Neither my husband Dan nor I have a traditional family set up and have created our own Christmas tradition of volunteering (if we’re not travelling). For the last few years we have volunteered at our local rotary club, serving Christmas lunch to over 450 elderly and vulnerable people of our local borough. We absolutely love every minute of it: we normally arrive at 7/8am then finish around 4pm, when we will sometimes drop home a few of the ladies who don’t want to wait for their buses. It makes me feel really good knowing I have given back, even just a little bit. When we get home I make a late Crimbo dinner for two and we relax on the sofa. It’s nothing fancy but it’s always special to us.
In my family, we begin Christmas preparations early, ie. in October. That includes buying presents, stocking up on all the necessary booze and baking our traditional rum cake which we feed rum to weekly before icing on the first day of Christmas – I’m surprised it doesn’t get eaten before the big day. Christmas Eve is when we season our chicken, turkey or fish Caribbean-style and leave to marinate and wait anxiously to open just one gift at midnight. Then on the big day, we open our presents together, then begin cooking for the day ahead. My mum usually dresses the table as she is super creative and has an eye for detail. And before its time to chow down, the lazy ones tend to freshen up and slip into pyjamas, onesies or anything comfortable so they look a little decent at the table. After dinner we drink, talk and laze around in a food coma before I put on my glad rags and head out for a Christmas Day party with my boyfriend’s family. The next few days are sure to be a blur!
In the period between Christmas and new year’s, my family and I always go to the same restaurant in Manchester for our family round-up of the year. We eat a lot of cichetti, we drink a lot of wine and we talk about what we’d like to achieve in the upcoming year. I’m half-American, so there are some nice family traditions that come from that: my American family are super big on homemade sweets and cookies. My sister-in-law (who’s from Massachusetts) makes each member of the family a homemade cookie basket which is full of things like chocolate peppermint cookies, fudge, shortbread, snickerdoodles. My English Nana died on Christmas Day in 1994, so we always do a toast to her too.
Having lived in Germany but recently started living in Scotland, I can say that Christmas in Germany is definitely a bit different to Christmas in the UK. The most obvious thing is that we have presents on the 24th, the Holy Evening. Depending if you are Christian or not, families often go to church in the afternoon of the 24th, then you see family and open presents and either have a huge Christmas dinner or just a very typical German Holy Evening meal which is a traditional potato salad and sausages, like frankfurters. Personally, we never go to church, but we have our own traditions: when I was a child me and my little brother went down to play with my grandparents while my parents set up the presents under the tree, and when a little bell rang, we were allowed to go and open our presents. After that we would have dinner with my grandparents: mostly a roast, similar to a Sunday roast. Nowadays we have dinner first, then exchange gifts, drink mulled wine and watch some traditional Christmas movies.