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By msnbc.com contributor
updated 12/22/2011 12:16:32 PM ET 2011-12-22T17:16:32

So Christmas is about 48 hours away and you're not prepared because you've spent the last week catching up on "Glee" — err, I mean working? No worries. It's not too late to pull off a miracle. And we've got just the right last-last-last minute guide to help save the holiday.

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Let's start by breaking down the things you need to take care of.

Through careful analysis of cheesy holiday movies, I've learned that there are four key elements when it comes to Christmas: Decorations, food, presents, and cheer.

If you haven't purchased a Christmas tree by now or don't have an artificial one sitting around in your garage, basement, or attic, then odds are high that you'll have to do without one this year. But that doesn't mean that your home can't have a little bit of holiday spirit.

If you happen to have to have tinsel, ornaments, lights, or other decorations boxed up from a Christmas past then you can skip this section — just get those out and hum "Deck The Halls" while setting them up.

But what if there aren't any such things in your house for some reason? No problem!

Head into your garden — or your neighbors' gardens, if you're on good terms — and look around. Are there some evergreen plants? Pine cones? Anything that looks pretty and fits into the cheerful red-and-green theme everyone aims for? Great. Gather it up and head indoors. You just got yourself the materials necessary for a pretty centerpiece. Instructions by the Farmington Patch's Alice Blair will help you figure out how to make everything look neat.

Don't have a garden to plunder? Still no problem! Dig through your closet for that shoebox filled with old holiday cards. Hang, pin, or set them up strategically and it'll look as if you've been in the spirit of the season all month long already.

You just remembered that guests will be coming over tomorrow — and that you haven't even shopped for groceries. Whoops!

Calm down. There's still time to grab a couple of ingredients. And we've got simple, tried-and-true recipes to get you through the frantic prep work.

In fact, we've excerpted some of the best recipes from the holiday cookbook compiled by TODAY weatherman Al Roker. Pick a few of those — such as the tasty corn bread stuffing or cranberry relish — and you'll look as if you've been slaving away in the kitchen for ages.

Once you're done with that, peek at the sweet recipes kitchen pro Giada De Laurentiis has put together for us and you'll have all your bases covered.

Unless you've found this guide early on the morning of Dec. 23, you're out of luck when it comes to ordering a regular gift and getting it shipped on time. (Don't believe me? Check this list of delivery deadlines.)

But that doesn't mean that your dear ones have to remain empty-handed. Thanks to the (holiday) magic of e-gifts, you can make sure that every friend and family member gets something from Santa.

Almost every item — with the exception of iBooks — in Apple's iTunes Store has a handy dandy "Gift This" button. Give it a click and you can purchase apps, music, TV shows, or movies in the form of emailable or printable certificates.

On Amazon's website you can get giftable Kindle ebooks, Barnes & Noble offers Nook apps and ebooks, and many services — such as Pandora, Slacker Radio, Xbox LIVE, or Netflix — will sell gift subscriptions.

And if all else fails? Take the gift card route and include a thoughtful message. (Heck, include a thoughtful message with any gift. It can make someone's holiday.)

Be serious: If you've taken the time to look at this guide, odds are that you've got at least a little bit of holiday spirit in you.

But if pulling together a last minute feast, gift bag, and festively decorated home is getting you down, then go log on to the streaming music service of your choice and crank up a version of "Last Christmas," "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town," or "Jingle Bells."

Pandora or Spotify are great choices, by the way, as they make it easy to find a collection of cheery holiday tunes. (Pandora even has a pre-made Christmas radio station.)

Take a deep breath. You got through this guide and you'll get through this holiday.

In the end, all that really matters is that you and your loved ones are healthy, happy, and together. All the other things — the decorations, the food, and the presents — fade into the background more easily than you even realize.


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