Festive cheer and Christmas reflection

**Rebekah Ellerby: ** Christmas in my household is a fairly traditional affair, except that I’m strangely lacking in available family members. Being an only child and having fairly odd grandparents, my parents and I either go to Scotland to stay with my only two cousins and it never snows, or we stay home alone. Or not quite so alone! The marvelous family friends come to stay.

The day will go something like this: wake up, open giant stocking that Mum always overfills, desperately plead to open more presents, have some sort of exciting breakfast, go to church and sing lots of carols and gaze adoringly at whichever boy has currently taken my fancy, head home, make obligatory family phone calls, follow Delia’s Christmas (essential guide to the cooking and drinking necessary to Christmas day), friends arrive, more presents, board games, watch Doctor Who, don’t watch the Queen’s Speech, eat lots and lots of food, snooze, go for a walk, get sad that the day is ending, open last present, eat more food, drink ginger wine, friends leave.

I recommend getting rid of all grumpy/ungenerous/boring relations and just having a chilled day with some family friends instead. That’s the Christmas Spirit!

**Jessie Baldwin:** I’m a real sucker for sentimentality, so I love nothing more than settling down in front of a warm fire, tucking into a home-made mince pie and soaking up the festive atmosphere: twinkling lights, a sparkly tree and the familiar tune of Christmas carols.

Although my family don’t spend every Christmas at home, this year I’m looking forward to a traditional British Christmas, with turkey, festive films, charades and the like. My aunt, uncle and cousins are coming to stay, which I’m looking forward to as they’re our closest relatives and there’s a lot of laughter when they’re around. It also means that my two brothers and I won’t end up killing each other by the end of the day!

On Christmas morning we’ll open our stockings, eat breakfast, put our best Christmas outfits on (cue the Rudolph jumper) and go to the village church service. Although we’re not strictly religious, we’ve been going since we were little so it’s become somewhat of a family tradition. It’s also the perfect opportunity to sing Christmas carols and wish our friends many glad tidings, and we’ll usually stay for a mince pie and a chat with everyone after the service.

In the afternoon, we’ll open our other presents and have a cold lunch (smoked salmon, cheese, Bucks Fizz) before going for a country walk in the afternoon. We’ll then have our official Christmas dinner in the evening, followed by a family board game which my merry mother enthusiastically insists we all join in with. Later, we’ll all collapse in front of a Christmas film; our bellies pleasantly full from food and wine, feeling satisfied and sleepy and looking forward to turkey sandwiches the next day!

**Andrew King:** Christmas, in my house, runs like a formula.

Everyone writes a list of suggested presents, but everyone ignores everyone else’s list and buys what they were planning to anyway. My brother and I trawl through the Reading Oracle, resisting the urge to punch children who add to ‘Jingle bells’ with a soprano line of tears. We make Christmas pudding as a family and no one eats any.

All these things said nothing brings my family closer together than complaining about something that’s gone wrong. It’s far easier for us to express affection by pointing out that the other is singing off-key than it is to actually admit we’re proud of each other. The best family Christmases we have are the ones where the napkin rings have gone missing and our uncle has turned up several hours late, by which time the turkey is thoroughly dry. Nothing makes us happier as individuals than being miserable together.

Christmas means stress, tears and laughter. It means annoying music and foraging through the loft to find the stockings. It means eating until your belt physically won’t fit around your waist, and complaining that you feel ill, like it’s someone else’s fault.

Christmas, in my house, runs like a formula. But why fix what’s enjoyably broken?

**Rebecca Myers:** However you feel about tradition, Christmas is sure to be packed with it – from decorating the tree to the squashed Satsuma in your stocking, at least there are plenty to choose from.

Buried in a small village in the heart of the middle classe, there are certain traditions my family inadvertently enjoy during the festive period: charades on Christmas Eve, Bucks fizz on Christmas morning, desert wine at some dark hour before Dr Who, and the token rurality of chats with the village vicar, even though you’re atheist.

Swept up in a torrent of festive cheer, we just can’t help it. Everyone has some. But there are some traditions particular to our family – traditions so tenuous and obscure that they may not actually even qualify as festive. The annual screening of certain Christmas cartoons from our childhood has never grown old, including routine impressions by my Dad. The half hour set aside for redecorating the tree after my brother has left the room, because his understanding of ‘aesthetically pleasing’ just isn’t fit for public viewing. These are humble, silly, quiet family traditions… but I can’t imagine Christmas without them.

And while your Aunt Mildred might storm out during a particularly competitive game of charades, your Nan might fall asleep facedown in the panettone after one too many dollops of brandy cream, and your cat might have a limp for a week because he sat on the screwdriver you won in your cracker, I’d bet five gold rings none of us would really have it any other way.


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