I always take a little break over the Christmas/New Year period, so I wanted to end my posting year with something which shared what I love about the festive season.
1 Magazines – this is where it all starts. I buy pretty much every Christmas magazine available and start to browse early. Partly it’s to get into the festive spirit, partly it’s for ideas and inspiration for decor or gifts. The aim is not to buy new stuff, but to re-use, re-present or re-purpose what I already have in a new and pleasing way.
2 Outdoor lights – decorating shops, houses, lamp posts, outdoor trees and shrubbery, as well as interiors. While I’ve a preference for the subtle, warm white options, I can’t deny that I do enjoy having the opportunity of going OMG! to the over-the-top offerings 😉 I love that this lovely local antique shop always loads it’s window with children’s toys for Christmas and keeps the lighting warm.
3 Carols at Kings – the Christmas Eve carol service from Kings College, Cambridge with their famed choristers leading the way. Just heavenly.
4 My nativity set – brought up a Catholic (if now agnostic) I love my Spanish porcelain mix-and-match set, which is always present in my festive decorating every year.
5 Children (and grandchildren) – do change the nature of Christmas. There’s early morning starts (ridiculously early generally), a lot of excitement, noise and mess. I’ve loved it in the past, but now with my daughter being married and recent lockdowns, not every Christmas Day gets to be spent with them. While I will miss my darling girl and little germbugs this year, I’m looking forward to a grown-up Christmas à deux with Himself. A picnic at the seaside beckons if the weather behaves, so keep your fingers crossed for us 🙂
6 Wreath – some years ago, I indulged myself in an expensive faux greenery wreath which has proven to be worth every penny. Each year I decorate it myself, and gain great pleasure in deciding what my look for the year will be. In our apartment, it’s now hung up on an inside wall as the decorations kept catching on our clothing as we came through the front door. Here’s a photo from the last time it was on the front door…
7 Decorating the front door – ever since the wreath debacle caused by the entrance to our apartment being too narrow (and we’ll not discuss Himself’s shoe pile making it even narrower), I’ve gone for different options on our front door to the wreath. It’s a light and sold interior door, going into our apartment from a shared hallway, so there’s no value in adding lights to it or room for stuff around it. This year I’m considering tying a large red cellophane ribbon on it, somewhat like this image from Ideal Home…
8 Stockings – Himself is a nightmare to shop for. If he wants (or needs) something, he likes to research it to death before buying it for himself, so it’s a challenge each & every year to find something he’ll enjoy. There have been some major hits in his stocking, which fortunately overshadow the also-rans, but it does mean that bar is kept ever so high and I wonder – each year – whether this will be this year when I strike out. But I love doing it, so on I go.
9 Something you… want, something you need, something to read, something to wear, something to share – a useful mantra and starting point for the filling of those stockings.
10 Tree – I’ve had everything from real to faux to wooden, from 6 footers to 2 foot, and even one year without a tree at all. Himself rushed out to buy me a small faux tree last year when our wooden tree bit the dust just after I’d got the lights on it. I do like the smell of a real tree, but prefer a pre-light faux one as it’s one less task to do. I’ve built up beautiful decorations over the years, but part with a few each year to my daughter, as her daughter manages to break one in all the excitement (and I have more than we need now that 6 foot tree is a thing of the past).
11 Decorations – when I first moved out, I always went home for Christmas where my mother did an amazing job of decorating not only a big tree, but the entre house. My first tree was bought after my daughter was born, so all the decorations were non-breakable. As time has gone on, I’ve upgraded. For years I had a small decorations budget, self-imposed so I didn’t go crazy, but it still allowed me to build up quite the collection. I tend to stick to the traditional colours of red, white, gold and glass.
12 Advent Calendar – I’m not a fan of the ones with chocolate behind each door, or the ridiculous luxury brands containing make-up, skin care et al. I didn’t have an advent calendar growing up as we lived up in the tropics where they didn’t have such things. My daughter always had one, but it was of the open-a-window-to-a-picture sort, or a selection of ideas and activities to do with a festive theme as she grew older.
13 Advent candle – when my daughter was at home, we always lit a candle we’d bought with the days marked out on the side, allowing it to burn till the mark was reached. My mother (and the catholic church I went to in earlier years) always had an advent wreath, where first a single candle, then 2, 3 and finally all 4 would burn over the 4 week period. I really liked this practice, perhaps as it felt somewhat pagan in origin. This is the third year I’ve been without an advent candle as, sadly, Himself suffers from breathing discomfort with burning candles, meaning all candles in our house are now battery powered. It’s still pretty, and means I don’t spend a fortune on them anymore.
14 Seasonal reading – I select books with a wintery feel each year in December to round off my year’s reading. There’s no need for them to take place at Christmas itself, or to be in any way about the holidays, more that there’s a wintery, preferably snowy, feel to them. Often there’ll be a cozy mystery and a Scandi-noir thriller somewhere in the mix. It’s how I found the next item on my list…
15 The Christmas Mystery – a gorgeous short book from Jostein Gaarder written in the form of an advent calendar, with one chapter per day to be read. It is utterly charming and I highly commend it to you.
16 Wrapping – I get as much fun from wrapping the gifts as I do choosing them, sometimes more. I stopped feeling so bad about this aspect of myself when I read that Annabel Lewis – who used to be a florist – switched to opening a magnificent haberdashery, because she loved the ribbons and trimmings even more than the flowers. Her shop, in a gorgeous part of London where my daughter used to live, is both a treasure trove and a massive danger to my bank account. You can find her online at V V Rouleaux if you fancy a browse.
17 Rat Pack – like most of us, I decorate my home to the sounds of festive music. I try to get it mostly done in one day, so that the disruption in our small flat is minimised, and the old favourites help to keep up my enthusiasm and energy. I was brought up with my parents’ taste in music, so Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Dean Martin et al feature heavily. But there’s also that infamous bad boy, Phil Specter, in the mix too.
18 Chocolates – I don’t have a sweet tooth so chocolates aren’t my downfall, but I do like to indulge a little bit for Christmas. As it’s an indulgence, we do get good quality chocolate – if you’re only having a little, have the best you can afford is my mantra.
19 Mulled apple juice – I was never the biggest fan of mulled wine, even though I loved the smell of the spices. This problem was solved one December when wandering through Borough Market in London where there was a vendor selling mulled apple juice instead. I’ve been a fan ever since and look forward to the smell (and the taste); it’s one of those things which makes the run up to Christmas special.
20 Christmas jumpers – I don’t wear one and never have, but every year I see one which makes me smile while I’m out doing everyday stuff. This year, I’ve spotted someone advertising Christmas leggings – and I’m not sure quite how I feel about that!
21 Festive earrings – these I do wear, I no longer have the wide selection of old, before my ears became fussy about what I stuck through them. They been advertising some very sparkly drop earrings in a tree shape which I’m hugely tempted by, although they may go in my stocking.
22 Festive food – is not turkey for me. My mother was a big fan of turkey, the rest of the family loved ham, so we had both at family gathering,s or whoever was hosting my mother on the big day. Himself isn’t a fan of festive food, but indulges me in my love of ham. He’s not a fan of my stuffing which is American in style rather than British, nor my gravy which is the same. But he tolerates it, together with my love for the entirely British bread sauce, even allowing me into the kitchen to produce it. Ahhhh happiness!
23 Crackers – an important part of the celebrating for me for me is a properly laid table, with crackers. Nice china, sparkling glassware, proper napkins, my glass turkey bowl for cranberry sauce, my star shaped Christmassy Emma Bridgewater dish for my special stuffing and my big white turkey plate (which gets wheeled out even when not having turkey).
24 Boxing Day – a uniquely British tradition which I absolutely love. It turns the festive season into a longer break. When you’re partnered up it allows you to celebrate with each family in turn and not have to cram ’em all in on the big day itself. Or if you have decided to cram ’em all in, to have a day to yourself to recover. There’s also something rather fab about the traditional fare of cold ham and pickles.
25 Ave Maria – it’s not Christmas until I’ve heard Pavarotti singing Ave Maria. Sometimes I’ll just pop in my earbuds and listen in bed before falling asleep on Christmas Eve night – often more than just the once 🙂
I wish you all a not too frantic run up to the Big Day and thank you for your company this year. Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays, and may it be a good one whatever & however you celebrate. I look forward to seeing you again sometime in January 2023!