I. Bloody. Love. Christmas.
I generally resist getting my Yule on until December, but it’s 3 weeks til the holidays and since I’d already made mincemeat and shortcrust (and a pudding, and a dangerously boozy cake), my girls prevailed upon me to make mince pies a little bit early yesterday so we went the whole hog and I had mulled wine too. (The pies were incredible, thanks for asking. The trick? A lard/butter combo in the pastry makes it shorter than Thom Yorke.)
This year has a bittersweet quality to it, in that I won’t be with my daughters on Christmas Day, but on the other hand I also won’t have to go to my former in-laws’ either. And it means that I get to be with my sister and her little ones on the day itself too, which hasn’t ever happened before (we’ve always alternated for reasons of available space in my parents’ house).
But I love Christmas, and everything that goes with it. The invention of the internet may be destroying the fabric of society as we know it, but on the plus side, it means you don’t have to fight your way down slippery pavements with a machete, feeling inescapably that the only thing that could possibly recharge your good-will reserves is a mince pie and some kind of insane seasonal coffee offering from an overpriced chain café. Charging round town is now something I only do on Christmas Eve, just to pick up the last couple of things, when all the stressful bit has already been dealt with by Mr Internet. And it’s dark and the lights are glowing and you’re all overcoated and scarfed and there’s a carol service in a couple of hours and family filling the house to bursting point.
I’m incredibly lucky to be healthy and reasonably OK financially, I know. And it’s that immense sense of good fortune that makes Christmas all the more joyful for me. I’m surrounded with people I adore (especially now there’s no in-laws) and I get to be all grateful, and I get to give people nice things, and hugs, and – are you sensing an obsession here? – mince pies.
What are the staples of a proper Christmas for you? Any plans? For me, the sine qua non of Christmas is Gloucester Cathedral. It’s one of two buildings in the world that is truly home for me, despite my atheism and my tedious political correctness. I spent most of my childhood in and around it, and when the lights shut off at 6:30 on Christmas Eve, and the whole beautiful cavernous space is plunged into pin-drop darkness, and a 9-year-old boy treble starts to sing an unaccompanied, solo “Once In Royal David’s City” – well. There’s just nothing more magical on God’s green earth.
Oh, and my dad is singing in this video. 🙂
(PS: if you’re tempted to be a Grinch here, please don’t.)