I’m a hopeless sucker for Christmas. The smell of the tree. The twinkly things. The fact that it’s absolutely acceptable to have prosecco with breakfast. And also absolutely acceptable to hang out in your pyjamas until midday, watching old movies and playing board games.
Marriage has seen me alternating between Christmases in Norfolk where my Auntie owns a very old, very massive and very charming barn, and Dubai, where my hubby’s family live for most of the year. Christmases in our family begin with ceremonial sprout peeling on Christmas eve evening (woe betide anyone who doesn’t score a cross in the bottom) and end with bubble and squeak on Boxing Day. At interludes we pile out into the countryside with full bellies and a rabble of badly trained dogs. The weather is always atrocious but the log burner keeps us roasting nicely.
Dubai is an altogether warmer and glitzier affair. The first year I went I was admittedly alarmed by the idea of eating Christmas dinner out. Well, I’m a convert. Christmas buffets in Dubai are a sight to behold. Rooms and rooms (and yet more rooms) are laid with food from every kind of world tradition you can imagine. My logic at this juncture is pretty much to shun poor humdrum turkey and veg in favour of lobster, oysters and coconut water coladas. At some point in the afternoon Santa will drift by on a dhow, a band of supermodel-worthy elves throwing chocolates into people’s laps.
Now you’ve got the gist, here are some Christmases that particularly stand out in my mind:
The year our old dog Lulu clearly grew tired of the festivities and ran off into the night. It was decided (after many a glass of wine) that a surefire way to find her would be to drive the car into a field and spot her big blonde body with the headlights. What could go wrong? Perhaps the car getting bogged down in swamp and snow? You bet. We eventually abandoned it and went back to the cheese board, returning in the morning with carpet and shovels. My grandpa contributed a casual lean on the bonnet. I went one better by designating myself event photographer. The dog returned of her own accord of course, as coddled domesticated dogs are inclined to do when it’s dark and sub-zero.
Next comes the year my mum decided to brine the turkey in a bucket of water, salt and spices a la Nigella. The poor thing sat mournfully outside the garage for a full 48 hours before being stuffed, roasted and declared absolutely no different to every other turkey in the history of turkeys.
Side note: I can also declare Jamie Oliver’s insanely labour-intensive gravy – which demands about twenty quids-worth of chicken wings and vegetables – as absolutely no better than any other gravy ever and significantly worse than my Nana’s famous gravy. The lesson here: don’t be seduced by the chefs’ Christmas specials!
However, as turkey stories go this is surely superseded by the year mum read about the supposed genius of cooking the turkey on its back and then turning it. It took three of us and an arsenal of kitchen utensils to flip the beast, which promptly disintegrated into a meaty mess, but not before spraying about a litre of fat down my silk Reiss skirt. Win.
But first prize goes to this one from last year: Up in Norfolk my mum was instructed to put the turkey in the fridge in the adjoining holiday cottage. Alas, returning on Christmas morning to emancipate said turkey for its final fate, she found it frozen solid. As in, could-be-used-as-a-battering-ram solid. So they had festive beef instead. I say ‘They’, because I was at this point on my my fourth coconut colada on the creek ;).
Every family has its own Christmas traditions (what can I say, merciless turkey innovation is clearly ours). Whatever Christmas means to you, whether you stay in or go out, get the whole gang round or just a few family, whether you have turkey or beef or nut roast or salmon, I think there are some Christmas truths you can most definitely count on:
- One mince pie tastes exactly the same as 36 mince pies. Sad but true.
- Dirty dishes will sit happily by the sink while you sit down with a glass of something and rest your head on someone’s shoulder. We often shove ours outside the back door until the following morning. They haven’t once complained.
- To build on that theme: there are no points given at the pearly gates for stress in the name of selflessness. The aim here isn’t to run yourself ragged for the sake of family then crawl into the new year spent and sucked dry. Turn some of that goodwill on yourself baby.
- Your presence is more important than your presents. BE with people. Gifts are a bonus.
- Someone will likely get drunk and someone will likely get upset. It’s all part of the rich tapestry of Christmas. Don’t fuel the drama or take it personally.
- One glass of water for every glass of alcohol will prevent you waking up on the 27th feeling like your eyeballs have been freeze dried
- Daily movement and fresh air will prevent you waking up on the 27th feeling like a pig in a blanket
- The retailers selling you brandy clotted cream and goose fat now will switch to salads and sports bras in January. It’s not you; it’s them.
- It is your duty as a British citizen to seem interested in the Queen’s speech then fall asleep the minute it starts
- It really is the thought that counts
- Nothing beats a deep breath in a quiet place
- You’ll remember why you don’t eat turkey more often, i.e., because it’s boring and not as nice as chicken.
I’d absolutely LOVE to hear your Christmas truths. You can pop them in the comment box below and I’ll post the best on Facebook.
All that remains to be said is have a very Merry Christmas and a superbly Happy New Year. See you on the other side.
P.S. Last year I hosted a webinar about how to survive Christmas. I’m talking, how to deal with Christmas parties, Christmas peer pressure, Christmas food, Christmas booze and Christmas perfectionism. You can listen to the recording of that for absolute free right here.