Christmas has always been my favourite time of year starting from when I was a little girl. Even though several decades have passed every year it remains important for my family to remind me of my 5am wake ups on Christmas Day and meticulous “fairness” assessment of Santa’s deliveries under the tree.
I will never live down the great bike incident of 1981. That’s the year I got a bike that Santa left outside instead of under the tree. I am sure this was done for a very good reason and was in no way meant to set me up for an important lesson.. (hmmm). I felt extremely hard done by after finishing (in record speed) my present assessment and may have had an age inappropriate tantrum. I think the important thing is to always learn from our mistakes and from this one I learnt I was a bit of a spoilt brat and have hopefully moved on! Never the less Christmas with all its lessons is still my favourite time of year.
Apart from early Christmas mornings where I tormented my younger brothers, our family traditions included choosing and decorating our tree, spending time with our extended family, enjoying some epic feasts and warm afternoons sleeping off the decadence in the shade of an old gum tree.
Not being in any way religious, spending time with family and friends and reflecting on the past year is the most important part of Christmas for me. So being away from home at this time of year with rituals that revolve around these themes is especially difficult.
Anyway, the twins are now 2 and very aware of the man in the red and white suit and while I was wallowing in a bit of homesick moping it occurred to me that they would only have a few short years of Christmas being extra specially magical. So in a bid to ward off this homesickness I’m throwing myself into Christmas London style in a big way and starting some family traditions of our own to look forward to in years down the track. Here’s what we are doing this Christmas.
Decorating the tree
I’ve collected decorations for a while now. I love a traditional red, white and silver colour scheme on my tree. This year the tree was up just before 1st December and we went for a winter woodland theme with lots of cute animals, birds and snowmen. I may have gone a bit nuts at the lovely Christmas store in Liberty. Oops. The kids loved choosing decorations and the right place to hang them. Their little oohs and ahs as we turned on the lights made my heart melt. It was the perfect start to a magical Christmas.
I’ve been coveting this beauty (below) since I saw it at Fortnum and Mason last year. I’ve sold it to my hubby as an “heirloom piece” i.e. something that will be around for ever. Ha ha – just another way to justify an extravagant purchase. Anyway, the kids have loved peeking inside the little doors for their treats.
Appreciating our good fortune and paying it forward
It’s so easy for Christmas to become about enjoyment and excess (see above) and while these are all things I delight in, it’s important to me that as a family we appreciate how lucky we are to have the opportunity to experience a lovely Christmas as well as our amazing life and travels. And also recognise that many others are not so fortunate.
Baking Christmas cookies
Reading Christmas themed books
I saw this lovely idea to do a reading advent calendar of favourite Christmas books. The kids are a bit too little for some of the classics so we started collecting a few more recently published books. The favourites so far are The Dinosaur that Pooped Christmas and Rudey’s Windy Christmas. One of my favourites growing up was Raymond Briggs grumpy Father Christmas who would much rather have sunned himself on holiday than delivering presents through the snow.
Christmas parties and pantomime
We have had a few kids parties to attend with a Santa visit, craft activities and general mayhem involved. It’s been fun to watch the excitement build with the kids as they start to realise that it’s a special time of year. In the UK they are fond of a pantomime or play with a slightly camp twist, lots of slapstick jokes and loads of audience participation. We visited the local version at our friendly farmers market and had a bit of a laugh.
Making Christmas decorations
Thrown down a challenge by the kids nursery to produce some home made decorations we managed to get crafty at home and make these cute reindeer out of home baked clay, some paints and an incredible amount of glitter and glue. Thank for the Dyson dust buster although I still catch a glimmer of glitter out of the corner of my eye and probably will for months to come.
Making and decorating a gingerbread house
To be honest, this was a cheat (we bought a kit) and it is pretty dodgy. We had fun making it though. I was mainly laughing at my hubby’s attempts at trying not to swear while he tried to stick the pieces together with icing glue. Of course the thing kept collapsing and the kids kept trying to pop the lollies/sweets into their mouths.
Christmas songs and carols
This year we went to the family carol service at St Paul’s Cathedral. Yes, I’m an atheist but hearing a world class choir sing in this most amazing venue was an opportunity that I was not going to miss. Besides, 6 years of church schooling gave me an appreciation for the Anglican carols so I knew most of the words. Children of all ages enjoyed the spectacle and were extremely well behaved given the long queuing times.
You have to be extremely organised in London to visit the most popular Santa grottoes. The Harrods experience sells out in September and its a similar story at toy story mecca Hamleys. We took the twins to Santa’s cave at Duke of York Square in Chelsea. You need to book your place but it means there is no rushing and minimal queuing. Amazingly the experience is free, even for photos, and Santa is a proper traditional fellow with a gentle voice and small gifts for the kids.
We love the Christmas markets outside the front of the Tate Modern and along London’s Southbank. There is plenty of opportunity to indulge in mulled wine or cider, hot chocolate and a wide variety of festive foodstuffs. I love these huge marshmallows covered in chocolate that come in some very delicious flavours – like Baileys Irish cream. Yum. It’s not all food related though, you can do a spot of shopping for crafts and listen to choirs singing carols. The kids love the carousel.
We also visited the Winchester Christmas market. Set in the historic Cathedral grounds the market is focused on high quality crafts and there is also an ice skating rink. It was a lovely day out.
A Christmas feast or two
This year we will celebrate on Christmas Eve with my brother and his family before they fly out to Australia on Christmas Day. I’m drawing on traditional english fare – sausages wrapped in bacon anyone? – and Aussie classic pavlova for our feast. Turkey is obligatory wherever you are. I’ve stocked up a few treats from Fortnum and Mason because, when in London! On the big day, my lovely friend who also has twins has invited us for Christmas lunch with her family which makes me feel all glowy inside..
Christmas city lights and decorations in London
London is amazing when it comes to Christmas lights and decorations. It’s a great time to visit even though it is usually freezing cold. The highlights for me are:
✪ Covent Garden with its huge Christmas Tree and Reindeer. This year the interior is a gorgeous mistletoe arrangement
✪ Carnaby Street is a crazy riot of colour
✪ The huge tree and elegant skating rink at Somerset House
✪ The classic ice skating rink outside the iconic Natural History Museum
✪ Oxford Street and Regent Street always put on a nice show
Snacks for Santa and the reindeer
It will be cookies and brandy at our place for Santa. The reindeers will be treated to a few carrots and some oats mixed with glitter to speed them on their way.
Presents at dawn
OK maybe not dawn but probably around 7.30. It’s dark still then in London so we are not waking too early these days. I’ve tried to keep things pretty low key on the present front. Little Z just wants a chocolate penguin but he’s got a few more gifts than that. Little L just wants what her brother is having. Of course.
Goodness, I think we have really rocked Christmas already this year. I think 10 year old Katy would approve and it certainly has kept the homesickness at bay.
How are you celebrating your festive season?