Posts tagged with: Christmas traditions

Festive Fun – English Style – Quick Five!

IMG_1839Yes, it’s ‘the most wonderful time of the year’! Only two more sleeps! (Assuming you can sleep on Christmas Eve!)

I know it’s fashionable to be all ‘bah humbug’ about Christmas (or Hannukah/Festivus/Kwanzaa etc), but I really do love this holiday season. From the twinkling lights, the decorated tree and house, the festive food, the cheesy, schmaltzy films to the presents, celebrations and traditions. Speaking of traditions, I thought it would be fun to share with you some our English Christmas traditions.

Because we don’t have Thanksgiving over here in England, the period between Christmas and New Year is extra-special for us. It’s a time when most people try to have a few days off, so they can do the rounds of the family and also chill out!

Also related to not having Thanksgiving, we don’t decorate until the 1st of December at the earliest. And we’re very strict about decorations having to be down by midnight on twelfth night (Jan 5th) – it’s believed to be unlucky. Unfortunately, as we’re away at a new year wedding, we’ll have to take them down on the 6th this year. Hopefully, if it’s still the 5th somewhere in the world, we’ll be okay!

DSC_2272We’re very traditional about our food too. Yes, some people do actually make a point of having goose or try to be different with turducken or beef, but most of us stick with turkey. It’s always served with sage and onion stuffing, bread sauce, brussel sprouts, roasted parsnips and roasted potatoes. Often, there will be added accompaniments like pigs in blankets (little sausages wrapped in bacon) or a chestnut dish and even Yorkshire Pudding. In recent years cranberry sauce has made an appearance on many tables. Most families also have their own traditional extra dish. In our family, it’s cream cheese stuffed mushrooms.

Another one of our traditions is Christmas crackers. We all pull crackers, wear the silly paper hats, share the terrible little jokes  and laugh at the usually useless prize inside. (That’s me pulling a cracker with Doc Cambridge’s dad!)

DSC_0077 - CopyAfter lunch, or as dessert if you have room, there is the flaming Christmas pudding (often with a sixpence or silver treat inside – the person who finds it is very lucky!), Christmas cake and/or mince pies with brandy butter or cream. I’m not one for Christmas pudding, but I love Christmas cake and mince pies. My favourite dessrt, though, is trifle!

In the past, everyone listened to or watched the annual Queen’s Speech. Even those Brits around the world and people in Commonwealth countries would tune in to the BBC World Service, to hear what she had to say. These days, with social media, the internet and everyone needing to have a scoop, the text is available in advance. Also in the past, because we had very few channels, and no videos or DVDs, there would be a battle between the two major stations (BBC and ITV) for the big Christmas blockbuster movie premiere – which was usually at least a year old! These days, everything gets to TV so quickly and there are so many other options available, that the Christmas line-up, while still featuring a movie premier, concentrates more on Christmas specials of favourite shows like Call the Midwife and Downton Abbey, and the evening soaps.

A Perfect CatchMany families also avoid the TV and play board or card games! I find it’s the perfect time to sit down and read a book, uninterrupted except for someone handing you a mince pie or a drink!

And then there is Boxing Day – but those of you who have been with us in the Lair, know all about that! One of my old Boxing Day posts – which includes my famous Boxing Day Soup is here.

So, without further ado, it’s time for you to share your holiday traditions in the special festive edition of Quick Five! As part of the annual 12 Bandita Days of Christmas, not one, but two lucky commenters will win a signed copy of A Perfect Catch – and receive it before it’s released on Feb 1! If you’ve also signed up for my newsletter, you can receive a bonus exclusive Anna Sugden keyring (let me know in your comment).

1. Let’s talk lights – coloured or white, twinkling or static, just on the tree or elsewhere too?

2. Christmas lunch – what do you have and what’s your family’s traditional extra?

3. Christmas dessert or sweet treats – what’s your favourite?

4. Traditional Christmas activity – watch TV, play games or something else?

5. Do you open presents on Christmas Eve, in the morning or in the afternoon? Are you a rip into them all at once, or savour each one carefully? Does everyone open all at once or do you take turns?

Holiday Gloom and Drive-By Nativities

Christmas 2012 002editedI have seriously committed to the Christmas Spirit this weekend. After waiting until practically the last minute to do any decorating at all, this weekend we have put up the Christmas tree (with an insane amount of lights), put lights, decorations, candy canes and everything else you can think of inside the house. LED Christmas tree in the den? Check. Miniature tree with tiny ornaments for the kitchen? Check. Shiny silver garland in the kitchen? Check.

I even put some lights up outside around the kitchen door because we decided – spontaneously, at the last minute – to have friends over for a holiday party. Last night! I had to whip the family into action and drive them like a drill instructor to get everything done. But we did and it was awesome. The house looked great, the hastily thrown-together food was fantastic, the company was especially wonderful and there was so much laughter my daughter has seriously sore abs tonight.

In addition to socializing and eating and drinking, we did two very fun things to entertain ourselves:

Gloom1. Holiday Gloom – If you’ve never played the game Gloom, I highly recommend it. It’s especially fun for writers and people who love to tell stories. Here is a link to a video of Wil Wheaton (of Star Trek: The Next Generation fame) playing Gloom with friends. The goal is to make your opponents’ characters happy and your own miserable and be the first to kill off all your characters. How fun is that? The thing that made our game last night so fun, though, was that we made a rule that all scenarios in the game had to be Christmas-themed. It’s amazing how many ways there are to suffer and die at the holidays! 😀

drive-by nativity2. Drive-By Nativity Scene – Okay, we jokingly called it a drive-by nativity, but it was really a drive-through nativity scene. A local church has been doing this for 28 years and they do a great job. They have scenes from the Christmas story set up and the narration for each scene plays on a loop. You have to roll down your windows to hear it, though, and it was 38 degrees. Some of the actors looked fairly miserable, having stood out in the cold and dark for 2 hours. It was, in parts, unintentionally hilarious – say, when the 60-something year-old Mary was told by the Angel Gabriel (a lovely teenaged girl of about 15 with long, gorgeous blonde hair) that she was to be impregnated by the Holy Spirit. Believe me, if that little lady was impregnated by anyone, it would be a Christmas miracle! There was also a sheep with a little 11 day-old baby sheep that was beyond adorable. So much to love at the drive-by nativity scene!

We had so much fun we decided we should make this get-together a new tradition, complete with Holiday Gloom and the Drive-By Nativity. I will try not to volunteer to teach Sunday school the morning after this party next year. As it is, I will be in my Sunday school class leading the lesson this morning. I need more sleep to support all this insane Christmas festivity!

Do you have any non-traditional “traditions” at your house? Any friends or parties you particularly anticipate as you await Christmas? What is your favorite Christmas ritual as you anticipate the holiday?

Since it’s the 12 Bandita Days of Christmas, I will give an e-book copy of my latest novel, TIARA WARS, to a commenter today. Thanks for playing with us! 

The Stuffing Wars: A Cassondra and Jeanne Food Fight

Cassondra: I make these really awesome dressing balls. 

Jeanne Did you say balls?

Cassondra: Dressing balls.  Like made out of stuffing.  Stuffing that isn’t stuffed.Professional portrait - JPA 2012

Jeanne: Snork!  Dressing balls.  Seriously?  And I hate stuffing.  Stuffing is wrong.  Just…wrong.

Cassondra: Hey!  I’m telling a story here.

Ahem…When I was a little girl, at Thanksgiving and Christmas, we always had turkey.  Never ham.  And along with the turkey, we had dressing balls.

It’s  basically light bread stuffing, but you roll it into balls—they’re about the size of large meatballs, and line them up on a baking sheet, bake them in the oven for almost an hour. 

They’re crunchy and crispy on the outside, hot and soft and steamy inside.  Yummm! 

Jeanne: *distracted by the thought of this potential goodness* Okay…so those sound good, but…having a hard time imagining them.

Cassondra: I’m sorry I don’t have a picture of my balls, but– 

Jeanne:  SNORK! Well, one doesn’t usually photograph one’s balls.  BWAHAHAHAHAH!

Stuffing_BallsCassondra:  Ahem.  As I was about to say…That picture over on the left?  That looks similar to my dressing balls, but it’s not exactly right. Mine are…fluffier.  Less like candy and more like bread.

 I learned from my mom, and I carry on the tradition now, and make this every time I roast a turkey.

And here’s the thing.  If it’s not my ball dressing, it has to be stuffing.  NO other dressing is any good.

Jeanne:  You’ve got to be kidding me.  You won’t eat dressing?   Just stuffing?  You are SO my Twin in so many ways, but…anything that is stuffed in a turkey’s nether regions isn’t fit for eatin’.  I’m just sayin’.

Cassondra:  Will you quit makin’ me picture turkey nether regions and stay on topic?  I’ve had a lot of dressing baked in pans.  I don’t like it.

Jeanne: Bwahahah!  Now c’mon.  You mean to tell me you’d rather have balls ‘o dressing, or something that’s been stuffed stuffingin a turkey’s bum—

Cassondra:  WHAT?  How can you not like stuffing?

What’s wrong with stuffing?

Jeanne: Nothing if you don’t object to sloppy, gloopy nether-region breadcrumbs.  Grins. 

I can’t believe you, of all people, would rather have THAT than a good, yummy cornbread dressing all crumbled up and onion-y and sage-y.   Or oyster dressing?  Or cranberry and orange dressing with pecans?  SERIOUSLY???

Cassondra:  OMG!  Oyster dressing?  Blech! BLEHHHHH. RETCH!

Jeanne Hahah!  You sound like Calvin, from Calvin and Hobbes when faced with eggplant casserole.  You don’t like oysters?  How did I miss this?  I thought you liked oysters??

Cassondra:  I love oysters!  Fresh ones.  Raw even.  But canned oysters?  And it’s always canned, by the way, if you’re putting them IN anything.  I live in a landlocked state.  Canned ones mixed in with…well…anything…and cooked…well..any way….GROOOOOOOSSSSSSSS!

Jeanne: Hahahah!  Okay, I concede that they aren’t pretty.  My former (as in first husband’s) Mother-in-Law and family ALWAYS made dressing with oysters.  Much as I like oysters, I must confess, I didn’t love the oysters in dressing either. 

Cornbread dressing Cassondra:  Okay, I feel better.  So…my sweetheart Mother-In-Law used to make the holiday meal.  She made amazing cornbread dressing.  Pans of it.  Everybody loved it.

*hangs head* I didn’t like it.

I ate some, always.  But not much. 

Jeanne:  Yep, you gotta eat it – at least a little.  You are not country if you don’t like cornbread.

Cassondra:  I LOVE cornbread.  But not made into some kind of mush to be spooned out and dumped alongside the turkey!

Jeanne:  Okay, I agree with you there.  No mush.  Bleeech.  Ixnay on the ush-may.  My dressing isn’t mushy and it isn’t balled or burlapped or spooned out of a turkey gullet.

Cassondra: (ignoring Jeanne) Here’s the thing.  The stuffing I make is really simple. It’s basically just a foil to absorb all the yummy turkey juices.  All steamy hot, it’s fantastic. 

I like dark meat turkey too. Just sayin’.

Jeanne:  Whew!  I’m so glad you confirmed that we ARE Twins, I was beginning to wonder.  (I love dark meat cornbread dressing2too!)

Cassondra: Bottom line?  I like stuffing.   And I’ve never had dressing cooked in a pan that I like.  My dressing balls are crunchy and crispy and sage-ey and..yummm..

 And I only have to make one kind.  The same thing that goes in the turkey for stuffing, gets rolled into balls for the dressing balls. *grin*  Easy.

Jeanne:  Yeah, yeah, yeah.  Balls-schmalls.  Whether you get the bread out of a bag, toast it yourself, make it with cornbread or not (or dress it up with oyyyyyyysters), dressing is just…saner.  Slap that bread in a pan, stir up some onions, celery, oysters, add some turkey juice or chicken boullion, and so on.  Yummy.  Cut it into squares and plunk it on the plate…SLURP!!!  Yes, it DOES soak up the yummy juices, but hey…so do the mashed potatoes.  (Now I’m really hungry)

What about you, Bandits and buddies?

Which side of the Stuffing War will you join?Stuffing mix

Do you have a special stuffing/dressing recipe that’s always in demand for the holidays.

Is it stuffing—as in stuffed inside the turkey to roast with the bird?

Or is it “dressing”—cooked in a pan as a side dish?

And what kind? Cornbread? Regular bread?  Apple, raisin or rice?

Cassondra: What stuffs your turkey?

Jeanne:  *smack* What GOES with your turkey?

And if you don’t serve turkey for Christmas or Thanksgiving, what’s your “can’t-do-without side dish?

What about oysters? Are they “the thing” for your dressing or are they anathema?

Cassondra:  Anathema? Don’t you mean afishema?  Blech.

Changing the subject, Have y’all ever had dressing balls?

Jeanne: You said balls…bwaahahahaha!!

Seriously Bandits and Buddies…where do you fall in The Stuffing Wars?

 OH!  Yeah.  The Bandit 12 Days of Christmas is still happening. This is THE LAST DAY for the regular cool ornament!  Comment to be in the drawing.

You’ve Come A Long Way, Santa

When I was a little girl, Santa was a fat guy in a screaming red and white suit, with a white beard and a list.

Santa flipped

  That’s how he always looked.  

Sometimes his face looked mean—a little on the evil side depending on the depiction– but most of the “Santa” images were of a jolly, happy, kind-looking Santa, much like this one on the left. 

Doesn’t he look like a nice guy, laying his finger aside of his nose, about to nod his head and ascend through the narrow chimneSanta evily?

Back then, Santa’s  face was pretty much the only thing that varied.   Some of them looked absolutely evil.  This guy on the right isn’t too bad, but doesn’t he look like he has some mischief afoot? 

As a child, even into my teens, I didn’t realize that the “fat guy in a bright red suit” imagery was fairly new, or that it had evolved over a long, long time, and that Santa did not always look exactly like this.

But I nesanta traditionalver did much like that suit.

I suppose, even as a little girl, the beginnings of the Martha Stewart Mini-Me that I would eventually become…well…they were already in place.  I swear I don’t know where I got these tendencies.

I loved Santa back then.  But even as a little girl, when I looked at Christmas decorations in the stores, I just wasn’t into that red suit.  

Yes, I was an odd child.  I won’t deny it.

As I grew older,  I’d see those Santa dolls –you know the ones that are two or three feet tall, with fabric outfits–meant to be put out  as decorations either inside or outside, but I never wanted one for my house.  They just didn’t appeal.  santa 19-old-world-father-christmas-santa-claus-figure-with-burgundy-robe-and-gifts linens and things

Then it happened.

A few years after I was married, I was walking by the window of an upscale department store when I saw a Santa that made me stop and stare. 

He was not in a bright red suit.  He was in a robe.  Not screaming red.  It was deep dark burgundy.  The fur trim was off white and looked old. 

Now I know he’d be called an “Old World Santa,” but those weren’t around back then–or at least I hadn’t seen one.   This one on the right is not him, but he has the same look.   This is an Old World Santa from Linens ‘n Things.

After that, I started noticing more and more versions of Santa that were not the clownish guy I grew up with, but were based more on Father Christmas—the old world version of Santa. 

Santa woodland 3Not long after that, I was in another store and I saw “Woodland Santa” with leaves and pine cones in a wreath around his head, and a long robe of what looked like fur-trimmed burlap.  He had on snowshoes and there was a deer standing at his side.  In one hand was a staff made of a tree branch, and in the other, a lantern.  He had a rough knapsack over his shoulder.  His cheeks were still rosy and his beard long and white. 

It was just my style.  I love primitive antiques, log cabins, barns and woods. I had found my Santa.

I was in school at the time, and we were flat broke, so I couldn’t afford him.  Unfortunately,  I’ve never seen one  like him since, but I’d had my “Santa Awakening.”   This one on the left is similar.  It’s another version of “Woodland Santa”

Back then, all of these were “designer” Santas and were WAY too spendy for my budget, but I could still stare at them and imagine how they’d look in my future house, standinSanta woodland costcog on my future hearth beside the future fireplace.

Flash forward a few years.  Really cool Santas have come down in price, and now they’re available everywhere,  as common as Bright-red-suit Santa. 

Here’s another version of “Woodland Santa” on the right.  This one is available at Costco.  Doesn’t he look rugged and ready for some serious outdoor trekking?  Even if his sleigh breaks down, ala the movie “Elf,”  this Santa could still get where he needed to go.

FAther Christmas close up Now, thanks to the internet and shops like Etsy, there are doll makers who specialize in a zillion different versions of Santa Claus, like this Father Christmas in a fur cloak on the left. You can see the rest of him if you click on the link. He’s amazing.

Looking around the web, I found one particular doll maker whose work I absolutely love, and she was kind enough to give me permission to share her Santas with you here on the blog. 

Her name is Bona Lowery, and her Santas are stunning, one-of-a kind pieces of art, but many of them  cost far less than you’d think for such beautiful work.

If you click on the links, you can see the detail in these Santas in the bigger pictures.

Santa Cabin Bona LoweryThis is her  Cabin Santa on the left.   Cabin Santa is holding a little log cabin, and I love his fur-trimmed robe. 

On her site,  Santa Creations by Bona, she has a snippet about the history of Santa Claus. 

Pre-modern representations of the gift-giver from church history and folklore, notably St Nicholas and Sinterklaas, merged with the British character Father Christmas to create the character known to Britons and Americans as Santa Claus.

Father Christmas dates back at least as far as the 17th century in Britain, and pictures of him survive from that era, portraying him as a jolly, well-nourished bearded man dressed in a long, green, fur-lined robe.Santa fishing Bona Lowery

Okay so Santa was fat back then, and Santa is still fat.  Even  most old-world Santas and Father Christmas figures have a belly.  Every one of us feels the pressures of current fashion, but not Santa.   Santa is, thus far, immune.  

Thank goodness. 

I understand from my friends who write historical romance that centuries ago, having a little fat on you was a sign that you were well-off.  You could afford to eat all you wanted, regularly,  and you could eat yummy stuff that most people couldn’t get.   The common folk were lucky to eat at all, and worked off what they did eat.  So, not only was Santa doing okay for himself, he was also generous, especially toward kids.

Here are more Santas by Ms. Lowery.   That’s Fishing Santa on the right, complete with his tackle. 

Santa silver wreath bona lowery

  On the left is Silver Wreath Santa–less rustic, and more in keeping with the sparkle of the season.

Nowadays there are Santas with sheep, Santas with donkeys, and Santas with kittens.

  I’ve seen Santas in sleighs and Santas wearing snowshoes pulling their own sleds, Santas with huskies instead of reindeer pulling the sleigh, and one Santa I saw was riding a polar bear. 

None of them were wearing the bright red suit. I’ve even seen a “Green Man Santa”–the pagan version of Santa– with long gray beard, still carrying the traditional gifts, but wearing a wreath of leaves and sporting antlers on his head. 

Bandita Kate is like me–she’s a wine lover, and she’ll love this next Santa.  It’s a wine rack, anSanta Karen-Didion-Originals-Crakewood-Santa-Claus-5-Bottle-Tabletop-Wine-Rackd Santa is enjoying a glass of his favorite.

 The photo on the right  is of the Karen Didion Originals Crakewood Santa Claus 5-bottle Tabletop Wine Rack. 

I had not heard of Karen Didion, but she was all over the internet when I went looking for Santas, and I absolutely loved everything I saw of hers.  I think she’s brilliant.   I found her Santas at 

If you click on the link and  look at the photos, you see the Santa wine rack from all directions. Plus, the wire barrel holds wine corks.    Did I already say this Santa designer is brilliant? 

Santa Karen Didion originalsYes, she is.


Here’s another of her Santas on the left. Victorian Santa Claus.

Father Christmas dolls qvc

 Awesome Santas are not just from fancy designers.  They’re everywhere.  The Father Christmas Dolls on the right were from QVC.  

The one below, on the left, is from Lowe’s.  I *think* those are snowshoes strapped on his back, though I’m not certain.

Santa from Lowe'sBottom line? 

Santa is stylin’.

He’s no longer just a guy in a red suit.

I had a bit of an epiphany while I was writing this post and searching for awesome Santas.  If I fall in love with a Santa decoration, it’s probably because it looks nothing like the traditional guy in a red suit,  and everything like a Wizard. 

It seems the more Wizard-like the Santa is, the more I love it.  

I never thought of Santa as a Wizard before, but he does have the pointy, floppy hat.  And how else does he get up and down the chimney–and fly all over the world in one night?

Just sayin’.

What about you, Bandits and Buddies? 

What sort of Santa appeals to you?

Did you grow up with the “Bright red-and-white suit” Santa?

If you celebrate another holiday, what are your decorations like?  Do you like bright and sparkly?  Or do you prefer colors and designs that are more subdued for a holiday?

If you decorate for Christmas, do you choose Screaming-red-suit Santa?

Or do you like the old-world Santas better?

Do you have any Santa figurines or dolls like the ones in the photos?

What says “Santa” to you?  

It’s ALMOST HERE! Tomorrow is Day 1 of our annual 12 Bandita Days of Christmas!  Prizes every day, plus extra goodies for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.   Be sure to stop by the blog each day between now and Christmas and leave a comment to be in the drawings. 

Christmas Bits and Bobs

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!!