Tuesday 22 December 2009

Christmas traditions

I think each family has a unique Christmas but made all the more special in the knowledge that something similar is happening in other homes all across the world.

Here are some of our family traditions - how similar are they to your own?

G8 opens her advent calendar from the 1st December - little wooden symbols to hang on a Christmas scene. Now the dog has to have one too (for heaven's sake!) although hers is of the chocolate variety.

The three of us; J, G8 and me go to choose the Christmas tree for our house - it takes a bit of ooing and ahhing and how big is thating before we can all agree on the best one. Once home the smell is gorgeous and fills the room. G8 and I decorate, we're as happy as Larry and it can take hours of faffing. We have a fairy on top.

In Christmas week we go to Church, which in our case is at the bottom of the garden. This year G8 is in the play with the Llysyfran Mummers and there are refreshments, including warm punch afterwards. There are also games and a Welsh concert party by ALAW. Bendigedig! Donations are going to Shelter Cymru's Christmas Appeal this year.

Christmas Eve we prepare a (rather large) shot of whisky & a mince pie or two for Santa and a carrot for Rudolph. Then we all have to work out which chimney he is going to come down - each year since moving we've had the same discussion. I assure G8 it won't be the Rayburn as he'll burn his bum, likewise the wood burner. Instead it'll be the one we don't use in the dining area. Here we then very carefully lay out all the wares ready for Santa's night time visit.

A newer, more technological tradition for our nuclear family has been tracking Santa using http://www.noradsanta.org/ Great fun - there are also lots of Christmas games for all who are young at heart, try it!

Finally, it feels, we pack G8 off to bed - relief. To wind her down beforehand we read Christmas stories in front of the wood burner with oodles of hot chocolate for all.

Once G8 has given in to sleep we spend our time scurrying around, drinking whisky, eating mince pies and Topsy Dog helps with the carrot now. It's hard, but someone has to do it.

We pack G8's stocking up with little goodies, including a small orange. We believe this represents the gold that Father Christmas first dropped when coming down the chimney and which had been luckily caught in a stocking instead of being lost in the grate. Did you also know that green was the traditional colour for the British Father Christmas (remember in A Christmas Carol the Spirit of Christmas Present?) It was Coca Cola ads that ''popularised'' red as the color of Santa's suit in 1931. I learnt that last week in Chapel (our neighbours had invited us to a family service. It was really lovely and we met Santa, although not the "real thing" of course - he only comes Christmas Eve).

First thing Christmas morning G8 bounds in to our bedroom, we've tried to get her to look at her clock and not to jump on the bed before 4am! This year we've installed a fibre optic tree in her bedroom, which lights up at exactly 7am, do we have any hope that she'll wait for this before leaping on us? My guess is nope, not a chance!

G8 opens her Christmas stocking in a frenzy on our bed... this is my favourite part of the day really... it's so cosy and it's a joy to watch her face.

We have always trooped over to Him and Her Next Door for the big event - nowadays we don't have to get wet and de-ice the car, we can just walk down the back corridor and there we are! Santa has usually been extra busy here. We start with a Bucks Fizz, yum and G8 is the elf for the day reading the labels and handing out the presents. We have always done one gift at a time - as part of the joy for all of us is the giving, seeing what others get and watching faces light up (or drop on occasion!) It takes longer but I think it's important for G8 to realise that giving is just as lovely as getting.

Of course we then eat way too much, drink a little more and collapse in a heap of exhaustion at the end of the day. But for the magic of Christmas for the children (of all ages) it really is worth it.

Tuesday 15 December 2009

Christmas comes but once a year

thank goodness.

The great writing of the cards started early this year as I knew all would be chaos with the kitchen half done... It's very tempting to do a round robin on the PC but for some bizarre reason I ritualistically hand write notes in all the cards where I haven't seen someone in a while.

It can take some time and I get hand ache as I never use pen and paper really at any other time of the year... except perhaps to write a cheque or a note to myself, but nothing of any substantial content.

My Christmas witterings to others is mainly inane rubbish, I gabble on not in the least sure anyone is at all interested (bit like this blog really!) But I insist on doing it every year.

I get constant interruptions from (in descending order) G8, the dog, J, Her and Him Next Door. I end up making silly mistakes; love from Me and the dog - hmmm, Benblydd Hapus, Dear Joan and Joan - the list is long. Unlike the PC I can't undo my mistakes without leaving a trace that they were ever there, I have to either cross it out or start again.

This year we had a lovely card from Viking Direct, now I have never been round to the Viking Direct's for tea lately so I am not sure regarding the return card whether to write a chatty note or just Happy Christmas from all of us. Modern etiquette is a minefield.

Between Her Next Door and me (I think J managed to write one card so far - and he said he might just do mine) we have kept the local postman in a job. We needed a bag to get the cards to the post box and a loan for the stamps. We try hard to grab visitors when they come to take some home with them, but there is a limit on how many we can do this way.

Someone who will remain nameless (but you know who you are), always sends Christmas cards from her work's franking machine. This brings back memories. When I worked at the bank someone got caught out doing that when a card got returned - address unknown. All the staff were called together for a group dressing down and the offending card was waved in front of us as a deterrent (we all tended to sneak the odd card in and they knew it)! Not quite in the politicians league but it stopped me dead - I am such a wimp. Now in any case I haven't a franking machine within a hundred mile radius so it's back to the stamp.

After finishing the cards all I've got to do now is wrap the presents and decorate the tree - what a doddle!

Wednesday 9 December 2009

Gegin Fach

Her and Him Next Door used to have a large kitchen and separate dining room.

Now they have been reduced to an open plan kitchen, dining, sitting room. They get under each other's feet. Sometimes I fear they might kill each other as the cooking area of the kitchen is Her Next Door's domain whereas the dishwasher is fiercely defended by Him Next Door. Unfortunately the two areas overlap; occasionally when Her Next Door is dishing up and Him Next Door is trying to put the dirty dishes in the dishwasher - there can be clashes.

Raised voices and underhand sniping. Looks which could kill.

On the positive side there is less to clean.

Her Next Door has always been a keen cook and enjoyed making meals for others. Before we moved we used to pop round to Him & Her Next Door's home on a Sunday for (wait for it...) Sunday lunch and a few lazy drinks in the afternoon. Things have changed. We now share the cooking between the families for four lunchtimes a week. Her Next Door and J each do two meals per week, Monday through to Thursday. Friday and the weekends are left free so that we can do our own thang! We initially used to eat our cooked meal in the evenings but we found we drunk way too much red wine and Gran doesn't like to eat late - so it got moved to lunchtime instead.

Both Her Next Door and J enjoy cooking, and when anyone asks Her Next Door whether she eats out much she always replies yes, at least twice a week. They compare cookery notes and have had great fun learning to use the Rayburns.

We try to buy less from the large supermarkets. Him Next Door grows all our vegetables through the summer months. We have a farm a few steps up the road where we get our pork and beef from, we know all about the pedigree of the pigs and cows and even get to watch them rolling about in the mud or grazing in the fields. Our eggs are supplied by a friend who has a smallholding. We still get our milk delivered from a local supplier. We've acquired the odd fish from the reservoir on a bartering system, i.e. you gut them and you can keep half. All great really and part of the reason for moving.

It's not all roses. Sometimes we have to eat lettuce for days on end, you can run out of ideas very quickly for different ways to serve the stuff. I am not the greatest red meat fan, yet we have to find room in the freezer for a whole cow and work out how we are going to eat it all. Good job we have lots of visitors to devour the excess!
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