So, the tree is up (well, down from the attic) and decorated, the turkey and components for various trimmings are safely in the freezer, the lights are ready for my Beloved to put up today, the museum Christmas party is tomorrow, and the Secret Santa is organised. The charity for this year’s card money has been chosen (Trussell Trust, ICOI). I am still surrounded by the vast amounts of yarn I need to make the Christmas orders, having sold out of pretty much everything last weekend. Who knew that the children of North London would love cuddly pigs in blankets so much? I think my best moment was the frazzled parent who ran up to me shouting ‘I need a SPROUT!’, with the five year old who asked me ‘Do you take cards?’ in a close second place.
Thing 2 has been asking searching (and knowing) questions about the existence – or not – of Father Christmas. From an early age, when her aunt and I would go off on increasingly ridiculous flights of fancy, she would ask ‘Are you telling me true, Mummy?’ or ‘Are you lying to me, Aunty Tan?’ So, for a child who was essentially born suspicious, this persistence in believing in all things Christmassy has always been a bit out of character. She is, however, a stickler for tradition and gets quite cross if Christmas films and songs make an appearance before December 1st. The tree goes up on the second weekend in December, which is the compromise reached over several years of negotiation.
This is the first year in several that she has not mentioned the elf on the shelf, which is a huge relief. Things 2 and 3 were quite insistent that we should have one of these abominations and I was secretly delighted when on December 1st I duly placed the elf on a shelf and the pair of them went into hysterics and demanded its immediate removal from the house. However, the following year they persuaded their father to buy another elf and the whole thing began again and of course the responsibility of the elf fell mainly to me.
Unlike my friend Jill who is very good with her elves, I was pretty hopeless at it. Possibly this is down to the very narrow window between putting the kids to bed and me falling asleep on the chair, or – more likely – because I just did not give a monkey’s. You can see my two best efforts (elforts?) below.
Don’t get me wrong, I love a Christmas tradition as much as the next person. There are films which must be watched while putting up the Christmas tree (the 1947 version of Miracle on 34th St, if you must know), films which must be watched early in the season (Elf, Muppet Christmas Carol) and there are films to watch nearer Christmas (It’s a Wonderful Life, Scrooged). We have added the Christmas Chronicles to the list over the last couple of years, as Kurt Russell makes an excellent Santa. I look forward to the annual invasion by Cybermen and Daleks, and will continue to ignore all speeches by members of the royal family. I read Terry Pratchett’s Hogfather and this year I will also listen to the new Audible version.
I have endeavoured to instil a healthy fear of robins into my children, in their role as Father Christmas’s all-year-round eyes on the ground. We have advent calendars. We leave snacks and something boozy out for FC and the gang on Christmas Eve and on Christmas Day Thing 2 organises stocking opening with military precision, and all I can say is thank god they’re old enough to bring us cups of coffee while they do it. Thing 1 opens the stocking and goes back to bed.
Every year I buy the largest turkey possible in Tesco – they only had mediums yesterday, which feed 8-10 people, and I seriously considered buying a turkey crown as well even though there are only five people in the house. As it was, the medium only just fitted into the freezer with some creative rearranging. Whether I can get it out again is a different question. I am dutifully feeding (with rum) a Christmas cake which I will probably still be eating in February (a Mary Berry recipe, and without resorting to Mrs Beeton you can’t get much more trad than that). I never liked Christmas cake until I realised that if I made it myself I could leave out the nuts, the mixed peel and the glace cherries and replace them with things I like (like proper cherries, and rum, and fresh orange peel grated).
We open family presents between breakfast and lunch when everyone is dressed, and after Christmas dinner there is the ceremonial ‘eat as much chocolate as you like’ opening of the Quality Street. There may be a cold turkey and stuffing sandwich about 8pm, and on Boxing Day there will be further cold turkey and a ham. At some point I will do a jigsaw.
While I will be a little sad when all pretence at believing in Santa is abandoned (i.e. they stop humouring me), I am not sorry to see the back of the stupid elf.
Other things making me happy this week
- Excellent co-curation session which I have to write an ‘official’ blog for
- Seeing some of my wonderful ex-colleagues at the Museum of London reunion last Sunday
- Hugh Grant’s reading of A Christmas Carol (included with your Audible subscription)
- Rewatching Derry Girls with Thing 1
- The chance to do proper ice swimming today
Same time next week then!
What I’ve been reading:
A Child’s Christmas in Wales (Audible)
A Christmas Carol (Audible)
The Unbearable Lightness of Being in Aberystwyth – Malcolm Pryce
Don’t Need The Sunshine – John Osborne