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Finally, Christmas Day

28 Dec

The best of all gifts around any Christmas tree is the presence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other.  Burton Hills. 

‘Tis the season to be soppy…

I wondered whether it was worth sharing details of our Christmas Day because it was the same as last year, and every year.  I could have just re-posted last Christmas Day’s blog.

I’ll tell you about our little traditions:

  • No one allowed in the lounge until tea has been made – I can’t function without my morning tea and we need time to set up the camera: no spontaneity in this house; everything must be recorded for posterity.  When my children are grown and ignoring my calls I want to be able to look back at expensive times and know that I got some things right.
  • We all write clues on the presents and have to guess what we’ve got before we open them.  The Hub started that tradition.  He is the best at guessing and the worst at writing them: What do you get if you cross a dog with a tie?  Answer: three pairs of knickers (panties-pant-dogs pant-ties-plural, not singular).
  • He insists I tell you this one as well, to prove that they’re not all bad.  See if you can work it out; I did, but that’s not saying much because I’d dropped hints all year that I wanted it.  You’ll find the answer at the end: Smell like Julia Oscar Oscar Papa.
  • We open one present at a time, taking turns; it is all very civilised.  Everyone sees what everyone else has received, and appreciative noises can be made.  We always splurge at Christmas and we don’t want our children to be ungrateful brats, so we lead by example.  We have main (expensive/Christmas-listed) presents and (cheap) stocking fillers – socks, chocs and funny things.  The appreciation comes from the thought that has gone into the giving, wrapping and clues.
  • We use a lot of the same wrapping.  Some years ago our local pound shop had Christmas gift box sets for sale and the Hub went mad.  They come in different shapes and sizes and they are great for disguising presents e.g. Tory Boy squashed my Maltesers into a t-shirt and then a small box so they couldn’t rattle – unlike the Hub, who gave up this year and just stuck a bow on each box and bag.  We also have lots of cloth gift bags, knitted stockings, little homemade bags and boxes I’ve picked up over the years.  Even tins.  I tried to put one of the boys’ presents into a lovely M&S Christmas biscuit tin and the Hub said I couldn’t do that so wasn’t he surprised to find a pair of tracksuit pants in that same tin?  No; he knows what I’m like.  It’s not about saving money (hardly; I buy more each year) but about the fun of family traditions.
  • We have a bin bag at the ready for the discarded wrapping and I sort it all later for re-using, recycling or binning. 
  • After we’re done I make tea and toast for us all with, get this, the toast being served on one plate and crumbs allowed to fall while we eat.  I refuse to spend my Christmas Day worrying about the dishes.
  • Then the Hub goes to bed for a couple of hours and the boys disappear to their rooms with their swag.  We each have our own sack that the gifts are popped into as we unwrap, so carting them upstairs is easy.
  • The lounge is tidied and vacuumed (usually by me but TB obliged this time) and then I stretch out on the couch, eat sweets and watch a bit of telly before starting Christmas dinner.  Don’t feel sorry for Tilly-No-Mates – I have been working my backside off for a month and I cherish those two hours of peace and solitude and cheesy Christmas films.

I forgot to take photos of this year's table but you've probably guessed by now that it looks the same every year, more or less; so here's last year's table

  • The turkey & gammon are always cooked on Christmas Eve because I refuse to spend all of Christmas Day in the kitchen (I might have said something similar already); the rest of the meal is quick and easy to do.  The menu varies only in the additions we make each year.  We haven’t had a starter since the disastrous green pears of 1986; but last year I made prawn cocktail in an Abigail’s Party flashback and it went down so well I did it again this year.  We always have a gezillion puddings that last until Easter.  Which leaves the main course:
  • 3 meats – turkey, gammon and a new bacon and sprout leaves recipe the Hub tried.  I’m thinking of including chippolata sausages next year because it felt like something was missing.
  • 3 potatoes – roast, mash and cheese roast, the latter courtesy of Tesco’s marked down shelf.
  • 8 vegetables – sprouts (proper sprouts, not that fancy-schmancy bacon thing), carrots, leeks, parsnips, peas, cauliflower, green beans, broccoli (not much different from my usual roasts, if I’m honest; I like vegetables).
  • Yorkshire Puddings (shop-bought but I have a new stove so I’m going to try and make my own again next year).
  • Gravy – another good thing about cooking the meat the night before is the stock has settled and the fat can be skimmed off for the roasties, leaving a non-greasy and delicious gravy to polish off the meal.
  • After dinner we usually retire to the living room for a movie.
  • The Hub and I normally clear up, a habit acquired from years of hosting Christmas for the extended family that we never quite shook off.  This year I decided to change that tradition because the boys are way big enough to be doing it, but I had to take over because they didn’t know which were the dishes to dishwashed; which dishes to be handwashed, dried and put away for next year; which dishes to be handwashed, dried and put away for other special occasions; which dishes were to be handwashed, dried and left out for re-use; and which dishes to be handwashed and left to air dry and thus not put away.  There are some jobs only a mother can do and she gets a bit precious about it, if I’m honest.
  • While that was going on the Hub had to go to bed again; he always does so much more to help than he should that he never really enjoys Christmas Day because he feels too ill.
  • Then it was plonk in front of the telly for Doctor Who, The Royle Family and other assorted Christmas specials.

You may notice there was no dog walk in that rigid itinerary.  It is the one day of the year that we don’t take them out; there is just too much to do.  The funny thing is, they seem to know.  Hardly surprising, because it is an odd day: everyone is up at the same time; there’s lots of noise, laughter and paper to chew, and a few presents for cute doggies; then they are stuffed full of delicious meat treats all day long.  They didn’t once ask for their walk, and Toby even went to bed early, tired from all the excitement.

The boys went to bed early on Christmas Eve: Tory Boy arrived home just before nine and was shattered from working all day and then the journey home; Spud was just excited.  I went up to do some last-minute wrapping in our room and I heard TB say to his Dad, ‘Isn’t Mum going to read us The Night Before Christmas?’  Let me remind you that Tory Boy is twenty.  However, reading The Night Before Christmas to the boys on Christmas Eve is one of our longest-held traditions, so that’s what I did.  And I was glad to; it is Christmas, after all.

*

Answer: A bottle of Joop perfume.  How did you do?

This became one of my favourite perfumes by accident.  Back in my Cosmo-reading days I often saw Joy advertised as the most expensive perfume in the world and regularly told the Hub I would love to own some.  Once he started travelling for his job he spent a lot of time in Duty Free buying guilt gifts for Tory Boy and me; he proudly came home one day with a bottle of the most expensive perfume in the world, which he had found strangely reasonably priced.  He had confused the name, of course; but I didn’t mind because Joop is a lovely perfume.

But I have still never smelled Joy; never mind owning some.

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