For many people Christmas can be fairly regimented, full of rituals and routines, and often fraught with family politics. We are blessed with a reasonably large immediate family who are all based within 150 miles of each other in the Southern half of the UK, so we’re often travelling. However, as we have two young daughters we are also trying to establish our own traditions…
- Go to at least one carol service
Perhaps my oldest ritual, dating back to my time in the school choir. I often find myself flitting between the tune, harmonic parts, and occasionally the descants! Whether you’re Christian or not, these are often rousing tunes that create a great collective experience. It’s also a great opportunity to recall ‘alternative’ versions to certain lines: While Shepherds washed their socks by night, this post’s title…
Tetbury has several nice services through Advent (essential to cover all the best carols): a lovely Christingle Service, communal ‘carols under the tree’ opposite the Chipping, and a Christmas Eve crib service where children are encouraged to dress up. There are always many angels, stars, shepherds and wise men, often a few sheep and occasionally a donkey or camel!
- Don’t be afraid to shut the door
Christmas usually comes at the end of a frantic few weeks: the end of a school term, wildly busy periods at work, not to mention parties, drinks, writing cards, buying and wrapping presents… At some point it’s pretty much essential to shut the door and relax. Just. Do. Nothing.
- Seasonal Films…
The Moody household likes films. ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ has become a tradition in recent years for Christmas Eve. Anyone who tries to tell you it’s sentimentality run riot hasn’t been paying attention. By the final heartwarming scene, George Bailey has been run through the mill, and we’ve been there with him. Fantastic.
We’re also big fans of The Muppet Christmas Carol, perhaps my favourite adaptation of the Dickens story (certainly a million times better than the recent Jim Carrey vehicle. It’s DICKENS’ A Christmas Carol, NOT Disney’s…!)
Apparently Christmas is all about food. At least it is in our house. And we’ve discovered that to truly enjoy all the gastronomic pleasures we want to, we’ve had to juggle the received order of things.
We do a big cheese / ham / paté platter on Christmas Eve (while we watch Jimmy Stewart and finish wrapping presents). Christmas breakfast / brunch is bagels with salmon/cream cheese with Tropicana OJ. We have our main meal in the early evening. To get everything done for lunchtime means chaining ourselves to the kitchen instead of enjoying presents with the girls, and then by the time lunch is over, it’s practically dark outside, which means there’s no time to…
- Go for a walk
Daylight is a pretty precious commodity in the UK at Christmas. It’s usually pitch-dark by 5.30pm, but there is nothing much finer than a walk with family and friends around the edge of Tetbury (or on the beach at Southerndown if we’re visiting Rachel’s parents) until the sky begins to darken, then diving into a pub for a well-earned pint, hopefully by the fire.
Whether you recognise any or all of these components of My Christmas, I’d also advise you to do what you want. Christmas can be a time laden with societal norms and pressures, nearly all of which are associated with consumerism and no little amount of guilt. You really don’t have to buy presents for all your friends’ children, or send cards to all your work colleagues, or gorge yourself on snacks you would never normally eat.
Whatever your festive rituals, I thank you for reading my blog, offer you seasonal good cheer, and hope that 2010 dawns with hope and optimism for you.