Immediately after Guy Fawkes Night, one of my favourite traditions so quite a big deal on our calendar, the Christmas music, DVDs and books come out in anticipation of The Big Build Up. Our much-loved GLTC book caddy is immediately packed with Christmassy titles, which will be excitedly perused over the ensuing weeks. A couple of new additions will arrive in due course, probably Peter Rabbit Animation: Happy Christmas! and Richard Scarry's Best Christmas Book Ever! this year. The Christmas DVDs will be watched over and over again, with excitement about The Big Man gradually building.
A visit to Himself will happen quite early this year, as we don't know when exactly the new bub will be here, so a November Father Christmas trip seems prudent. Last year it was Peppa Pig World, which was beautiful; the year before, Harrods. This year it will depend on how far I feel comfortable driving! Any present received is stashed away for the 25th, I don't know why some children get to tear theirs open there and then, kind of defeats the object I always think.
Being Christians, Advent itself is also a big deal, and will be celebrated at church as well as with traditional, chocolate and Playmobil calendars, not to mention Advent Calendars for the cats! The start of Advent also sees the decorating of the house, not the tree quite yet, but all the other nick nacks and bits and bobs which it is a delight to greet like loyal, old friends each year. Cards are written and posted, with a much cherished one from a friend in Canada usually the first to arrive with us. I love the ritual of sending and receiving cards, and even enjoy the much-maligned Round Robin accompaniments.
The 1st December has added significance this year too, as it is Poppy and Jess's Special Day - the day they came to live with us last year - so that will have its own celebration. There will also be a birth at some point, another cause for celebration and a future addition to the Christmas build-up.
As December goes on, a chilly evening walk to view the light displays locally is always fun, and we attend a lovely event at Arundel where the whole town is lit only by candle light, the tree is lit and mulled wine and mince pies are clutched in mittened hands. A trip to London to see the shop windows and trees is also a must, the highlight of the day being a Christmas afternoon tea at Harvey Nichols which Lara adores - probably because of her mince pie addiction, with Harvey Nicks apparently offering quite the best 'pie-time'! London also means a pilgrimage to the Christmas department in Liberty and the acquisition of a couple more beautiful ornaments to add to our collection.
Mid-month sees the arrival of The Tree, with lots of ooh-ing and aah-ing as the tree decorations are brought out and memories evoked, to a background of King's College Choristers, of course. The taxi cab from my stocking when staying with a friend in New York way back in 1994 is probably my favourite, but there are some from life in Moscow, others picked up on my travels, and some treasured gifts from friends and family. Each one is reminisced over and treasured as it is hung. I'm sure years to come will see plenty of home made additions from the girls too. Around the same time is the beautiful Christingle service at church, another Christmas highlight.
Planning and shopping is my province and the aim is to have it all done well in advance, so Christmas Eve can be enjoyed. Beyond a trip to the greengrocer's, there is little to do beyond heading out for lunch somewhere nice, a late afternoon trip to church, and then cosying in front of the fire in new pyjamas, watching a new Christmas film on DVD. The PJs and DVD come in a sort of pre-Christmas package which FC sends as a reminder that he will come and see them when they are asleep that night. Then all that remains to be done, for the children at least, is to hopefully put out their stockings, read 'Twas the Night Before Christmas, listen for sleigh bells, and leave a drink and a snack for Father Christmas and the reindeer.
Once the girls are asleep, long-hidden presents will be gathered from all corners of the house to pile under and around the tree, so the magical 'Has he been?' moment can be maintained in the morning. Not for us the gradual build up of presents as they arrive. Once the pile is amassed, it is time for Steve and I to collapse on the sofa with a drink and a sigh, hopeful of something good on TV, or a new DVD of our own to watch.
We haven't yet reached the days of children awake at 4.30am thankfully, so normal wake up time is maintained on Christmas Day, followed by opening the contents of our bulging stockings with a cup of tea. After breakfast the girls can open their one big present from Father Christmas each, and then set to playing with that and their stocking bits. The other presents are left until the afternoon. A few phone calls to friends and family are made to share Christmas greetings, then the lunch preparation begins.
Champagne and canapes naturally fuel the cooking of Christmas lunch, with a break to sit and watch The Snowman together, and then lunch is served at about 1pm. Following a very leisurely lunch, we watch the Queen's Speech and open presents until the girls declare they have had enough - last year the present opening went on for four days! After much playing and fun, we have a picky tea, and then watch some television in the evening, with the girls collapsing at some point. The days of games are not here yet, but I'm sure there will be many charades and Monopoly marathons to come!
What does Christmas look like in your house?