Christmas Bits and Bobs
Posted by Christina Brooke Dec 11 2012, 1:29 am
How on earth did it get to be Christmas time already? Of course, the stores put out their Christmas decorations in September, but chez Brooke we are not quite so organized.
Happily, we’ve now put up our lights, the tree and all the trimmings. I’m hosting Christmas Day for our family this year and have begun to plan the menu with my mother’s help.
Christmas in my family has always consisted of my brother and me getting up at the crack of dawn, waiting with painful and hard-won patience for our parents to get up so we could open our presents. Of course, we’d already scoped the presents that were under the tree on Christmas Eve, but there would be new ones from Santa in the morning. I remember standing at my parents’ bedside staring intently at their closed eyelids, willing them to wake but not daring to make a sound that would actually do the job.
The present giving and opening took place when the ‘rents FINALLY opened their eyes. I remember chocolate Santas, books and toys. Sometimes, there’d be one large present, like a new bike or a swing set but mostly it was many little things, lots of packages to open.
Then there was helping my mother put the finishing touches on all the food she prepared for the day, rolling apricot balls in caster sugar and setting them out on a plate with chocolate truffles and nuts and glace fruits and other goodies we only had once a year. I still remember the time my brother ate all 45 chocolate truffles in secret in the lead-up to Christmas! My mother was not happy to find them all gone.
Because my father doesn’t like to eat any kind of fowl, turkey was never on the menu for our Christmas. We would have a hot meal, though, sweltering over prawns Kiev or lobster thermidor in the 35 degree heat. The children would get liqueur glasses of wine, or a very weak mix of lemonade and pink Vok, which I particularly liked. My grandmother, who never drank any kind of alcohol, liked the ‘pink lemonade’ too. She was inordinately cheerful on Christmas Day.
And every year, there was ice cream cassata, a three layered ice cream cake with chocolate, vanilla and strawberry, glace fruits, toasted almonds and toasted biscuit crumbs on top. My poor mother is the only one of us who likes plum pudding or fruit cake, which is traditionally served at Christmas, so for us it was always the cassata.
The order of the afternoon was a siesta for the parents, perhaps followed by a swim and a game of cricket. Night swimming was always a great tradition at Christmas. We used to have these huge coloured lights strung around the pool and they’d always come on for that evening swim. Leftovers for dinner, if anyone could be brought to eat anything. (My brother and I always could!)
Now that I have a family of my own, there are some traditions we’ve added along the way. The tree goes up on 1 December and is accompanied by a plethora of Christmas carols by everyone from The Seekers to Bing and Frank, to The Beach Boys and Neil Diamond.
My sister-in-law used to live in Georgia, U.S.A. and come home for Christmas so she’d often stay with us around that time. She is well-known for playing Elvis’s Santa Bring My Baby Back to Me at some ungodly hour of Christmas morning. No staring at people’s eyelids for her! When she’s not with us, she plays it down the phone. I have to say, I’d miss that tradition if she didn’t do it.
When we were in England last, we bought an Advent Calendar with an abridged version of A Christmas Carol divided into little chapter booklets and set into the calendar. My husband will read the boys a chapter each night. It’s a tradition my elder boy says he’s grown out of but I notice he often hovers nearby when the reading is going on.
And of course, there isn’t just the tree but all the extraneous ornaments that go with our Christmas. The rather tarnished angel at the top holds the sequined ornament my sister-in-law made when she was in kindergarten, which my husband saved when their parents moved house. My SIL doesn’t want it back, but she checks our tree every year to make sure it’s there. We wouldn’t dream of disappointing her. I have to say, the wannabe interior decorator in me cringes a little at the cheerful tackiness of this tree, but it’s not there for show, really. It’s there to hold memories of our children’s childhood and ours.
Here we have our singing Santa and musical polar bear. And, from a dear friend in Switzerland, the yodeling beaver (?) There is some dispute about what the animal is actually supposed to be.
It’s a rule on Christmas that everyone must wear a silly hat. Even the dog is supposed to wear reindeer antlers, although she doesn’t seem to like them very much.
We also have a selection of Christmas DVDs, my favourite of which is The Muppets’ Christmas Carol. We also have The Grinch, The Polar Express, and various Christmas themed specials from Winnie the Pooh, Little Einsteins and The Wiggles.
This year, Christmas fare is likely to be a ham, cold seafood and salads and some kinds of dessert I haven’t thought of yet, plus my mother-in-law’s famous mango cheesecake and various other goodies. There’ll be 13 of us. I hope that’s not a bad omen!
So dear readers, do you go for cheap and cheerful with your Christmas lights, decorations, table settings and so forth? Or are you a Martha-Stewart type goddess when it comes to decking the halls? Do you follow any quirky traditions peculiar to your family or do you prefer the tried and true? What’s the most important element of Christmas Day for you? If you don’t celebrate Christmas, what family traditions do you have?
Be sure to come back to the Lair on December 13 when we kick off the annual 12 BANDITA DAYS OF CHRISTMAS! Prizes and recipes every day!! Roosters. Starbucks goodies. Books. Dragons. Books. Cookies. Godiva. Books!! (By Banditas and friends like Sabrina Jeffries, Liz Carlyle, JD Tyler, Deb Marlowe, Addison Fox and many more!) You know you want the cookies, for sure, so come home to the Lair for the Holidays! Who knows, you might win something, and you’ll be guaranteed to have fun!!
Posted in Christina Brooke, Christmas traditions