I’m a sucker for Christmas, I ruddy love it! It’s the one time of year when everyone does their best to be jolly, see friends that haven’t been seen for donkeys and merriment radiates everywhere. Wizard and Slade soundtrack every shop, gloves and scarves are worn despite balmy days and food we wouldn't dare touch any other time of year is stuffed into our rosy cheeks - mince pie with your July picnic madam? To me, and many, such tradition and festivities offer a familiarity that is heart-warming and cosy.
My love for Christmas definitely emanates from my childhood. We lived in a country cottage where my mum would decorate the house fit for a Country Living December shoot - being surrounded by such merry trimmings only enriched the traditions we relived year after year.
Now as a dad with a child who’s at an age to embrace tradition and festive joy I really can’t wait. My excitement might explode like a microwaved turkey.
I really want my children to love this time of year. As they grow through childhood the excitement will build year on year, but even when they reach that stroppy teenage stage, it would be nice for them to still appreciate such a heartening period.
So here’s a few of the things we’ll be doing in the lead up to the Big Fella’s arrival. Hopefully in thirty years-time, such traditions will be passed on to the next generation of my family…
Writing to Father Christmas – this year Edie wants a skateboard, a skipping rope and bubbles! Father Christmas will soon hear of her requests once the recently posted letter drops through his fireplace. Edie loves posting letters at any time of year, but this letter was extra special; we wrapped up warm, grabbed the dogs and took a blowy walk to the post box knowing this was the start of a very exciting few weeks.
Christmas lights switch on - Like most towns these days, living in Windsor we're lucky to have some impressive lights. Alongside the traditional twinkles that line the streets, the castle is illuminated with some stirring imagery and the Queen Victoria statue stands proudly next to a beautiful Christmas tree. It will be nice for Edie to experience the jolly atmosphere and mark the start of the festive period with a hot chocolate as we warm ourselves with some Christmas cheer.
Homemade Christmas cards – now, if you’re not a parent then these might look a little cheesy or even stingy. But family, especially grandparents, are going to love a Christmas card that’s made with a healthy dose of thoughtfulness. Once we’ve nailed one design I’ll smarten it up, scan it into my computer and get MoonPig (or someone) to do a bulk order - there’s only so many times I can paint small feet!
Picking out a tree – as a child we always used to visit a small farm down a narrow country lane to pick out our Christmas tree. There was something magical about it rather than just going to the nearest Homebase and since we’ve had Edie I’ve been desperate for her to have a similar experience. Last year we discovered a place deep in the thick woods of Windsor Great Park that sells freshly cut trees which are picked as you sip on mulled wine whilst the surrounding woodland twinkles with fairy lights. How merry! I love the adventure as the car tumbles down the windy track before returning muddy and full of fragrant green needles.
Decorating – as I said, my mum would go to town with our old family home and that’s something that’s rubbed off on me. Once the tree is up and decorated there are so many more things to do. Source some real mistletoe for the front door and then tackle the rest of the house. A mantelpiece is perfect for a homemade garland that can quickly be assembled from holly, ivy and some berries. Banisters, windows sills, the front door, hearths and dining tables again could all come to life with some form of decoration, whether it be bought or sourced from the woods to really add that festive oomph to the home.
Mulled wine and minced pies – the smell of mulled wine and warm mince pies fills our house at Christmas. Such a memorable aroma that has left a lasting and lovely impression.
Christmas music – carols, pop classics, whatever it is, they have to be booming around the house or car. Wham, Mariah, Songs of Praise, I hear ya’.
A carol service – I’m not one for church normally but I do love a carol service. A church illuminated by flickering candles and echoed by young voices is really quite breath-taking. Worth keeping little children up for an extra hour just to enjoy such a spectacle.
Christmas movies – the first film I can ever remember seeing is Santa Claus the Movie, you know, the one with Dudley Moore. Ever since then my love for Christmas movies has swelled like Santa's belly. A simple afternoon on the sofa with hot chocolate (yeah right, mulled wine), a blanket and some mince pies to watch Elf and Home Alone with your loved ones is something to be cherished.
Christmas food shopping – I hate going to the supermarket. Like literally hate it. But the one time of the year I am happy to go is at Christmas. A time to stock up on sugary and alcoholic treats but also a time to hoard fat tubes of Twiglets, Cheeseballs and roasted peanuts. Utter madness as we wouldn’t dare buy Cheesballs any other time, but every time that annual shop comes round, they HAVE to be bought!
Visiting Father Christmas and feeding the reindeer – growing up Father Christmas would somehow find time to visit our village hall or school – god knows how he managed it but it’s a lovely memory. Anyway, thankfully this year he’s made space in his diary for children to visit him at a local farm. Two birds, one stone; his reindeer need fattening up for the big night, so we’ll also feed some deer whilst we’re there (they’ll probably be some other breed of deer, but who’s to know?! Children, that’s who! They'll bloody know).
Christmas Eve – a clear memory I have from when I was small was walking our dog around our village with my dad on Christmas Eve night and looking out for Father Christmas flying through the sky. It probably only happened once but it was enough to leave a lasting memory. I remember the jingles of Father Christmas’ sleigh vividly and being so excited I could barely contain myself. I think it was my dad jangling his keys in his pocket but it left such an impression. I’ll be doing the same this year with Edie… daren’t drop my keys, awfully dark out there. After that, there’s the sherry, milk, mince pie and carrot to be left out. To round it all off, The Night Before Christmas must be read at bedtime, it just wouldn’t be Christmas without it.
And then, after all that – IT’S CHRISTMAS DAY!
I have such fond Christmas memories from my childhood that I’ll be trying to echo now I’m a dad. I hope my children have such fond memories too in years to come…
Have a very merry Christmas!