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Monday, 15 December 2014

Tis the season to be...whatever you wish. Make your Christmas happy. Your way.

En route to a Christmas Party, with a smile. See, I'm not all Scrooge.

I've been a bit miserable about the Christmas season recently, I've realised, mostly because I do find lots of things about this time of year very hard and getting through it is a challenge. It's not easy being depressed and feeling like you have to go out and about whilst miserable in the presence of everyone else being jolly. However, although it's true that I'm hardly a saintly Tiny Tim about the whole affair, nor am I a curmudgeonly Scrooge pulling down his nightgown and ignoring the fact that the stairs sound as if they're in the midst of a marathon steel band session.
Tiny Tim teaches us all a lesson about accepting people and seeing the good in them

Actually there are lots of things I love about Christmas, especially now that we've got into the ironic spirit (pun intended) of the thing properly. Sincerity is strictly reserved for good will to all men: the part about loving one another and "God (or the higher power of your choice) bless us every one" is the only part I really get on board with from that perspective. In my view Christmas is what you want to make of it. And in my view that's spending time with ones I love. And irony. And food.

This would be fine, except clearly this woman is taking the whole thing DEADLY SERIOUSLY

When I lived in America I spent a memorable Halloween in Southfield, Michigan, where I was working at the time. I was amazed as I went to my beloved (and much missed) local Chipotle to see cars pulling up as usual, but emerging from them not the casually dressed office workers I usually saw in line ahead of me, but instead, a pirate, a teddy bear and some sort of fairy princess. Yes, Halloween in America is a Whole Other Proposition. We've all seen the films of adorable little darlings parading the streets in their cute miniature spaceman or cowboy outfits, a sort of Toy Story Comes To Life parody; but adults? I could hardly believe what I was seeing.

Home Alone Lives in Ironic Christmas Jumpers. LOVE

Of course, this is a country which loves its candy, so I don't know why I was as surprised as all that, but I was quite shocked by the lengths to which people would go to dress up and embrace the 'holiday' which carries such little weight in the UK and elsewhere. We find sincerity of this type quite the challenge in the UK. But last Friday in Britain, we had a holiday we as a nation can all, just about, with all our 'I'd like to but really it's terribly embarrassing and I couldn't possibly' reserve, get on board with: Christmas Jumper Day. Or, as I like to think of it, dress-like-your-mum-and-dad-would-have-in-the-seventies,-except-without-a-hint-of-irony day. I have to admit that this title does not quite have the same ring to it.

Lampooning. Irony. Except that in reality families like these really exist in a suburb near you

I spent Christmas in the USA with a great friend in 2003. As we went to buy our Christmas feast we marvelled at the lack of irony of the earnest shoppers all around us in their not quite ridiculous enough 'seasonal sweaters'. I'm talking about the single coloured-jobby with the white patterned reindeer dancing across the front. Or with big stars covering bigger bellies. Surely these people realised that they looked like extras from Home Alone? Apparently not. And Britain being Britain, we couldn't possibly engage in a jolly jape like Christmas jumper day without it being obvious that we're doing the whole thing for a proper giggle, and aren't taking ourselves seriously in the slightest.

Pigs in blankets. Nomnomnomnomnom.

So, back to what I love about Christmas. Food, obviously. And specific types of food at specific times. These have become a tradition with me. Crazy meatballs for Christmas eve dinner, slow cooked pork meatballs with cranberry sauce, brown sugar and sauerkraut mixed up and made into a sttick sauce, baked in the oven while my husband races around the nearest high streets frantically panic buying despite the fact that he's probably already bought better presents than I have anyway; Smoked salmon and (lumpfish, I'm not a millionaire!) caviar on tiny blinis with sour cream and a deliciously cold glass of Champagne to start Christmas day. Some sort of meat for Christmas dinner - I'm not at fussy about this actually, as long as it's not turkey, but with stuffing, port and cranberry-sauce braised red cabbage and as many little sausages with bacon as can be bought in a single trip to Marks and Spencer. And probably pommes Dauphinoise. Cream + potatoes = winning formula.

Mulled wine. Christmas dessert and hot water bottle in one

We sometimes go to a local pub for a Christmas drink on the day. This is one of my favourite times to go out in public, as I love to watch other people enjoying their day and one another's company. This seems like a special way to mark the day, and the neutral ground helps. The weekend before Christmas, my extended family and I come together for a Christmas feast and sharing of silly presents and jokes. Everyone dresses up and we enjoy a catch up and seeing the younger members of the family having fun on the day.

As mentioned in a comment in my previous blog, I don't hold that you have to spend Christmas with your family to be happy. In fact for many that would be a recipe for unhappiness, where resentments long-harboured, traditions which are upheld in the absence of any civil tongues, or where presents are shared with expectations of larger and more expensive offerings to make up for any real warmth or love in the room. That is a traditional Christmas for many, and I don't like it one bit.

One's onesie

My latest Christmas love is the onesie. Ah, the onesie, unattractive in most ways, but warm, snug and comfortable to wear. This is my perfect Christmas outfit. I also love the fact that I don't have to leave the house. I used to wear a variety of Christmas jumpers and pyjamas (and probably a hat too) that Mat will proclaim adorable despite the fact that I wouldn't even be allowed on Jeremy Kyle in such an ensemble. Now I can climb into my onesie and I'm done for the day. Just add woolly socks and my Ugg boots and I'm ready for the Christmas film marathon, sitting in front of our real Christmas tree decorated with tiny white lights and white card stars, shimmering with their gold and silver glitter in the soft lights.

 The films are probably worth a blog post to themselves, so I'll think about that over the next few days. In the meantime I'll take my Christmas radio times, bought once a year, and start circling my Christmas viewing timetable. Home Alone will definitely be on at some point, I bet.


  1. Some interesting takes on Christmas -- I am traditional one and it is my favorite time of year! Family being the best part

    1. Thanks Carol. I wish you an especially happy Christmas as it's your favourite time of year. I do love to send and receive cards as well as the other things I like about this time of year, mentioned above. I'm also looking forward to decorating our Christmas tree soon...a blog post to follow no doubt. All the very best wishes to you and your family for a wonderful holiday season. x Jessica

  2. I absolutely LOVE learning about Christmas (or any holiday for that matter) traditions from other countries - especially in the UK. I've always wanted to visit, live, visit (can't make up my mind). We might end up living there if the teenager gets his wish to move to London lol!

    Christmas is my most favorite time of the year. My mom was a stickler for traditions, and she made sure that every year the tree was decorated the weekend following Thanksgiving, that Christmas music played in our home every day throughout the season, there were cookies and presents and decorations. She made Christmas really special, and I miss her dearly.

    I agree wholeheartedly with you though - make your Christmas happy. Your Way. I love that!

    P.S. I've added your blog to my list of "Must Reads" in Feedly. I'll be stalking hee hee!

    1. Kim, thank you so much for reading! I love learning about Christmas and other holidays in other countries too. You should check out India - Holi holiday among others is one of the most amazing celebrations in the world.

      If you do come to London we have to meet...let me know how your teenager's plans turn out!

      What were the traditional Christmas songs that you listened to as a family throughout the Christmas holiday period? Were you listening to White Christmas? I would love to hear your holiday song favourites.

      Thank you for your comments - I do think that Christmas should be whatever one makes it - I am looking forward to my next post of the way that we do Christmas - my family and my husband and I. I look forward to hearing and reading about your Christmas and your traditions.

      Sending all the very best to you and look forward to your comments in the near future! Jessica x