Wednesday, 30 November 2016

December - Advent and the start of Winter

Hello and welcome to December in all her gaudy glory!  Despite being buried in the middle of winter, December arrives like the brightest star promising festivity and colour to bring cheer to the darkest month of the year.
I love all the pretty magazines showing perfectly decorated homes with brightly lit and nicely co-ordinated Christmas trees.  My house looks like the bad taste fairy turned up and cursed us – and I wouldn’t have it any other way!  My treasure chest of assorted Christmas Tree Tat holds so many happy and precious memories; the sad looking pipe-cleaner fairy that saw better days more than twenty years ago and dates from when I was about 7 or 8 years old; the tatty tin foil poinsettia that came off a Christmas cracker in the mid-80’s that my Grandmother gave to me saying “here you are, you can put this on your tree”.  That was the last Christmas she saw and I’ve faithfully brought it out every year since, it always reminds me of her and never fails to make me smile.  There have been new ones added to the collection over the years, from various holidays we’ve had or to commemorate various events.  Holly pops has several of her own now too.

That’s the thing with Christmas, the past and present mingle as we make new memories and add new traditions to the ones we hold dear.   A current favourite at HH Towers is the Advent treat of a mid-afternoon cuppa and a mince pie, which gets upgraded to a slice of cake from Christmas Day onwards.  December is such a terribly civilised month, mid afternoon cups of tea and pretty bone china!  Last Christmas I treated myself to a Royal Albert Christmas cup, saucer and plate set, there is nothing like doing it in style!

December’s evening walks are a pure joy too, with the pretty twinkly lights brightening up the windows of the homes we pass along the way.  I love those walks most of all.

In the kitchen we're busy making the last of the goodies that will see us through to Christmas and then into the New Year.  This little housewife doesn't expect to have to lift a finger to do anything more than some foraging in the freezer, gentle re-heating or vague assembling of ingredients!  With enough forethought and careful shopping this is easily achieved and we get to have a holiday too.  The Christmas cake is being nurtured like a newborn, not quite four-hourly feeds but not far off it either!  It'll be marzipanned in the second week of the month and then iced and decorated a few days before Christmas.  Waiting to cut into that is always torture!

I can never forget the first ever Christmas cake I made, when I was aged 11 at school.  We'd carefully made our cakes and had to leave them at school to finish baking, our teacher was going to go back up later that evening to get them out (I know, what on earth was she thinking!) - she went home, fell asleep and they all burned.  We marzipanned and iced them, stuck little plastic figurines and fir trees in them - but they were burned beyond redemption.  I cried bitter tears over that cake - that was 41 years ago now, but I remember it vividly!

When I was younger (and far less wise) I used to polish and scrub the house to a sheen in the run-up to Christmas.  My kitchen floor always had a new mat too, for some obscure reason!  Those days are now long gone and I aim for a general sense of order and a good helping of Christmas cheer rather than surgical clean; a good dust and polish before the Bad Taste Fairy arrives and a lick and a polish until she comes back to restore order is plenty!

Christmas is a time to enjoy yourself, to be around the people you love and to do the things that make you happy.  Having a perfectly decorated home, enough food to feed advancing armies and enough drink to float entire navies are nice to have, but absolutely not essential and if they stress you out and take you away from spending time with your family - are they really worth doing?  Now I'm a bit older, life has beaten me around a bit and I'm a lot wiser I realise that the things that really matter at Christmas absolutely cannot be bought.  The things that matter most to me are the little routines and traditions that make me happy and remind me of happy times with people who are no longer here in body, but very much here in spirit.  All the diamonds in the world can't match the pleasure I get from digging out the old Christmas decorations and sitting down with a mince pie and a snowball while watching It's A Wonderful Life!

This year for Christmas, I wish you the most precious gift of all - happiness, peace and a lifetime of happy memories.

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