We had dinner last night with my auntie and cousin. They are going to be hosting Christmas for the first time this year and last night’s roast chicken was a bit of a trial run; we tested out the elbow room on the dining table, ate some pigs in blankets and talked about the schedule for the day.
It got me thinking about the Christmas traditions that we have created for ourselves as a family over the years and made me wonder how many of them are shared by other people.
Here are 12 of my Christmas rules, but what are yours?
1. At some point in the week before Christmas we have a festive trip to Marks & Spencer, where I let the children put (pretty much) whatever they want in the trolley. (No spirits for Belle.) We spend at least £100, and come away with absolutely nothing that can be turned into a meal. It’s all about the cheese savouries and mini ovenable treats.
2. I always wrap up presents in advance of the big day – each child in a different wrapping paper – and then they can poke at their pile of presents under the tree and try to figure out how many of them are books. (Clue: a lot.)
3. On Christmas Eve at 11am we meet up with friends for present opening, brunch, and normally the odd champagne cocktail. These are friends I’ve known since Belle was a baby and it’s one of my favourite bits about Christmas.
4. Later on Christmas Eve I will watch Love Actually. THIS MUST NOT BE WATCHED AT ANY OTHER TIME OF THE YEAR. This used to also be the time when I would help Father Christmas out by wrapping some stocking presents but as the children now stay up often later than me I have to leave that job to Santa.
5. A mince pie, carrot and small glass of sherry must be left out for Father Christmas and Rudolph.
6. Stocking are then hung. These go in or just outside bedrooms, NOT on any sort of fireplace.
7. Children may bring their stockings into my bedroom at 8am to open their first presents of the day. This feels quite late, but it’s a compromise between Belle wanting to do it at about 5am and Bee wishing we’d all let her stay in bed until midday. Every year we have at least 15 minutes of Belle fidgeting about impatiently and Bee complaining about being made to get up. During this time, if I have one, I will send a boyfriend to make me a cup of tea.
8. The next part of the day has evolved somewhat over the years. When I was younger it used to be that we’d all have to have showers and breakfast and get dressed before we were allowed to move on to the next batch of presents, but this has relaxed a little and often now we end up in our pyjamas, quaffing Bucks Fizz at 9.30am, getting stuck in to gifts.
9. Which leads me nicely into the next rule; gift opening is NOT a free for all. One of the children will distribute the presents so that we all have a pile and then we will take it in turns to open them. This way we can all watch each other and share the joy/look for signs as to whether the person loves or hates their gift.
10. Dinner must contain all of the following (amongst other things): roast potatoes, sprouts, redcurrant jelly, bread sauce, pigs in blankets.
11. At least one board game must be played on Christmas Day afternoon, even if you are full of Elizabeth Shaw mints and Baileys and would really rather just have a little nap and watch TV.
12. The tree and decorations must stay up until Twelfth Night, despite the fact that by Boxing Day I am desperate to pack everything away and get back to normal. (This isn’t because I’m a Christmas Scrooge, it’s just that I start getting excited in September and so by the time Christmas actually happens I’m pretty much done.)
So those are the 12 rules of Christmas.
What does Christmas look like in your house?