Although we love to travel, we have always spent Christmas at home in England. Not for us the snowy ski slopes of the Alps, or the tropical shores of the Caribbean or Far East. Tempting as the latter sound, we save trips to warmer climes for February, when the long chilly season is really dragging. Christmas is a time for the comforts of home, and for family.
So here are some of our traditions, and a few treats, shared for the Friendly Friday Christmas party. I’m also sharing this for Amy’s Lens Artists Challenge celebrating theme. And I’ve thrown in some song lyrics for Terri’s Sunday Stills challenge!
I'll be home for Christmas; You can count on me. Please have snow and mistletoe And presents on the tree.
Christmas Eve will find me Where the love-light gleams. I'll be home for Christmas If only in my dreams.
My mother was totally unreligious but nevertheless the traditions of our family Christmases were sacrosanct for her. My sister and I have many happy memories of those times, all the more vivid perhaps because every year was almost always the same! The photos below are from 1961, when I was six and my sister four; but they could have been taken any year!
After we married my husband and I settled into a pattern of spending alternate Christmases with my family and his; mine in north west London, his in Newcastle. I adopted some of their traditions, but I have to admit imposed more of mine on them!
For the last few years, since our respective parents are all no longer with us, we have spent Christmas with my sister and her family; or last year, thanks to lockdown, just the two of us together at home. Let me show you what Christmas looks like to us.
How London celebrates
And it's Christmas time in the city When the air is filled with cheer And the storefronts look this pretty only once a year
The various parts of London, or even individual streets, each have their own decorations: Oxford Street, Regent Street, Carnaby Street, Mayfair, the South Bank and so on. The photos below were taken in different years but are all typical.
How we celebrate
I don’t like Christmas to start too early; somehow it takes the edge off the fun and the decorations become part of the normal backdrop to life rather than something special. But as we move into December I start to shop for gifts and to bake. Wherever we are spending Christmas, at our house or my sister’s (or this year for the first time at my nephew’s), I am responsible for the pudding and the cake. And both have to be traditional!
Now, bring us some figgy pudding, Now, bring us some figgy pudding, Now, bring us some figgy pudding, and bring it out here!
For the pudding I usually turn to my mother’s old recipe, which she got from the cook book that came with her first ever cooker when my parents married in in 1953! And for the cake I used to use a recipe from one of my first cookery books. However I’ve recently discovered the wonders of Nigella Lawson’s traditional cake. I have her Christmas cookbook but you can also find the recipe in several places online, such as this old Guardian article. The secret of its success lies, I suspect, in the amount of alcohol (I use brandy) and the soaking of the fruit overnight.
Once made the cake must rest for a few weeks, with regular dousings of more brandy, before covering with marzipan and icing. I enjoy trying to make it look pretty; but I don’t think I’m any threat to the Great British Bake Off contestants!
December is also the time for wrapping gifts and celebrating with friends.
Deck the halls with boughs of holly Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la 'Tis the season to be jolly Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la
We decorate our home ten days to a week before the big day. And the decorations must stay up until Twelfth Night and must be taken down on that day. My mother taught me that to do anything else brings bad luck. And as I said at the start, her traditions were sacrosanct!
So now we are ready to celebrate; let the Friendly Friday party begin!
May your days be merry and bright And may all your Christmases be white.
As for the aftermath …