I am VERY aware that I have been a right old moaning Minnie on this blog lately, so today I’m going with what makes me happy……
If there is one time of year guaranteed to cheer me up, it’s Christmas-time. Summer is brilliant, when the weather is great…but this is the UK, so, ‘nuff said.
But Christmas is all about what you make it, and this year I am making it good.
For us, it’s certainly not about the amount of money we spend (hurrah, because we don’t have any), nor is it about where we go (we don’t go anywhere: I spent way too many hours in a car over Christmas as a child), it isn’t even, *whispers* who we see (I have the people I really need at home, my Big Big Man and my Little Men).
It is about what we do.
These are the things that make Christmas for us, our little traditions, and I’m happy to add more every year, so please share any you have too…
At the end of November the slow-build…..
· Making salt dough for tree decoration; cutting out shapes and slowly baking them hard, followed by painting them and probably getting glitter everywhere.
· Make the Christmas pudding, I love this; the easiest bit of baking EVER; chuck it all in a bowl and MIX!
· Oranges and apples will be sliced and slow cooked ready for making Christmas decorations to hang around the house, the smell this creates is divine.
The start of December is when it all really gets going….
· The Elf on the Shelf will arrive on the first day of Advent to bring the calendar for the children, and he’ll get up to no end of mischief throughout December until Christmas Eve when he will catch a lift back to the North Pole on the sleigh.
· Letters will be written and posted to Santa, detailing what is wished for, and for each thing written on the list the children have to donate one of their old toys, learning to give as well as receive, as well as making room in the toy box for new toys.
· Paper chains will be made for every room downstairs, and undoubtedly there will be several mornings where the Elf will have brought them down.
· Holly will be brought into the house, trailing little red berries everywhere, ready to make the Christmas wreath and festoon the fireplaces.
· Sticks of cinnamon (though I tend to use cassia bark; much cheaper and easier to buy in bulk) will be bound together with garden wire ready to add extra aroma to the decorations (also helps mask the smell of damp from the fireplace ;-)).
· Make a Christmas wreath, I will curse and ask myself ‘Why didn’t I just buy one?’ but when it’s finished, slightly wonky and ginormous, I will be proud, even if my hands don’t completely heal from those holly pricks ‘til Christmas Day.
· We’ll take a trip to a park on the other side of the mountain where fir trees are plentiful, ready to be brought home and laid on a towel in front of the radiator to encourage them to open up. I’ll also be shaking creepy crawly killer over them so the ear wigs don’t try to hibernate under the sofa. Sorry, ear wigs. Christmas fir-cone bunting will then be made and strung up wherever I can fit it.
· We’ll be wrapping pipe cleaners around old-style pegs and fir cones to give our snowmen and Santa’s and fairies arms, and gluing cotton wool and googly eyes to make faces.
· Toilet rolls will be sequestered as soon as the last square is used, ready for the crackers, and little gifts that actually mean something will be carefully wrapped inside, along with the obligatory terrible joke.
· Place names for the table will be made for our guests, stamped and the ribbons neatly (ish) tied (we also have two Christmases, one for each side of the family so there’s no awkwardness).
· I’ll undoubtedly spend FOREVER checking Instagram and Google Images for table-centrepiece inspiration. And it’ll probably look nothing like it’s supposed too, and definitely not spectacular, but mine.
· Make pomanders with the obligatory cloves and ribbon, if there is one thing that smells like Christmas, it is cloves and oranges….mmmmhmmmm.
· Jam jars will be sprayed gold and silver and white, adorned with sparkly pipe cleaners, white doilies and Christmas ribbons: homemade tea-light holders ready to be placed on every child-safe surface within the house on Christmas Day.
· The children will visit Father Christmas, The Big Little Man will talk for the Little Little Man, who will undoubtedly scream, but will eagerly grasp the present he is given, regardless that it was the scary man who gave it to him.
· I’ll be attempting to make a gingerbread house this year too, which will sit alongside the millionaires shortbread, the ginger cake, the fudge and Christmas cookies that we bake every year.
Then the Big One, absolutely my favourite day; Christmas Eve….
Nothing necessary will be happening on Christmas Eve; no last minute present wrapping, no trips out, it will just be pure pleasure (I spent too many Christmases with a father who frantically did all his shopping on this day…actually he still does).
Our Elf will be hiding chocolate coins around the house for the children to find while Mummy and Daddy have the lie in that certainly won’t be happening the following day (last year I distributed the coins at 3am whilst scoffing all the Christmas stilton after a rather heavy drinking session with my Mum friends from school…waking up Christmas Eve morning I was somewhat delicate, from two bottles of wine, or half a wheel of stilton, I’ll never know).
And then…PJ’s until lunch time? Why not.
Make some cakes because you fancy it? Go on then.
Take a walk to the park because it’s stopped raining? Of course.
An early evening visit to the church next door for the carols followed by a mince pie and glass of wine, returning home ready to sprinkle Christmas Dust (oats, cous cous and glitter) on the driveway so that Santa and the reindeers don’t miss our house.
We’ll also find that the Elf has magicked up two early Christmas presents for the children, a new pair of pajamas each.
Then, when they’re bathed, dressed and teeth have been scrubbed, they’ll come downstairs and lay out that carrot and water for Rudolph, the mince pie and ale for Santa. Put their sacks on the sofa and the stockings at the end of their beds.
Ready for Christmas Day…
We did this for the first time last year, it’s what I did when I was little, (the Big Big Man was very reluctant); we opened stockings upstairs, and then had breakfast before opening the big presents. The presents from family and friends under the tree were left until after lunch. Sounds like sadistic child-torture, but it actually spreads the day out more and makes them take a bit more time, rather than descending into some kind of wrapping paper tearing frenzy.
And lunch will be what we want. Last year we had burger and chips. Homemade steak burger and sweet potato chips (not a Birdseye burger or crinkle chip in sight); it simply had to be cooked.
And very few dishes to wash….the bane of every ‘traditional’ Christmas dinner.
So we’ll be doing a meal that meets that criteria again this year; can be prepared in advance, and takes minimal time and effort on the day but with maximum taste.
After all, this is our Christmas and we’re doing it exactly how we want. Because surely that’s the point?
If you have any other traditions or recommendations I’d love to know. Christmas is what you make it, how do you make yours?