I'm suddenly SO excited about Christmas. It's taken a while - I haven't really been feeling it at all up until last week, but I'm well and truly in the festive spirit now. Not least because this year I'm having more than two weeks off work - something I've never done before! In the ten years I've been working, the longest holiday I've ever had is just under two weeks, so this is VERY exciting indeed. I'm not even doing any freelancing.
Anyway, the reason I've managed to finally get in the mood is due in no small part to some of my favourite Christmas traditions, which I thought it'd be nice to share...
1) A real tree
I always have a real tree. My parents were (are) quite snobby about it so it's never occurred to me to have a fake one. Last year I bought a small potted tree, but it sadly died in my garden earlier in the year. So this year I've gone for a cut beauty - it's a 5 footer and is decorated with glass, white and silver decorations. Mostly because I can't be trusted with colour not to go mad and end up with something tacky (and not in a kitsch way).
2) A tin of Quality Street
The second these go on offer for a fiver a tin, or two-for-one, at the supermarket/petrol station, I know Christmas is around the corner. I usually manage to eat most of them before Christmas Day, which means that I end up taking the coconut and orange cremes to my parents' house, where they get ignored until someone gets desperate or we run out of cheese. My favourite is a toss up between the toffee penny and the toffee finger, in case you're wondering.
3) The Sounds of Christmas by Cavatina
This is THE album I put on when I want to feel Christmassy. I grew up with it - my mum bought it in Our Price (remember them?) when I was about 12. It's basically a combination of flute and harp, playing a variety of random Christmas songs, but the first one is the best - Sleigh Ride - literally I hear three bars of it and I feel ridiculously festive. It's the CD we always used to put on while we were decorating the tree, so I still do today. The original disc got lost somewhere when we moved house, but I managed to find it on iTunes about two years ago, so burnt my parents and my sister a copy. I love it.
4) Bacon and eggs on Christmas morning
Not much to say about this really. But Christmas starts with a fry up, and continues down its gluttonous path till my Dad whisks up his Boxing Day soup made with the leftover stilton.
5) Making gingerbread that no one eats
I can't cook, but I quite enjoy making this once a year. I usually eat about two of them, then throw the rest away as I always make loads, and no one seems to trust my baking enough to try them. But it's more about the journey than the destination anyway. These were last year's efforts!
6) Bendicks Bittermints
I'm obsessed with mint. My aunt always used to buy the yard-long box for Christmas every year, and even as a child I'd manage to eat three in a row without feeling (too) sick. They are, quite simply, amazing.
7) Presents on Christmas Eve, after dinner (which is always my mum's beef-in-beer stew)
I'm not sure when this started, or why, but I think it was something to do with the fact that my sister and I were such absolutely spoilt brats that we had so many presents there wasn't enough time on Christmas Day to get through them all. So now we usually do our immediate family (my Mum, Dad, sister and my) ones on Christmas Eve, then save the rest for Christmas Day.
I'll be honest with you. I NEVER play boardgames. Never. I'd like to pretend that I spend my evenings in ruminating over a tricky bout of Monopoly, but it's more likely to be the Glee boxset. No ruminating involved. But Scrabble is still my favourite game of all time. Because I usually win. I play this approximately twice a year, both times at Christmas - once with my Dad and once with O. Last year I was given the Christmas version, which is brilliant because you get extra points for words like 'mistletoe' (OK, admittedly have yet to use that one) and 'carol'. It will definitely be making an appearance again this year.
That's about it really. There's no midnight mass or carol singing, or trip to the pub for my family. We tend to watch whatever DVDs we've been given and eat a lot. And fall asleep. And bicker. And drink an awful lot of Prosecco.
I can't wait.
Wishing you all a very merry Christmas.