Every family has the way that they do Christmas. Passed down through the generations and marked with familiar rituals it’s all part of much-loved magic. Favourite baubles, recipes for Christmas cakes, tiny musical trees which can play Silent Night – Christmas is garlanded with things we know and love.
I adore the whole season, from putting up the tree and unwinding all the loops of tiny lights, to putting all the decorations away safely for another year. It was the same when I was a child, a young adult and now as a wife and mother. I don’t appear to be growing out of it anytime soon.
I thought it would be fun to share some of the things that make Christmas mine.
Christmas would not be Christmas without my mum’s handmade aperitif which is called Christmas Spirit. The recipe is a secret – I swear I don’t know it – and it tastes like sloe gin, with a beautiful damson fruitiness. I have a glass when I begin to decorate the tree with my children. We listen to Kings College Choir singing carols as we do it, and it feels like a multi-sensory affirmation of Christmas coming again.
Each year one of the first things I do is to wrap fairy lights around a much-loved portrait of my granny, so she twinkles beautifully alongside the tree. Christmas brings into focus everyone I have loved, and reminds me of lovely Christmases spent with them through the years. It is all the more cherished and precious for that.
More prosaically, I always try to find time to make festive treats. My favourite are little gingerbread trees which I ice with the children and hang up with silver ribbon. Each year, the Christmas pudding is made by a brilliant baker, Alice, who is a neighbour. It’s so much more delicious than anything I could make (https://beeandbearbakery.co.uk/). Before serving, I add our much loved set of family charms which includes a sixpence, a wedding bell and a batchelor’s button.
On Christmas Eve I always read ‘The Night Before Christmas’ to the children in front of the fire. This will happen into their twenties, even if they protest. Christmas Day begins with stockings opened in bed. We unwrap presents slowly through the day. Everyone gets a book in the morning, and their main present is opened after lunch. In the evening we cosy up and watch a screening of Elf. Everyone is mostly too full to move.
On Boxing Day we play a highly competitive (and highly ethical!) game of Hare and Hounds in the countryside around us. The ‘hares’ leave a trail of arrows made in flour, and are pursued by the ‘hounds’ who try and find them. The big, blowy fields of Kent mean the hares need to be very ingenious. After what is basically a fast and fun scramble, we all read our books in companionable silence or take part in what becomes a very noisy board game.
I love so many things about Christmas; the tree by fragrant candlelight, the Christmas pudding ablaze. A perfectly chilled glaze of fizz while I wait for the roast potatoes to be perfectly crisp. A slice of clementine cake and a shot of espresso on Boxing Day morning before everyone is awake. A macaroon eaten slowly because I really, absolutely only have room for one more mouthful. A warm bath infused with our Antidote Bath and Body Oil when I am exhausted and happy in equal measure.
However you celebrate the holiday season I wish you the happiest of times.
Peace and Love,