My Perfect Christmas… by SJV
On 4th October we are publishing a brand new Paige Toon book #OnePerfectChristmas, a heart-warming and heartbreaking collection of short stories, containing EXCLUSIVE material published in print for the very first time and BRAND NEW content! So as a special feature, I asked all our #BookClub members to tell us about their perfect Christmas…and we even have a piece from Paige herself!
Lisa – My perfect Christmas starts with a tree. Like most people, I get really excited when I see the ‘Holidays are coming…” Coca Cola advert on TV. And yes, at this point, the holidays really are coming. However, for me Christmas really begins on the first Sunday in December. That is when my mum puts up the Christmas tree. Usually it descends into chaos with my mum crying that the beads don’t fall as beautifully as when my auntie does it with her tree. Then my auntie comes round and fixes it thus alleviating the problem. Then all the baubles are separated into colours by yours truly whilst the mama gets dizzy putting on the lights (you can never have too many lights) before a mixture of red and gold decorations are added in a seemingly sporadic fashion. Then goes the traditional decorations and finally the ones that mama has bought from New York. At this point, I am asleep on the couch because the excitement has been too much. I’m not massive on tradition but decorating the tree has developed into a tradition of its own over the years and I must admit that the end result is glorious. The tree is beautiful…but traditionally it takes a few disasters before we get it right. Some disasters have included the aforementioned fight with the beads, the time that mama changed the colour scheme and within two days was sobbing and pulling the decorations off the tree (doesn’t Christmas make you really emotional?), and also the time when mama thought it would be an excellent idea just to put all the lights and decorations on the front of the tree. A brilliant idea for those who are unfamiliar with the laws of physics as the tree, with one side heavier than the other, spectacularly fell and broke a fair few of the special decorations. All of this is done whilst listening to the ‘Christmas tape’ which has been getting played since 1996 and rather randomly includes Islands in the Stream by Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers. Once it is up we can finally settle into watching Home Alone 1 and 2 and The Muppet’s Christmas Carol. It is for these reasons alone that Christmas is my favourite time of the year and why my perfect Christmas always starts with a tree.
Alba – ‘I met my husband 12 years ago, and believe it or not, we have never spent Christmas Day (nor Christmas Eve) together. Christmas Day has always been a sacred family day for both of our families so we spend it with our respective families and then have a second Christmas Day on Boxing Day together. This year it’s going to be the same, especially as we live abroad and don’t spend enough time with our families. It’s actually a day that I cherish: delicious food, games, some cheesy movie or Mr Bean re-watching, time with the little kids of my cousins… but I wonder, every year, what if we just took off and spent it, just the two of us, somewhere remote like Lapland? We will probably do it some day, but for now, I think my Christmas is quite perfect as it is. It has changed very little from my childhood Christmases, and I love waking up in my childhood bed, knowing that I will open my presents with my parents and my sister and then I will call my husband to wish him a Merry Christmas.’
Petra – ‘When I met my gorgeous Aussie husband, I often heard him wax lyrical about the memorable Christmases he celebrated Australia (aka Down Under). The continuous hot weather and the sound of rolling waves together with Christmas lunch on the beach barbecue sounded pretty much perfect. So after a deep and meaningful discussion (that lasted approximately 5 minutes), we have decided to pack our belongings, leave the grey cold of England behind and head over to Australia. I could not wait to spend hours on a tranquil beach where I would eat my way through a bucket of barbecued prawn skewers, drink my weight in the local famous Bundaberg rum and soak up the sun. I had bought a suitcase of books and just imagined the uninterrupted hours of reading on a secluded beach. That was my perfect idea of Christmas. Little did I know… Although we had lots of fun, there was a little matter of a fully packed beach with screaming, whining and high on the sun&surf children running everywhere (and shaking their small wet bodies all over me and my pristine books!). The relentless hot sun was bearing on me always, and the itchy sand was coating most of my body and staying there for days! Fast forward 10 years, two children and my dread of yet another hot Christmas we have decided to move back to the UK. I was very eager to show my children Christmas on the other side of the world where there is cold, rain or snow (depends on the ever so fickle weather), the beauty of choosing our own proper Christmas tree and the wonder of twinkly Christmas markets everywhere! Pure delight in my humble opinion! I was also thinking of how I missed the Christmas here in Europe and hoping that my husband and children will agree with me that the festive season is better here in the UK. Luckily they did, and now we cannot wait for the season to change. I treasure the time when I get out the entire winter wardrobe and drive into the town where all the shops are decked out in festive attire, and the winter smells are in the air. So my perfect Christmas is spent here with my little family doing all those little things that make us happy. Like choosing the tree on a frosty day, creating new Christmas ornaments, preparing Christmas dinner, and finally closing the door on the world outside, lighting the fire, putting the telly on (watching Harry Potter marathon of course!) and scoffing up everything we cooked for our Christmas dinner. Our perfect Christmas.’
Mary – ‘Christmas has changed for me in the last 3 years as my hubby’s parents moved to Ireland. Up until then we had spent every Boxing day with them as our son was growing up. Now we see hubby’s brother on Christmas Eve and then we spend the big day with just the 3 of us. We will not always have a roast, sometimes we will have steak so it’s quick to cook. We always have bucks fizz made with prosecco with breakfast and we listen to cheesy songs whilst opening our pressies. We gorge on the Christmas favourites like Quality Street and Roses – saying every year that they have changed and we won’t buy them again! We have to have peanuts too as I love them along with a glass of coke! As long as I have a good book and a new nightie I’m happy. We all get new nightwear for Christmas and we don’t get dressed at all until the day after Boxing day! That’s when we will spend the day with our best friend and her 4 kids and their partners. That’s our 2nd Christmas. I am envious of families who get together for the day and the adverts that show perfect families etc. I guess my perfect Christmas would be to spend time with extended family, but then when I think about it I love the day as it is. Eating, reading and sleeping, catching up on crap films and listening to Wizard.’
Kate – ‘For me, Christmas is all about family and traditions so spending the day with the people I love most will always ensure a perfect Christmas. The big day starts with presents. With four children and a dog who thinks he’s human, my floor is usually covered with gifts and the opening process is just a mass of wrapping paper and excited thank you’s. I open my presents last because I enjoy watching the madness and seeing their faces light up, even the teenagers show some excitement during this part of the day! Hubby cooks Christmas dinner which must include sprouts and pigs in blankets because it’s tradition. While he’s cooking up a feast, I play games with the little ones and undo a thousand of those fiddly plastic ties that toy manufacturers seem to like so much. During the afternoon/evening the madness settles a little – we watch the same Christmas films we’ve been watching forever because it’s tradition and we crack open the After Eight mints because, again, it’s tradition. This is also when it gets really perfect for me because it’s my chance to grab my latest read, sink into the sofa and immerse myself in another world. Reading time surrounded by my favourite people is the best! Very rarely do we bother to get dressed, we all eat far too much and we do it with smiles on our faces because it’s great to have a whole day together. So I guess my perfect Christmas is what I already have, roll on Christmas 2018!’
Carly – ‘My perfect Christmas starts on the 28th of November, my birthday and the day the Christmas tree goes up – this has been tradition since I was a little girl and my parents would put the tree up for my birthday party. So the tree goes up on the 28th of November, then I get in the real festive spirit by watching TV in the evening with my log fire going and the Christmas tree lights twinkling. Fast forward to Christmas Eve and myself and my husband take our children Holly (10) and Levi (8) to a pantomime before coming home and the children unwrap their Christmas Eve boxes containing their new pjs and a hot chocolate cones. We then relax in front of the fire watching a Christmas film, in our pjs of course. When it’s time for bed, Holly and Levi say bye to their Elves on the Shelf for another year and leave Santa his mince pie and milk – oh and not forgetting a carrot for Rudolph! They then go up to bed, full of beans and very excited (I begin to wonder if Daddy has given them Skittles!). Christmas morning the kids wake early and open the presents from their stockings on mummy and daddy’s bed (another tradition from when I was a child) , then daddy has to go downstairs to see if Father Christmas has been? Of course he has, let the unwrapping commence! My perfect presents are of course books… We then spend the day visiting family and having fun.’
Linda - ‘Christmas in my family is one of rituals, traditions and, in common with so many others, far too much food. Christmas begins, usually on the last Tuesday before the big day, when we meet up with all the neighbours in a cluster of 10 houses where we live and catch up with what we’ve been doing since last year. Sometimes this coincides with Santa riding by collecting for charity with the local Lions group, sometimes it doesn’t, but if we miss Santa we feel Christmas is marred slightly. On Christmas Eve a friend I used to work with over 30 years ago drops in for coffee and again we catch up on the whole of the previous year as we only see each other once in 365 days. Christmas morning is for the two of us. If we are ‘doing’ Christmas for the family we won’t be driving so we crack open the champagne, take it back to bed with toasted bacon butties and share our gifts to each other. The rest of the day is spent with a dwindling family as so many of our loved ones are no longer with us. My Dad, in-laws and aunts who used to come along are thought about and missed. However, we’re still 9 in number and we have a huge traditional Christmas lunch with me, my sister and my eldest niece taking it in turn to host – thankfully it’s not my turn this year! We have a small after lunch gift from the Christmas tree and then those not involved in clearing up begin the first of the quizzes. Once the washing up is done, it’s time to distribute the gifts to one another. Father Christmas still gives me and my sister a Terry’s Chocolate Orange and my brother-in-law always quips that they aren’t ours but his as his name is Terry! As it’s now an hour since we had an enormous 5 course lunch we open the tins of Roses and Quality Street and then begin the games in earnest. There are prizes for winners, except in the charades, and we play Guess the Famous Faces, the mystery parcel, the throwing game (though we tend to pass rather than throw things), several quizzes, guess the number of sweets in the jar, the drawing game (try drawing an image with the paper balanced on your head after several alcoholic drinks) and so on. Now, around three or four hours will have passed so it’s time to get Christmas ‘tea’ where we each eat enough to keep a family of four alive for a month. This is when we have the Christmas cake – oh, and another gift from the Christmas tree. As the evening progresses we continue to eat sweets and chocolates and drink as if alcohol is going out of fashion before it’s time for tea, coffee, mince pies and brandy butter before deciding whose ‘turn’ it is next year!
Rea – ‘For me, my Perfect Christmas begins at 2pm on Christmas Eve when Mr Cobb finishes work, everyone is in the festive sprint, the Christmas Lights are twinkling and we go to get last minute top up presents and finish off with a Black Forest Gateaux hot chocolate before heading home to sit and wrap up our gifts whilst eating chocolates. On Christmas morning we wake and open presents together before heading to my family to share gifts and play games which usually end up with us in a mess! Coming home in the evening is the best time to snuggle up in a food hangover coma whilst I read my new gifted books and Mr Cobb watches Christmas films with our After eights and chocolate orange between us!’
Laura – My perfect Christmas is anything that involves my three favourite things: fiction (of course books need to feature here!), food, and films. Another ‘f’ I should definitely include here is ‘family’ because, although being confined to a house for a good few days at a time can often drive you all mad, it’s also one of the few times of the year I get to see certain family members, like my grandma. For me, Christmas is defined by that feeling you get around the festive period. It’s knowing that you’ll have a good chunk of time off work whilst most other people are too, so you don’t get ‘The Email Fear’ (hundreds of emails waiting for you from other people who HAVE been working whilst you’re off enjoying yourself) as bad as you do after a normal period of time off. It’s that contented feeling, knowing that you can sit and do absolutely nothing from Christmas Eve (or maybe even before!) right through to New Years’ Day, if that’s what you’ve booked off (I always have!). It’s also the happy feeling that most people around you are generally in a better mood too, and are more happy to help those who aren’t feeling so great (if only this was all year-round). It’s also, above all, the best time to fit in LOADS of reading. You can power through plenty of books without feeling like you should be outside, which is the guilt I sometimes get in summer, and means it’s the perfect time to escape into plenty of exciting stories (though, let’s face it, any time is good for that really). I always save some exciting sequels for over the Christmas period, as then I can look forward to all of the above AND spending time once again with a few of my favourite characters. This definitely makes my perfect Christmas complete.
SJV – ‘For many, Christmas starts with the return of the Red Cup. For others, it’s Stir-up (Christmas Pudding) Sunday. For some it’s when the never ending loop of Slade finds its way back onto the commercial radio playlists. For me, Christmas starts proper on whatever day I break up from work. Back in my early 20’s I used to work all over Christmas, including Christmas Day, in clubs, bars and restaurants, but as I’ve got older, wiser, and lazier, I can now appreciate the benefits of an end-of-year shut down. I try not to leave the house, I never pick up the phone, and if I’m honest, I’m rarely out of my PJ’s for however long (or short) my Christmas break ends up being. I just lock up shop, eat my body weight in cheese with a bucket of Bailey’s on the go, and I read. So when asked what my perfect Christmas would look like, I’m tempted to say something ridiculous like ‘wake up in Vegas, draped on the arm of Clooney, with the body a Victoria Secret model would be jealous of’, but actually, my perfect Christmas looks exactly like the Christmas I have. I wake up whenever I wake up. Either Mr BookMinx or I do the first booze run of the day. We open gifts in our PJ’s. Have a spot of toast. Light the Christmas candles. He fires up the console. I pick up a book. Done. Bob’s your Uncle, Fanny’s your Aunt. So whatever YOU’RE doing this Christmas, whether it’s a big deal involving 9am party frocks and elaborate celebratory plans in a country retreat with a roaring open fire, mulled wine and pigs in blankets or a low key affair with family and friends, excitable puppies, tinsel and turkey, have a wonderful Festive Fiesta. If you want me, I’ll be on the sofa. Reading’
Jess – ‘We had loads of Christmas traditions as kids. The chocolate truffles my sister and I always made the week before (under the watchful eye of my mum and covering the kitchen floor with flour) to give family as little gifts; trips on the Severn Valley Steam Railway with my grandparents to visit Father Christmas, eating hot chestnuts and a picnic in the old fashioned train waiting room; wrapping presents and decorating the tree (exact even split of decorations between my sister and I); hanging up our stockings (mine with silver ribbon, Ellie’s with gold); visiting our old neighbours on Christmas morning to swap gifts, and of course watching The Santa Claus on repeat… Things have changed since then – less grandparents to flit between, more work commitments, more in-laws, and an ever smaller window of time to relax in. We have various ‘London Christmases’ with different groups of friends – big boozy dinners usually in early December, although it was November last year as no-one was free!! My boyfriend, flatmate and I go down to Columbia Road to get our Christmas tree (usually the tiniest one!) and drink mulled wine in the local pub. I decorate it while they moan ‘why we need one when we’re not going to be here at Christmas’ (I’ll never give in!). Then my family and I go to church at the top of our road on Christmas Eve (raucously singing carols). My sister got married there this year which makes it even more special. We alternate spending Christmas at my parents or my aunts, and it’s a lazy day spent eating, drinking and playing games. (For some reason pigs in blankets are known as ‘bad boys’ in our house? Anyone else?). Usually 2-3 dogs in various states of festive fancy dress. My dad makes an epic turkey curry on Boxing Day and keeps us going for days. It’s the only time of year when I fully switch off – time off work which doesn’t involve packing for holidays, weddings or much travel. My family are in Birmingham and my boyfriends are in Hull so there’s the inevitable split of time between the two, but its doable, before returning to our little London flat (with a very crispy Christmas tree) for a few precious days before back to work. Usually laden with lots of lovely things which makes a virtuous start to the year impossible!!!’
Kirsty – “Christmas for me starts on 21st December. It’s my mother’s birthday and it’s tradition in my family to put our Christmas trees up that day. Each year my husband and I go shopping for a real tree. We then put Christmas carols on the radio, open a bottle of wine and start decorating, whilst trying to keep our cat from climbing the branches or batting the baubles around the floor! 21st December may seem a bit late to hang our decorations, but I love that when Christmas day arrives it still feels all new and exciting! Christmas in my household runs over 3 days – Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day. My husband and I love the Icelandic tradition of Jolabokaflod (or “Yule book flood”) and give each other a gift of a book on Christmas Eve. We usually join our friends for a couple of festive drinks in the late afternoon and then spend the evening in companionable silence, snuggled up with our new books. My younger sister’s birthday falls on Christmas Day, so I start the day by sending her a text to say Happy Birthday. My husband and I then sit in bed with a cup of tea and open our presents. My husband complains that I’m difficult to buy presents, but all I need is a box of dark chocolates and a good book. We go to my parents’ house for Christmas dinner, usually with my sisters and their families. My parents live 3 miles away in the next village, so we usually walk there and back – a great way to burn off the Christmas indulgence! My father greats us at the door with a boozy festive drink and we crowd round the tree to exchange gifts. My dad insists on watching the Queen’s Speech before we sit down to lunch. We have a rule for lunch (started when I was little) that everyone has to have at least 2 sprouts. My mum still enforces this rule to my twin sister’s disgust! After a long lunch, we relax on the sofas, rub our overly-full bellies and chat the afternoon away. My husband and I make our departure in the early evening whilst everyone else gathers around the TV to watch the Christmas episode of ‘Dr Who’. We trek home and spend the evening in our pyjamas playing Scrabble or watching a movie together. Boxing Day is spent at my in-laws’ house where we are subjected to an absolutely crazy day with my husband’s parents, his four sisters and their partners, our six over-excited young nieces and nephews, 2 cats and 3 dogs. Compared to our chilled-out Christmas Day, Boxing Day is an exhausting and noisy whirlwind of food, presents and games – I love it! It might sound a bit clichéd, but family time is what a perfect Christmas means for me.”
Noemi – “Christmas is my favourite time of the year. I love all the lights, the decorations, the presents, and listening to Christmas songs everywhere I go. Although my dream of a perfect Christmas would be spending it in Lapland visiting Rovaniemi, Santa Claus’s village, with lot of snow and relaxing with a hot chocolate in front of a fireplace, I have always had a fantastic Christmas with my family. For me Christmas means celebrating with the whole big family. My mother has three sisters and one brother and, between cousins and in-laws, we are about twenty people on Christmas day and the number increases every year as my cousins get married and have children. We eat, we drink, and we play board games until the evening and I love every minute of it. My favourite Christmas’s were the ones when I was a child, when I still believed that Father Christmas came at night and left me presents under the tree. I remember loving the days leading to Christmas, the excitement, the last of days of school, and the Christmas school play. My sister and I would leave a letter on our Christmas tree with our requests, but I also remember our parents taking us to a toy store where we would choose what we wanted for Christmas because “then Father Christmas will stop by and pick them up” and we would run around the store deciding on our presents with my mother close by trying to convince us to choose a board game or an educational game instead of another Barbie doll. And then, the moment I had been waiting for arrived. I was a late riser, enjoying spending my mornings in bed, but Christmas was the one day of the year I got up early, excited to find out what Father Christmas had left for me. After unwrapping the presents, we had breakfast, got dressed, and then we all went to my grandparents house where there were more presents and more food. And the entire day was spent in hilarity and loud chats. Now, I am an adult and I still enjoy the days leading up to Christmas, although they are more stressful, but, I still spend it with my big, crazy, and loud family, so it’s still perfect.”
Simona – ‘When I hear the word ‘Christmas’, I think about pretty lights, Christmas songs, decorations, spending time with my family and taking a relaxing time off. That’s what my perfect Christmas needs to include. Christmas in Switzerland is a bit different to the one most of you are probably used too. Our presents are brought by the „Christkind“ (translated Child of Christ) on the evening of December 24. We are usually surrounded by closest family on Christmas Eve, we eat, sing, open presents and just enjoy the unique atmosphere. The 25th is spent with family as well, but we sleep in and go to church. That was a little excursion to our traditions, now let me talk about my perfect Christmas. I adore Christmas time. November is dark and gloomy, but then in December all these lights go on and create a wonderful atmosphere. Shops are full of decorations and ideas for presents and the darkness is suddenly something really lovely. My perfect Christmas entails so many little things. Baking cookies, watching Christmas movies, listening and singing Christmas songs, finding presents for friends and family and wrapping them. All this is part of December, which just makes it magical. Of course there are also lots of dinners and parties. Another thing is celebrating advent, Santa and Co. with my pupils at school. We have an advent calendar, make Christmas crafts and decorate the classroom. I love Christmas decor, it makes the house look so pretty and you can do so many things. You can either go with special colours like silver and blue or gold and red or have ornaments with Santa, reindeers etc. Christmas also means sleeping in, relaxing, eating a lot, mulled wine, spending time with family and friends, movies, decorating the Christmas tree with my mum and other simple, but important things. We eat Fondue Chinoise (meat fondue) for Christmas Eve and that’s always one of our highlights, mostly because somebody is bound to loose the meat in the water ! No matter what Christmas means to you and who you are with, make it special and do whatever makes you feel comfortable.’
Laura – ‘I adore Christmas and start getting excited about it months in advance. Seriously, the Christmas films started getting watched before Halloween and my extensive festive music collection creeps its way onto my iPod far too early for some people. I do *try* and keep the Christmas decorating at bay until the weekend closest to the start of December. Can’t peak too soon…Growing up, Christmas was always spent at my Grandparents house in Gloucester. They only lived 5 miles from us, so we saw them often, but for Christmas, we stayed over for several days. As I got older, Christmas changed. Grandad died in 2001 and I was now married and living in London, so when I came back for Christmas, it was with my husband in tow. I did a lot of the Christmas shopping on Grandma’s behalf so Christmas Eve was spent wrapping up all the gifts for various family members. It was done to a background of festive music, of course. We cut wrapping paper, stuck strips of sellotape to fingers, labelled and piled up the presents all day long. At some point, one of us would pop to the chip shop for fish and chips, and eventually we’d get to head to bed so Santa could do his rounds! Christmas day is never that formal. We don’t have a set time for lunch, but when we do finally sit down, there’s usually something we’ve forgotten. Crackers, stuffing, gravy, enough chairs…! The main presents are opened after lunch and the living room becomes a chaotic sea of wrapping paper. Now Grandma has also passed away, Christmas has changed again. We keep our tradition of Christmas Eve fish and chips (not easy last year finding one open on a Sunday!) and we’ve also adopted the Icelandic idea of exchanging the gift of a book on Christmas Eve and spending the evening reading. Any excuse, right? On Christmas day itself, we have something special for breakfast, open our gifts, cook and eat lunch and then maybe have family member’s pop round for nibbles and games. On Boxing Day, we fire up the BBQ, make up pizzas with the Christmas day leftovers and cook them on the BBQ, whilst the neighbours laugh at us, but secretly wish they could join in (bring a bottle and come over!). So, these days it’s a totally different Perfect Christmas than it used to be, and I miss my Grandparents so much at this time of year, but I feel so lucky to have had lots of noisy, crazy Christmases’ with the family. Now it’s filled with two excitable cats pouncing on wrapping paper and meowing for pieces of turkey. Bring on Christmas 2018!’
Sharon – ‘For me, Christmas starts at the Winter Solstice when the Autumn term is over. We gather our greenery after the turn of the wheel and decorate our home with holly, ivy and evergreen. These earthy aromas definitely play a big part in my perfect Christmas. Memories always surface. It just wouldn’t be Christmas without it … or without family who gather the greenery with me. I never take it for granted that the son who’s flown the nest will come home. Recently he said he had booked holiday from work for over the Christmas period and looked shocked when I asked him where he was going. It makes my heart sing that he still loves to spend time with us! Having us all together (yes, including the arguments!) is what makes my Christmas perfect. We’re not always in each other’s space … I’m always guaranteed new books to read and balls of luscious yarn so in the lull of the festivities I’ll be lost in another world or planning/starting a new crochet project. A perfect balance! It doesn’t matter what we do or when we do it (although a Bucks Fizz/Prosecco to start the day on 25th has become a ritual J), it really is about family for me – especially now it’s getting smaller the older we get. Having people around me who love me unconditionally is my perfect Christmas – cheesy but true!’
Joanna – ‘Our Christmas has started to vary over the last few years. Growing up I loved nothing better than to be at home with my mum, dad and brother. We would go to church in the morning (and maybe sneak in one present opening beforehand). Once we came back, Mum would make all these delicious snacks and we would eat them and take turns opening presents while the Christmas dinner was cooking. We’d eat around 3pm and have the Queen on the TV. Then we would be in a post-eating stupor watching TV and me curled up in a comfy spot, reading until bed time. Now Christmas looks a little different, spending time with 2 sets of parents and my brother and his wife, and having our little toddler running around. We tend to go to church on Christmas Eve now (I quite enjoy going to a midnight mass service) and have a new tradition of going to a family friends’ for a Christmas Eve gathering. On the day itself we still make family (and food) a priority and now mostly of course it’s all about our daughter, although a lot of those childhood traditions still stand. This year will be VERY different as last year she was too small to pull down the Christmas tree and all the decorations! It will, no doubt, be interesting…I guess my perfect Christmas would be being with family, having dinner cooked for me, playing and running around with our little one and lounging on a comfy chair reading all the books I’ve been given for Christmas. But Christmas is pretty much perfect as it is with a bit of chaos, travelling to and fro, and most of all, having a loving family around me. I won’t ever take that for granted.’
Amanda – ‘My Christmas starts with a new notebook and the first of the many lists I’ll make, most of which I’ll totally ignore. The Christmas goodies begin to appear on the supermarket shelves and the festive TV ads creep into our living rooms. Marks and Spencer’s food whets the appetite as it pops and splatters all over the TV screen, and I’ll elbow my way through supermarket crowds to buy enough of the stuff to make sure we’re still eating party food from the freezer at Easter. There’s a real sense of excitement and of great anticipation, though it begins to fade a little when the shops gradually reduce the prices of all my purchases and I lose the will to live trying to chase those online orders that haven’t yet materialised. Gone are the days when on Christmas morning I’d take multi-tasking to a whole new level. Basting the turkey while mixing the stuffing and trying to assemble a fairy castle from a box of plastic pieces and a sheet of stickers. These days we have the whole family for dinner on Christmas Eve, the grandchildren quivering with excitement. Then, on the day itself, it’s off to see what Santa brought and to spend the day playing delightful games such as Pie Face and making slime, and trawling through a mountain of wrapping paper, looking for that vital missing something or other. When I’ve eaten so much that I can hardly move and my mouth has gone all tingly and numb from too many salted peanuts, it’s time to head home. Then it’s just me, Mr. N. and the dog, and at last I can dive into my book!! Before I know it, it’ll all be over. There’ll be that tiresome task of packing away the decorations, and all that will be left of Christmas will be an overflowing dustbin, half a stone on my bum and my tum, and bits of glitter, that no matter how much I vacuum, still twinkle at me from the depths of the carpet. My Christmas is full of laughter and sometimes tears. Of remembering those loved ones that are no longer with us, and of making memories with those we love. It’s often filled with drama and disasters: whether it’s the tree spectacularly crashing to the floor, or the mysterious disappearance of the chocolate decorations that were dangling on it. Is it perfect? Never! But it’s my Christmas and I wouldn’t have it any other way.’
Paige Toon – ‘I love a nice, long build-up to Christmas and this year we’re starting half-way through November with three majorly festive things planned: Lapland UK, Anglesey Abbey Winter Lights and a trip to Vienna, Austria to visit the Christmas markets with friends. But Christmas really kicks off in early December when we take the kids to choose our Christmas tree. We usually end up buying the first one that we see, but will spend at least fifteen more minutes checking out other options. Then it’s home to whack on the Christmas music – Fairytale of New York by The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl, I Believe in Father Christmas by Greg Lake, Stop the Cavalry by Jona Lewie and Do They Know it’s Christmas? by Bandaid are all firm family favourites. Christmas has become even more magical since having children, and it makes me so happy to see them helping to decorate the tree while the oven warms up the first mince pie of the season. As the kids are in school, December is generally packed full of fun, festive things to do, including the school fete, carols, Christmas plays and local nativities. Once school breaks up, we get together with our extended family, whether that’s up north in Yorkshire with my husband’s side of the family, in Australia or somewhere in between with mine, or in Cambridge if we’re hosting, and these days are some of my favourite of the year. Christmas Day itself starts early when the kids pile into bed with us and excitedly open stockings full of presents from Santa. At a more reasonable hour, we head to the living room for a mammoth present-opening session around the tree with the rest of the family, hopefully with a glass of Buck’s Fizz to hand. Although I grew up in Australia where Christmas falls in the height of summer, roast turkey has always been on the menu. Last year, everyone came to us, and I got so carried away with my excitement about hosting that I managed to order the biggest turkey my mum had ever seen – and she used to do Christmas for twelve when I was growing up! Unfortunately, the Christmas tree is pretty dry and crispy by the time the big day rolls around, and it certainly never lasts until the 6 of January when you’re supposed to take them down. But once New Year is out of the way, I’m ready for a fresh start. Phew!’