I just ordered my Christmas turkey from the local butcher, so I guess I’ll be joining the queue of neighbours and friends on Christmas eve to pick it up ready for the big day. If last year was anything to go by, it’ll be a slightly disorganised affair with everyone being frightfully smiley and trying to be full of Christmas spirit, even though being kept waiting for 20 minutes is wearing a bit thin.
Here’s how Christmas will go in our house in Bristol this year. On Christmas eve the family will arrive – we always alternate between inviting each set of parents, one for Christmas itself, the other set we usually see just after Christmas. Every year in September, once the children are back at school, we rack our brains on whose turn it is this year and issue the necessary invitations. It’s all very civilised.
We’ll trim up a week or two before, once the tree arrives – usually a refugee from the school where my husband works once term has ended. We have Christmas decorations from around the world that we’ve collected on our travels from the fat German fairy to the gilded soapstone hippo from Kenya, and each year add a few more. There’s an evergreen wreath on the front door, some fairy lights around the fireplace and a few elegant baubles dangling from the light fittings but we try to resist the full on Christmas tinsel and flashing multicolour lights on the front of the house.
This year we’ll be having my parents over for Christmas day and Boxing day and Christmas will start with midnight mass. Even though it’s becoming a bit of a challenge to entice the teenagers near a church, for high days and holidays it’s a three line whip – we like to remember what we’re celebrating after all. Once we get back, they’ll remind us of the other family tradition of opening one pressie from under the tree on Christmas eve, and we do our best to steer them towards the smallest parcels. We might even leave a glass of sherry and a mince pie in front of the fire for Santa and a carrot for Rudolf. In the morning there will be talcum powder footprints to show that he paid us a visit in the dead of night.
With the church-going over, Christmas morning is a leisurely affair until I suddenly remember at 8am that the turkey should be in the oven and have to break out of my Christmas lie in. The children will delve into stockings that the Christmas elves have silently placed outside their doors and some time after 1 o’clock (depending how early I put it in) we’ll sit down to the turkey dinner with all the trimmings.
This is no time for simplicity or the pleasure of one delicious thing at a time as the continentals prefer. For a British Christmas lunch, the plates are groaning under legs of turkey, stuffing, roasties and mini sausages on the side with the brussel sprouts and a few other veg and then lashings of gravy, bread sauce and cranberry sauce too. We pull the crackers, wear the silly paper crowns and tell the corny jokes. For desert there’s always a boozy Christmas pudding with some lucky sixpences inside, that we attempt to flame with brandy if we remember to buy some, although everyone secretly prefers Nigella’s pomegranate pavlova.
After lunch it’s time to relax and open the presents and indulge in the Christmas tradition of telling each other how completely spoiled our children are and how we definitely won’t buy them as much next year. Then there’s time to doze with a sloe gin and a mince pie before the Queen’s speech – hopefully it’ll have been a good year what with the news of Will and Kate getting engaged. We might venture out for some fresh air on The Downs near our house but that can probably wait until Boxing Day.
‘Are you all ready for Christmas?’ seems to be the question everyone asks. No, not really, but then I let the Tesco delivery man take the strain and delegate potato peeling and veg preparation ruthlessly to all the family. I try not to aim for perfection, just a peaceful time when I can enjoy the family and do very little.
How will you be spending Christmas this year?
More seasonal fare
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