Everyone remembers Christmas – the lucky ones amongst us will have fond memories of family traditions from an early age.
Excitement begins to mount with the arrival of the Christmas tree and the boxes of decorations dug out of the attic. Our decorations go back generations and each holds a memory, especially the little baubles made by my children many years ago.
Each year I am tempted by the fashionable decorating suggestions in the shops and magazines but my tree always ends up looking the same, with maybe one or two new additions.
Writing Christmas cards is one of the first activities leading up to the holidays and seen by some as a chore. It is something I enjoy on a wet afternoon, as it is a way to keep connected with long lost friends and family, but I fear it will possibly die out as emails and virtual cards take over.
I try to buy charity cards that support a good cause and when Christmas is over I make sure to recycle my cards, or cut them into gift tags for next year.
Eventually the great day arrives and with it come memories of putting a tot of whisky on the hearth for Santa along with a carrot for the Reindeer. Memories of not being able to sleep and then waking up to the crackling Christmas stocking lying at the end of the bed. Memories of creeping into the sitting room and finding a pile of presents beneath the twinkling tree.
Later, perhaps a brisk walk while dinner cooks and then coming home to the appetizing smell of turkey roasting. Listening to the Queen’s Speech at 3pm, more food and then an evening of party games with friends and relatives.
Each family has its own timetable of events, and they all differ slightly, but we tend to hold onto these traditions and keep them alive over the years, passed on to our children and then our grandchildren. But as the younger generation takes control you may find you are drawn into a sporting challenge on a Nintendo Wii as I was. Playing virtual 10-pin bowling got some getting used to, but raised a laugh.
Party games are obligatory in the evening and our family has a selection that goes back to our parents’ time when there wasn’t much, or any, television. Acting and drawing games, guessing games and party tricks all go down very well with the younger generation once they have been persuaded to put their devices down for a while. Silly prizes add to the fun.
As a contrast, with so much choice on TV, it can be enjoyable to just kick back on the sofa with a good film or TV box set that everyone can enjoy. The extended holiday time is great for picking up a good book, or as in my case, settling down with a jigsaw puzzle. It is important to find time for yourself at this busy time of year.
Food is such an important part of the celebrations, and as Christmas approaches, a selection of well-thumbed recipes are dug out. In my family, I have always made a Christmas pudding and that is a job for October – I am pleased to say that this year it is made and safely stored in the larder.
If time allows I like to also make my own mincemeat for mince pies, but if time is short I buy it in a good quality jar and add some dried cranberries and a little brandy to make it my own. Then there is my family trifle recipe, which has been passed down over the years, and my kids say no Christmas would be complete without a big bowl of trifle for breakfast on Boxing Day!
These days we need to be mindful of food allergies and be aware of gluten-free diets and vegetarian choices, so it is worth checking up beforehand and making sure you have some alternative options to please everyone.
The women’s magazines are full of new twists on familiar classics, but on the whole I stick to my own tried and tested dishes. I always laugh at the “timetables” they print each year – instructing you to get up at 6:00 am and put the oven on, then account for every minute until lunch is served. No time to relax with a quick glass of sherry if you follow their regime! I prefer to go at my own pace and the meal is ready when….it is ready!
How fortunate our family has been to enjoy so many memorable Christmases. Of course there have been sad years, but on the whole our memories are good ones and I like to think our traditions will survive long after we have gone.
It is the time of year when families and friends come together and despite the fact that so many of us are spread across the world, we now have Facetime and Skype to help us keep in touch. Plus, Christmas is the perfect time to connect via the internet.
However you chose to spend the holiday season I hope it is all you wish it to be.
Do you look back with nostalgia at Christmas past, or enjoy Christmas present? What Christmas traditions have survived the years in your home? Do you have any favourite family recipes for the holidays or do you prefer to experiment with new ideas? Please share in the comments below.