Sunday, December 24, 2006


I'd already noticed that newsreaders had stopped saying the word Christmas, but last night on the tube the announcer detailing the myriad cancellations over the next few days referred to it as "The Festive Period."

I was on my way to see The Pipettes play at The Roundhouse in Camden, which is oh, so, SO much nicer since it's been renovated. The audience ranged from little girls dolled up as Pipette-ettes with beehived hair and brightly coloured mini dresses, to senior citizens in leopard skin - damn, I should have taken my camera. I guess their 60s harmonising appeals to all ages, everyone was swaying and clapping along. It felt kind of intrepid going out last night; woolly hat, gloves, big overcoat, thick tights and flat boots covering a lace shift dress - my one concession to it being a night out on the tiles.

Today is a day of wrapping presents, ready for the family get together tomorrow.
All this talk in the newspapers of British folk not having any traditions left falls flat on it's face when confronted with our Christmas day. There are usually about twenty of us and there's an order to proceedings which is rarely altered, not enforced in any way but it just always goes like this:

12 noon: Arrive bearing gifts, admire big tree with sea of presents around the base to which you add yours. Greet everybody, merry Christmas, merry Christmas, kisses, say hi to dogs, suppress pang of missing Lola.

Champagne, squares of smoked salmon on wholemeal bread with lemon and black pepper passed round. Loud nattering ensues (largely female family).

2.30 - 3pm, lunch: Turkey, stuffing, pigs in blankets (sausage and bacon rolls), sweet red cabbage, roast parsnips and potatoes, Brussel sprouts and chestnuts, gravy, bread sauce, cranberry sauce, red wine, oh I know I've forgotten something...all made from scratch (obviously) by either of my superwoman aunts with Agas.

A pause between courses to pull crackers, tell the jokes, put on the hats and clear up a bit.

Lights dimmed for Christmas pudding alight, brandy butter, a couple of other desserts - pavlova, maybe a fruit crumble, mince pies.

Cheeses, including stilton of course; celery, grapes.

Retire to open presents. Someone is designated to pass them round; it used to be the smallest cousin dressed as Santa, in fact it's still usually the youngest. Then follows a frenzy of unwrapping, thanking etc. Clearing up and making a wobbly pile of all your presents.

At this point without fail everyone falls asleep. When we were younger my cousins and I would giggle at all the grown ups snoring with their mouths open, and would take photos up their noses. Now guess who's lying in a heap of arms and legs?

Tea is served. More mince pies, Christmas cake.

The controversial walk. It's lovely to gather the dogs, put your wellies on, wrap up warm and go out in the pitch black, where (out in the countryside) you can see the stars blanketing the sky. Sometimes carols are sung reedily and tunelessly.
Often, people can't be bothered to go for a walk and by people I mean me. This is something I always regret. The walk is the most important thing I'm beginning to think.

More drinks and general lounging. Charades!

Then later on my very favourite: The turkey sandwich (with cranberry sauce, mayonnaise and stuffing) and other leftovers.

Say goodnight and dozily stumble towards bed for the night.

And that my friends, is Christmas day. And I wouldn't miss it for the world.


Anonymous said...

*signal for one word*

*first word*

*drops to the floor with eyes fluttering*

SWOON! our team wins!! did I tell you I'm a crack charades player? And-- I loved this recounting-- each detail-- there is such pleasure in ritual and tradition and, of course, turkey sandwiches with mayo and cranberry!

Happy happy Christmas to you and your bevy of aunties, et al--


Anonymous said...

The only different thing here will be the food, everything else is going to be absolutely identical.
ps: do I have to add that I finished my Christmas shopping only minutes ago?

lottie said...

I second keeping 'Christmas' - we don't need festive seasons or holidays! Have a fantastic time - we can compare 'Christmases' in the new year. c x

l'embrouillamini said...

Have yourself a Merry Christmas :) Yours sounds fab - being with the family is what it's all about! The food comes close second though :D x

Annie said...

Love this post! While a dog's life seems to be Christmas Day everyday, gathering the beasts for chilly walks and carols must be just as great for them as it is for us...
My dog Bonnie got a little bit of scrambled egg for breakfast, a bone this afternoon, a long walk, and is now heading out to the frosty golf course for a long romp - oh and in-between times she's happily nestled in front of the fire. I think her Christmas Day was better than mine, and mine was pretty darn great!
Down with "The Festive Period" and Up with "Christmas"!!!