Our Christmas Traditions

One month till Christmas, yay!  Thanksgiving on Thursday, Advent Sunday this weekend, along with most smaller towns and villages doing their light switching on things, and then we're away!  From Monday the children will be getting more and more excited with the opening of each little door on their Advent calendars, the adults will be card-writing, present-buying and wrapping, and food planning, with the ever-present "just __ days to go!" ever at the forefront of their minds.  Here at Attachment Towers we will be counting down the days with the help of these lush Lindt Advent calendars - yum!  And in this house everyone has an Advent calendar, just like everyone has a stocking to hang out expectantly on Christmas Eve.  Advent calendars miraculously appear on the doormat on December 1st, presumably dropped off by the man himself.  Who else could have put them there? 

Early bird Christmas-mad folk that we are, the Christmassy CDs, books and DVDs have been out for a couple of weeks now, so we have already delightedly gorged on Polar Express, Miracle on 34th Street and a bit of Bing and friends.  We have also, at the girls' insistence, got some of the house decorations out, greeted as ever like old friends.  I usually say 1st December for this, but a few days early won't hurt.  So our festive mantelpiece is bedecked with photos of past visits to Father Christmas, beautifully scented candles and sparkly Lindt Santas, teddies and reindeer.  Incredibly, Lara and Sophia love seeing the sparkly gold foil so much that they haven't dived in to eat the chocolate decorations yet.

Part of the tradition of Christmas for us is abundance and generosity, so everyone who visits will be encouraged to dive in to the bowl of tiny chocolate figures glimmering on the coffee table.  Don't they just look so festive all by themselves?  During December they will be joined by groaning plates of cakes, biscuits and mince pies as the baking fun kicks off big time.  With a chef in the house it's to be expected, of course, and we have shared a couple of his recipes with you in this post.

We will be joining in the Christmas festivities in Bognor Regis this weekend and next, with the Big Switch On followed by a Dickensian Christmas on the 6th and 7th.  The 6th will also find us in Arundel where the Christmas by Candlelight event is always a delightfully festive occasion, with mulled wine, traditional games, and not a speck of electric light to be seen.  Our traditional London trip is also meticulously planned for early December: Fortnum's, Hatchards, Hamleys, Liberty's, Selfridges, Harrods and Harvey Nichs all in our sights for some window viewing and window shopping, followed by a good couple of hours at Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park.  Father Christmas will be sought out, probably on the 13th, Tatiana's first birthday; and there is also a trip to Peppa Pig World, bedecked in garlands and lights (the park, not us!), to factor in somewhere.

I read recently that the actor Robert Lindsay also has his birthday on the 13th, and his parents made it a tradition that the tree went up that day.  I wonder if Tatiana will like that when she's older, or if she would prefer to hold off until after her birthday?  We will see.  I love building these new traditions with the girls, and this year Lara's memories of Christmases past are exceptionally clear, so I feel that we really need to up the ante and make it all count.  She loves the ritual of driving round to look at people's garden Christmas lights around the 21st December, and there are some real corkers round here!  This year our tree will be coming very early, the 3rd, and there will be the usual rush to festoon the lower branches with every decoration the girls can get their hands on, full of oohs and aahs as each decoration is carefully unwrapped and memories evoked afresh.

We always make sure the shopping, wrapping and organising is finished before Christmas Eve, so that the day can be spent entirely with the children.  We may go out for a walk, or do some baking or crafts, but there is always church in the late afternoon for the Crib Service, followed by 'party tea' (sandwiches, crisps, snacky bits, cake).  This is the first year we're doing a Christmas Eve box, but I'm sure that will quickly join our other traditions.  New nightdresses, a new film and some yummy Lindt chocolate and the girls will go to bed happy, with the melodic verse of A Visit from St Nicholas still echoing in their ears.  And you might just make out the jingle of sleigh bells in the distance...  Looks like one of the reindeer got left behind though!

On Christmas Day itself, we have stockings first thing which, luckily, hasn't been too ridiculous an hour yet, followed by the girls' presents from Father Christmas (one big one each).  Breakfast is usually pastries and orange juice, followed by vast quantities of chocolate.  At about midday, we follow a tradition that began when my dear friend Perdita and I were still living/visiting parents back at home in Buckinghamshire, serving Champagne and canapes to keep everyone going until lunchtime.  Lunch is usually around 2/3pm, and we do try to catch the Queen's Speech if we can, although that is the only television allowed until the evening.  After lunch we open the rest of the presents, although with the girls stopping to marvel at and play with each one the present opening has been known to go on until New Year's Eve!  And yes, we do insist on one person opening at once, no frenzy of maniacal unwrapping here, thank goodness.

This year, however, everything will be turned on its head as poor Steve is working on Christmas Day, Boxing Day and the two days after.  So we have decided to have our Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve and turn Christmas Day over to the present opening, fuelled by snacking and easily grab-able food.  If the girls are being held back from present opening until Daddy comes home, the last thing they will need is to be told they now have to wait until some elaborate roast dinner is cooked!!  Traditions are great, but it's OK to alter them sometimes too.