When it comes to Christmas, there are so many traditions but my favourites are the traditions that we have made ourselves. These have changed over the years as our children have grown up and inevitably moved on from the magical belief in Father Christmas, but we still cling on to a few things that, if we lost them, it just would not be Christmas …
1. The Christmas Tree
For a good many years we were big fans of a real Christmas tree, but more recently we have stuck to a fake tree. We’ve had it for a billion years and it still looks amazing.
In our house, the tree goes up on the second weekend of December and not a moment before. I do they lights (last year I made the amazing discovery that I’d left them on the tree from the year before, so they just needed a little bit of tweaking – no unravelling!! I can’t actually remember the taking down of the tree last Christmas, but I am 100% hoping I left the lights on again!). Then the kids are let loose with the rest of the decorations – in more recent years this job has fallen to Natasha as it turns out late teenage boys don’t have much interest in tree decorating! We have a few ornaments picked up during our holidays that must go on the tree, and we top it off with a star. Now, this might make some of you shudder, but the tree must come down in the days between 27 and 31 December – it’s my birthday on New Year’s Day and there must be no hint of a Christmas remnant remaining!
2. Christmas Eve Dinner
Well, it’s the dessert that’s more of the tradition … because Christmas Day is a full on day of cooking for me, I like to keep it simple and relaxed on Christmas Eve, but one thing we must have is Gordon Ramsey’s creme brûlée for dessert. It’s Dave’s job (of the few he has over Christmas! – shh don’t tell him I said that!!) to caramelise the sugar on top with the blowtorch (I definitely can’t be trusted!)
3. A Gift on Christmas Eve
When the kids were young, we started giving them a present on Christmas Eve. It was always the same – a pair of Christmassy pyjamas and a Christmas book each to read at bedtime. As they’ve grown older, it’s become more difficult to find suitable books as the idea is that they are read in an evening … and, much to my horror, Freddie is really not into reading. But everyone still needs Christmassy pyjamas, right? So that Christmas Eve tradition still stands, and the kids love it.
4. The Christmas Stocking
I find it gets harder and harder to fill the Christmas stockings as the kids have grown up – I like to fill them with items that cost under £10. Last year I threw out the suggestion that they were getting too old for Christmas stockings (they were approaching 20 and 17 last Christmas) but alas, this idea was poo-pooed with much horror and drama and the hunt for stocking fillers continues! On Christmas morning they bring their stockings into our bedroom to open their goodies and leave a huge pile of paper for me to clear up!
5. Christmas Morning
After the opening of the stockings, we make our way downstairs and I start my day of cooking with a full English breakfast. While I’m doing this, Dave goes to pick up my mum and by the time they’re back breakfast is on the table and a buck’s fizz is in my hand! Once breakfast is done – and only then – we move on to opening the presents and the mayhem of Christmas Day commences!
6. Dinner Bags
A few years ago I came up with the bright idea of dinner bags – a little bag of presents to open in the lull after we’ve stuffed our bellies full and before we summon up the energy for Christmas games. I decided to buy each person 5 small gifts at a cost of no more than £5 each – just a little surprise for when everyone thinks the surprises are all over. So of course, the following year, everyone asked if I was doing them again and hey ho, another tradition was born! Honestly, I don’t know why I do it to myself! I’m thinking of shaking it up a bit this year, and doing it secret Santa style, but I”m not sure how that will go down with my little bunch of merry traditionalists!
I love our Christmas traditions, and Christmas just wouldn’t be the same without any one of them (even if I do moan about the stockings!). Bring on the chaos of Christmas!