This time of the year everyone is looking for a simple shortcut to make the Christmas planning a little easier. But this year I have found it to be so easy it’s almost unreal! We had all of our Christmas presents planned and bought by the end of November. The tree went up a few days ago, and the house is decorated.
Every year I go to my Mum’s for Christmas dinner, and to help out I provide an alternative dessert for those of us who don’t like Christmas pudding. It’s a tricky job because it has to cater for various diets, allergies, tastes and be child friendly. That cuts most of the traditional options out – no booze, whipped cream, artificial colourings, dried fruit, cheesecake, spices…. the list goes on. But this year I have asked a good friend to make a cake for us. She’s starting up a business making bespoke cakes and cupcakes and having sampled her cakes before we know they’re amazing! So dessert is sorted! Gifts are sorted. Wrap and cards have been bought.
The only thing I need to work out now is what Gary and I will have for Christmas Eve dinner. Reading over my old blog entries which mention Christmas this morning, I discovered that our usual tradition was for Gary to pick me up from work on Christmas Eve, where I would have been setting up the Boxing Day sale in my shop, and for us to hot step it to McDonald’s for a festive Big Mac! This changed when I started working for my previous employers and I was off on Christmas Eve. Gary had planned for both of those years to have Christmas dinner at his parent’s house and so I wanted for us to have at least one Christmas dinner together. So I planned and cooked our very own Christmas dinner for two, which we ate on Christmas Eve. I enjoyed doing it, but this year I don’t think I’ll have the energy because now I’m back working Christmas Eve! I really don’t want to go back to a tradition of McDonald’s….. So I need a festive, comforting, quick and tasty meal which I can cobble together for us both when I get in from work. Any suggestions (crock pot is on hiatus until the new year!)?
Christmas Day, I have found since growing up, was different in my family home compared with most other families. I have discovered that the norm for families in my generation (and probably still now) is for the children to wake up early to find all of their presents stuffed into a giant sack or pillowcase at the end of their beds. They would rip open all their gifts and then start their day. The men of the house would often go down to the pub while the dinner was being cooked, arrive home for dinner (often late) and then everyone would sleep or watch tv for the rest of the day. No offence to those who do it this way, but this seems like such a waste of a long-planned day. All that preparation spoiled in just a few hours. In my family we would wake up (normally I would wake up really early and have to lie in bed until the time agreed by my Mum) then my sister and I would take our stockings into our parent’s room and when we were small enough we’d all get into their bed. Then we’d open our stockings. Right at the bottom would always be a satsuma and shiny £1 coin. We would then go downstairs and eat hot buttered croissants.
The rest of the morning was always agony for me when I was a kid, because I would sit in the living room staring at all the presents under the tree and knowing I couldn’t open any until after lunch. I would help Mum with the dinner. I even cooked the Christmas dinner one year – I must have been about 12 or 13 – because my Mum had flu.
When my sister and I were young we would put on a little Christmas show after dinner, and then as she became a teenager I would put on a show by myself and we’d sing carols. My Dad would usually take this opportunity to take a loud snoring nap….. Then we would watch the Top Of The Pops Christmas special. By this time I was usually foaming at the mouth to open presents – I mean it would have been about 4pm and I have no doubt that my little shows were concocted as a way to kill time while my Dad slept.
So by the time we had woken my Dad up and got him downstairs again it was well into the afternoon and it was up to me to be Santa. I would hand out the presents to people one by one and we’d take a really long time about it – and this time I didn’t mind. I just wanted to see everyone’s reactions to the presents I would have spent months planning and wrapping so carefully. That’s the best part.
By about 6 or 7 we were usually all hungry again so we would set up a buffet in the dining room and we’d watch Christmas specials on the TV with plates of finger food on our laps. A perfect day.
Things have changed a little since I was a kid. Obviously me and my Sister don’t live at home any more, so there’s no stockings or climbing into Mum and Dad’s bed! Gary still has to set an acceptable time for me to wake him up…. but once we’re awake we put on our dressing gowns and go downstairs to open our presents for each other whilst sitting down by the Christmas tree. Then we have hot croissants – I like that tradition!
This year Gary is going to have Christmas dinner with me at my parent’s house so we’re going to visit his family in the morning and then go back there in the evening after dinner, presents and buffet. My sister has children now so there’s more people around the table and my paternal Grandfather comes and stays for Christmas too. It’s really good having so much family around and having children there means I’m not the only hyper Christmas freak around. We still watch Christmas Top Of The Pops (- no matter how hard they try to cancel it!) and when it comes to Christmas specials we always seem to end up watching Dr Who on Christmas evening. I’m not the biggest fan, but everyone else loves it!
So that’s my Christmas and what’s expected. I love the way we do it, the tradition, the things that have evolved and changed and the things that have stayed the same. One day when I have my own family I’m definitely going to keep these traditions. I can’t wait to make up Christmas stockings with a satsuma and a shiny coin at the toe.
For those struggling with their Christmas shopping, here’s a guide I wrote back in 2010 which might give you some ideas! Happy Christmas planning!