quotes before christmas may not be too hard...work done by then may be a stretch.
Here is a nice article on some basic planning steps. One thing I like to do different however is to do the flooring before the cabinets go in. I like to have flooring installed over the entire area. So any future "layout" changes do not require a "flooring redo" as in most building start at the bottom and work your way up....aka foundations before walls.
As KMS said, getting the quotes is the easy part. Odds are a lot lower that things can be all done by Christmas. The first thing you need to do is get a basic design on paper so that when you speak with the contractors they are all bidding on the same set of circumstances. Figure out what types of materials you want to use and perhaps some of the specific brands as well.
I don't think you even want the work done by Christmas. Let them take their time. No sense in rushing work to host one party if it could mean some cut corners and shoddy work. It seems like a lot of people are too busy and too distracted to do good work around Christmas.
I agree with the above, get your quotes and wait until next year to start the project. Even your contractor can stat with a fresh mind, which means fresh ideas, good quality etc. You can start by making yourself a list of items you think needs replacement and design issues that need to be addressed etc. You can also make a mood board by bookmarking kitchens you like here on Hometalk. You may also use Pinterest for this. Call your Permit office/ Local building department and ask if you will need permit for Interior renovations, this is always good. Never work around not getting a permit. All this takes time, if the permit office needs drawings then you need to have your proposed kitchen drawings done by a draftsman, a contractor or an architectural designer. A set of plans is always good, this is your visual guide and it also helps your contractor give you a quote as per the drawing.
Get all this done and once you have the drawings get a min of 3-4 bids and compare pricing.
Any contractor that tells you they can get it done by Christmas generally means you don't want them to do your project at all. Although there can be special circumstances, most of your best contractors are in demand and have work already lined up for a number of weeks at least. If they could start next week, you better be asking why..... Tim
I believe in planning, if it is not thorough on the front side the quotes you get will not be easy to compare. Hire a designer, get the footprint/drawings done and try to select as much product as you can before acquiring bids from Contractors. Lighting/mechanical plans can vary greatly in costs too!
If everyone is bidding from the same set of plans, you can choose your contractor with confidence. Otherwise? they will each have a different interpretation and design idea .. which will in turn mean their "allowances" for each of your product purchases could vary greatly.
I wrote a blog recently about "free" kitchen design, not that you are looking for it - but it may give you some insight to how advantageous plans are before bidding.
Visit www.nkba.org to find a reputable, Certified Designer in your area! I know of a few in SF, but its a big city :) NKBA.org additionally offers a lot of guidance on the remodeling process.