My family has always had a low-key attitude to Christmas. Since we’ve never been a perfectly organised, ideal homes style family, this seems only fair and right. Everything we do can and will change as we evolve. These are the (non) traditions I learned.
We put the decorations up sometime in December, but usually fairly late. My parents have a fondness for a bargain which means paying the full pre-discounted tree prices is not an option. When my Dad worked as a teacher, Christmas didn’t really start until the school holidays started. Teachers will know that feeling of release when they can finally get on with their own personal lives for a week or two. Most schools finish by the 22nd December so usually around then there will be tree (ideally half price).
We favour a freestyle approach to decoration. An assorted selection of dog-eared tinsel and random baubles, rather than a co-ordinated colour selection. It ends up being cheerful, personal and haphazard. A few decorations make us all laugh with their awfulness. One is the demonic snowman [pictured] that launches into a frighteningly off-key version of Frosty The Snowman, lights flashing and frame bobbing until it abruptly stops to resume staring blankly. This entertains the old and young alike. Someone’s first reaction to that is always fun to watch. Don’t get me started on the Jingle Bell Rock Santa…
We don’t faff around much with carol singing, concerts or parties in December. Hopefully there will be some spontaneous drinks along the way to catch up with friends without pressure. Perhaps that’s why as an adult I rarely enjoyed work Christmas parties. I was lucky enough to attend some flashy ones over the years, but I’ve always been more of a small group person. At a big corporate do I’ll find a corner, a bottle of wine and a couple of like-minded souls. Not having too much social pressure in December makes the shopping, inevitable cold viruses and dark nights bearable.
We do the traditional food, but not in a way that’s prescriptive. I’ve done my best to subvert the norms over the years. I went through a vegetarian phase in my teens where I happily ate Linda McCartney pies for my Christmas dinner. We’ll usually have Turkey or Chicken, a pimped up Sunday roast with whatever dietary preferences people currently have. Mum likes to break out the Delia or Nigella recipes, but I approach them with caution. I’ve done time panicking about not having the right type of orange cloves to marinade a ham and I’m over it. Shop-bought anything is fine. More time to relax.
I’m working on my relationship with Christmas. I used to watch domestic goddess TV and dream of one day hosting my own perfect Christmas. I even owned a huge oak dining table once, bought imagining the family around it. But the idea seems more nonsensical the older I get. With family ever-changing and living hundreds of miles apart, the main thing is getting some kind of time together wherever it may be. If it happens on December 25th, that’s great. But my Christmas is whatever feels right at the time with whoever is there.
Keeping it low-key.