My Kind of Christmas – A Look Back

I’ve been writing this blog for 8.5 years and so as you can imagine, I’ve covered Christmas quite a lot, and a fair few times. Back in 2013 (and before I knew that Blogmas existed) I wrote a Christmas related post for every day of advent.

It was fairly hard to do since I had to think of 24 different subjects to write on, all on the theme of Christmas. And this was before I was interested in beauty, before gift guides were commonplace on a blog, and long before advent calendars offered anything more than a chocolate behind the door.

I called it Shutterbug’s Advent Calendar – my friend even made a pretty graphic for me!

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Isn’t it lovely?

Instead of re-hashing what I’ve already written, I thought I might share some of my older posts with you, interspersed with some of the photographs I’ve taken over the years, celebrating the festive season!

So, here we go!:

What’s A Traditional Christmas? (click to read)

In this post from 2012 I talk about what Christmas entailed traditionally for me growing up.

baubles on christmas tree

The Christmas Queen’s Guide To Gift Buying (click to read)

In this post from 2010, I offer my hints and tips for finding the perfect Christmas gift – and 7 years on it’s still relevant! If you’re struggling to find the perfect gift, then head over for some festive inspiration.

gift wrap and snowball cocktail

Christmas In A Day (click to read)

As part of my 2013 advent calendar posts, I discussed that year’s Sainsburys advert, which pulled clips from a short film called Christmas In A Day. I say short, it’s just under 50 minutes long, but it’s worth every single minute. The video is still up on YouTube so I’d urge you to click on the video link in the post, grab a cup of something warm and settle in for a film that will give you all the feels. I’ll be honest, I totally forgot about this film, so I’m really pleased I unearthed it in this post. I’ll be giving it another watch this year, for sure.

tiny gift bow held by finger

Favourite Christmas Movies (click to read)

It wouldn’t be a Shutterbug Christmas without me sharing my all time favourite Christmas movies. You’ll find them in this 2013 post, and they’re still the ones I’d pick!

close up gold gift bows

Christmas Eve Eve (click to read)

Here’s a post about what could possibly be my favourite day of the Christmas run-up, Christmas Eve Eve!

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Fun Times at Winter Wonderland (click to read)

Last year we made our annual trip to Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland, and I blogged about it (in fact I also vlogged it, and that video is at the end of the post!) So if you’re interested to see what I got up to, then take a look at this post.

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Looking Back, Looking Ahead (click to read)

This post was actually published at the very end of last year, but it mentions Christmas and New Year traditions we have in our home, and was highly requested by followers on twitter. Each year we write a letter to ourselves and look back and forward on the year past and year ahead. If you’d like to read about this new tradition, then click the link above!

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I hope you enjoy a little look back on my thoughts on Christmas from over the last 8 years. Christmas really is my favourite time of year.

I’m lucky to have a medium to enable me to look back and see what was happening in Christmases past. I hope you’ve enjoyed it too!

putting the star on a felt advent calendar

Looking Back, Looking Ahead

We have now reached that awkward stage in the year where Christmas is over, the new year hasn’t arrived yet and we’re all sort of in limbo.

I like to use this part of the year to reflect on the last 12 months, as many do. I also like to take down the Christmas tree as soon as I can and start tidying and cleaning. No doubt some kind of diet or detox will be on my plan due to all the rich food and drinks I’ve consumed over Christmas. I also tend to try a new skincare routine, which I love for the whole week and then have to go back to work, lose the will to spend the time on my face and go back to soap and water….. (shock horror!)

Anyway, one thing I have done for the past 2 or 3 years is look back and look forward in a more tangible way. Each year, on Christmas Eve, Gary and I read a letter we have written the previous Christmas Eve. It’s a letter we’ve written to ourselves asking about things for the future year. Things we want to achieve, things we wonder and things we’d like to change. We read our own letters and then read out anything we want to each other. I honestly had no idea what I’d written in this year’s before I read it.

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I really enjoy this new tradition we started 3 years ago, because it really puts a timestamp on the mentality I was in when I wrote the letter a year previously, and it sets the tone for the next letter. A year goes so fast but it’s easy to forget how much we do, see and how much we change in that 12 months. Reading my letter year on year really reminds me of this. We keep each year’s letters and at some point in the future I’m sure we’ll re-read them. Or maybe we won’t. It’s just nice knowing they’re there!

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Another tradition we started last year and brought through to this year is a Happy Things jar. I cut strips of coloured paper, and whenever we feel grateful or particularly happy or excited about something we write it onto a strip of paper. Then we roll up the strip and pop it into the jar. On New Year’s Eve we open the jar and take it in turns to read out what’s written. I really enjoyed doing this last year so I’m excited to do it again this year.ny4

 

These are only new traditions, but they make me feel really happy. I love the idea of continuing this for many years to come. Counting my blessings is so important to me. It helps to keep me grounded and grateful for the things I have and what I have achieved. It calms my brain and makes me a better person.

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If you like the idea of these simple traditions, why not start one (or both!) yourself? It’s so easy to write a letter to yourself, and as long as you don’t forget where you put it you’ll have something to look forward to in a year.

I’d love to hear if you do anything similar in your family. Share your traditions with me!

December 24th – Christmas Eve!

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Well, we’re here! We made it to Christmas Eve even though the excitement sometimes made it feel like we’d never make it. In the words of Kermit the Frog “There’s only one more sleep ’til Christmas” – how are you holding in the excitement? I know I’m having a hard time!

I can’t believe it’s here already and I also can’t believe I managed to think of 24 blogs about Christmas – it was pretty tough at times. I hope you enjoyed reading them!

Christmas Eve as a child was always full of anticipation and pretty much just waiting until I could go to bed and wake up on Christmas Day. My sister and I had stockings to put at the end of our beds. We would put out a mince-pie and a white wine spritzer for Santa (what can I say? it was the 80’s!) I never twigged that that was one of my Mum’s tipples and that she’d probably be the one drinking it….. call me naive but I believed in Santa! I think I used to put out a carrot for the reindeer too.

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Later on I would find myself working the majority of my Christmas Eves. In retail Christmas Eve means an early close (usually about 4/5pm) and then all hands on deck to prepare the store for the Boxing Day sales. It’s hard work and not easy to manage if everyone isn’t fully there in mind – it’s hard to keep a load of 18-20 year olds focussed on the task at hand when they want to go and see their friends in the pub! The years I wasn’t working Christmas Eve meant I was working Boxing Day instead, so I wouldn’t get the extra family day. I would plan a Christmas dinner for Gary and I to eat on Christmas Eve evening.

I used to always insist on watching The Muppet Christmas Carol on Christmas Eve. Over the years this has changed and now we always watch The Holiday and The Polar Express. This year will be no different and tonight, after dinner I’ll put on my cosy pjs and watch Polar Express whilst drinking hot chocolate with marshmallows. I’m so excited!

What are your Christmas Eve traditions? Have they changed over the years?

So all that’s left is to wish you lovely lot a fantastic Christmas Day. I hope it’s a day full of love and family (and lots of yummy grub!) – stay happy, blessed and most of all stay safe.

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Happy Christmas!!

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What’s a Traditional Christmas?

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!