on Christmas Day. Once squabbles over the rules are over, it always turns out to be quite fun, and it makes the rest of the day lounging in front of the TV seem everso slightly more justified.


Image courtesy of zirconicusso at

Track Santa.
One for Christmas Eve. Get onto where for one night only a year the agency charged with securing the safety of America’s skies turns its attentions to matters far more serious; charting Santa’s progress around the world. Google also has a Santa tracker which will not only tell you which country he’s currently visiting, but also, a running tally on how many presents he’s already delivered. And boy does he work hard when you see it in black and white! Don’t go thinking this one’s just for the children either. For a truly magical experience that both big-kids and small alike will enjoy, go onto those helpful people at the International Space Station will give you a heads up on when you can see a glistening Santa’s sleigh passing above you in the night sky. (For those in England, look up to the heavens at 4:40pm on Christmas Eve 2015 and hope for clear skies). Just make sure you’re back indoors and tucked up in bed well before he touches down in your neck of the woods.

Break into the Christmas stash.
Yes, those luxury food items you’ve been stockpiling for months aren’t meant to be touched until at least Christmas Eve-Eve. Yes, you’re going to regret having to hit the shops all over again to replace them. No, it’s not wrong to eat them now because you can’t resist any longer, so go ahead.

Spread a little Christmas Cheer.
There was a great story in the news a few years ago about an anonymous individual who collected up all the parking tickets placed on Christmas Eve revellers’ cars, and paid their fines for them. Which definitely put him or her on Santa’s Nice List. But you don’t need to go to quite those lengths to bring a smile to someone’s face this Christmas. Taking an elderly neighbours one of your homemade mince pie and staying for a merry chat would spread just as much cheer.

Slow down.
It may sound like mission impossible in the run-up to the year’s most frenetic week of festivities, but make sure you take time to enjoy it in your own way. A walk in the park enjoying the crisp winter air, a soak in a candlelit bath… or a glass of mulled wine by the fire whilst listening to the carols from Kings College. Just make sure you take time to really appreciate it.

What are your absolute favourite ways to mark the run-up to Christmas? We’d love to hear from you!