I know everyone says it (apart from the bah humbugs) but I really bloody love Christmas. Michael Buble is on full blast and I’m rocking out my collection of Christmas jumpers in the run up to the big day.
As a child I thought everyone’s Christmases were exactly the same but as I grew up, I was surprised to find out about everyone else’s plans for the festive season. Over the years my family’s traditions have ultimately stayed the same, slightly adapting with my romanticised inputs… an extra bit of baking or another theme here and there.
As we turn from children to teenagers, to adults in our own houses, our rituals change in turn. As a part of this month’s #travellinkup, I’m sharing my 24 favourite festive traditions; old, new and those I hope to continue for the future. (Oh and there’s a chance to win a Christmas treat at the end of the post!).
1 . A Christmas Breakfast
Traditionally our household has warm soft croissants for breakfast, with a spot of jam and butter. Over the last couple of years I’ve put my baking to the test and added some homemade goods to the morning menu, trying something new each year. A firm favourite was my freshly baked Christmas muffins, made with nutmeg, cinnamon and topped with a cherry.
2 . Humorous Christmas Decorations
Last year when I travelled around America and Canada, I got into the habit of buying bizarre looking tree decorations in each new location, a tradition I’ve tried to carry on wherever I go. Each reminds me of a certain place, from crying with laughter at a tree topped cat to giggling over a Santa Clause mushroom in Berlin. My plan is to end up with a hilarious looking mini tree that each year will bring back amazing memories and make us all laugh over the festive period. Unfortunately my decor is currently lost in the loft and being retrieved as I type so I may do another post all together on my festive travel souvenirs.
3 . Everything I want is Not On The High Street
Gone are the days of circling the Argos catalogue. These days it’s all about scrolling through the incredibly long list of quality, thoughtful products on my favourite online gift store, Not On The High Street. Some of my top treats include these song cushion covers and an unlimited amount of jewellery from this silver hammered karma disc necklace to this silver knot bangle. Hint hint 😉
4 .QUICK FALL ASLEEP NOW SANTA IS ALMOST HERE
With the help of technology, I can now whisk my little sister to bed quicker than you can make a cup of tea. The Santa Tracker is the best app ever created and as soon as the red icon starts to make its way over to Europe, that girl is in her PJs, teeth cleaned and cuddling up to her My Little Ponies within minutes.
5 . A trip to Winter Wonderland
Winter Wonderland has now become a tradition that I hope to continue as long as the famous Hyde Park celebration stays put. To me its more than hot cider and festive rides… its where Allyn and I had our second date two years ago and shared our first kiss at the top of the wheel (I will not apologise for the sickening cuteness).
6 . Tearjerker Gifts
You know what’s better than an awesome Christmas present? Being so awesome that it makes the receiver cry! I have a rule that if I make both my parents tear up on Christmas Day, then I’m winning at being a daughter. And no I’m not putting raw onions in their wrapping paper, I’m talking gut-wrenching, meaningful, sentimental gifts that bring back the best memories and show them just how much I love them.
7 . A Switz Christmas Eve
My Christmas Eve is something I took for granted a lot when I was a child until I realised it was completely different to everyone else’s. My step dad is half Switz, which means every year we have a traditional Switz celebration at his parents’ house next door to ours. A night of homemade party games, carol singing and musicals, entertainment and theatrics are combined with unlimited sherry and snacks. 9/10 of us play at least one instrument, so it’s not surprising that the sound of our party can be heard from across the street. Note: you absolutely can not take part unless you have prepared a performance, musical or not.
8 . The Christmas Play
A famous part of the above celebration is the highly anticipated Christmas Play. For a number of years, my step-Grandad (a highly theatrical man who once a singer in the BBC Proms takes great pride in sharing his musical knowledge) would write and direct a festive play for the grandchildren to perform, of course taking a role for himself. Rehearsals would start months in advance with full costume changes and musical numbers being a part of the huge production. I’ve already warned my step dad that I have high expectations for his directing role with my future children.
9 . Constructing the Gingerbread House
Inspired by Mary Berry and the Bake Off’s yearly gingerbread challenge (oh how I weep), each year in the days leading up the Christmas I try my hardest to construct a house to match a top bakers. Apart from last year. Because the one before crumbled and caused a near breakdown. But I will be back with a vengeance (and much better icing glue).
10. A Christmas Creme Brûlée
Creme brûlée is my all time favourite dessert and one that my Mum happens to be a pro at making. Every December I challenge her to create a new festive twist on this classic pud. We’ve had orange peel, winter spice and a punchy boozy bottom. This year I think we’re going with caramelised nuts… Drool.
11 . The Christmas Jumper Collection
Everyone loves a good ole Christmas jumper am-I-right? I have a slight addiction and think I have about 8 cosy knits featuring a festive motif. My favourites have to be my vintage red and white itchy yet cosy wool and my thick knitted moose jumper that I bought in Quebec last year.
12 . Christmas Shopping – The Saving Grace
Christmas shopping is a bitch. Especially when you live in London and you have to weigh up a buggy filled Westfields or, well, Oxford Street. The only thing that makes this hellish occasion worthwhile is a trip to my favourite department stores… Liberty’s Christmas shop, John Lewis’ festive floor and Fortnum and Mason’s irresistible range of treats from Buck’s Fizz marmalade to mulled wine jam.
13 . A Child’s Christmas Morning
How do your Christmas mornings begin? Well being the oldest sibling, I have the privilege of still being apart of the magic that keeps Santa’s spirit alive. Every year I tell my little sister that she has to wait until 8am to wake me up… So at 7.59am on the dot (or 7.45 if she’s feeling courageous) she’ll quietly knock on my bedroom door and creep into my bed. Nothing beats waking up with an excitable little girl who can’t wait a minute longer to show you what Santa’s brought her! I’m making the most of it before she becomes a miserable teenager who’s just upset she’s spending a day away from her boyfriend.
14 . Stockings On The Bed
Following on from the above, we either all gather in my (now brothers!) downstairs room or jump on our parents’ bed with our stockings in hand. Of course our excitable pup Benny gets to come too with his own stocking between his teeth. It’s then a case of pulling out toy after toy (or in my case chocolates, fizz and funny gifts – Santa knows me so well) and thanking the man in the red coat.
15 . Wrap-tastic Presents
To me a present isn’t just about what’s inside, the wrapping and presentation has to be just as good – and sometimes better ;). I have a box of ribbons, jingle bells, candy canes and glittery papers that come out a few days before Christmas Day, where my mum and I sit on the floor developing back ache wrapping everything in sight. We might also have a few glasses of wine to numb the pain.
16 . A Christmas Movie Marathon
Christmas movies are the best. I’m talking everything from Elf (obvs) to the incredibly depressing, yet I can’t help but watch, Jack Frost. Our family favourite has to be The Grinch. I’m also trying to watch all the classics from Its A Wonderful Life to the (slightly controversial) White Christmas.
17 . Bucks Fizz to Start The Day
Stockings unpacked, presents unwrapped and a trio of birds in the oven, couldn’t possibly be enjoyed without a glass (or two) of Bucks Fizz. Christmas Day is the only day of the year that I drink bubbles, Baileys and festive flavoured booze from the minute I wake up to the minute I pass out on the sofa… And then again when I wake up.
18 . I’ll call Santa!
The phrase ‘I’ll call Santa and tell him you’ve been naughty!’ has worked wonders in my household for years. Only on a few occasions did the threat of my Mum speaking to him have to go all the way, after which Santa would tell her to pass on the message that the naughty child in speaking better sort their shit out or there would be an empty stocking on their bed on Christmas morning. Although not a celebratory tradition, it happens every year and is a trick I will definitely use on my own kids. Oh and when the mystery of Santa comes to light… Just a simple “you won’t get any presents” does the same job.
19 . Santa’s Pre-Christmas Message
Slightly different to the above threatening technique, in recent years we’ve also received personal Christmas messages from Santa himself… either as a phone call or from his little webcam set up in the North Pole. I can assure you that there is nothing pre recorded or false about it and he truly calls up every little boy and girl who’s parents are organised enough to arrange it.
20 . Games Games Games
I bloody love board games. Monopoly, Mr and Mrs and Disney Trivial Pursuit are just some of my favourites. Christmas Day afternoon (and many hours throughout the holidays) is spent competing against each other, trying not to shout at the person who spends ages on their go, and giggling at Nana as she forgets the rules again. I wouldn’t swap that for the world.
21 . A Christmas Ballet
Since I was a child my Nana would take me to the ballet and now it’s one of my favourite things to do in London. I’ve seen a few festive performances from the classic Nutcracker to a Christmas combination in Prague, but I’d love to make this a tradition in my future for me and my children.
22 . The Disappearing Act of The Carrot, The Mince Pie and the Scotch
As we well know, Santa loves a snack and refreshment at each house he lands on. In our family, we leave out a mince pie, glass of fine Scotch and carrot for his favourite reindeer. I know he visits our house because in the morning there is always a plate of crumbs and nibbled carrot chunks. Funnily enough he never leaves a drop of Scotch.
23 . Bringing out the Puzzle Mat
For some reason a few years ago my Mum and Step Dad got really into jigsaw puzzles and it’s now become a tradition to put together an 1000 piece picture over the Christmas break. What started as lovely traditional images has now become a hilarity with new impossible puzzles including a pile of baked beans.
24 . A Festive Getaway
With my love for travel and all things festive, a wintery break is my ideal way of celebrating Christmas. My first taste of a trip to a cold destination was 2 years ago when I flew to Prague. Wrapped up in wool, I drank mulled wine and ate hot market food whilst squealing with excitement over the gigantic decorated trees and lit up castle.
This year I’m managing to squeeze in two festive getaways, my first was this weekend to Cortina in the Italian Alps which was as magical as it was beautiful. Peaks of snow topped Dolomites surrounded the alpine town, lengths of winding ski slopes dribbling down. I’ll be sharing my experience with you all in the next week so stay tuned!
Next week I’m then off to Budapest for a few nights of thermal spas, Christmas markets and ruin bars to celebrate my anniversary with Allyn. If anyone has any restaurant recommendations please do comment below!
And the bit you’ve been waiting for! To wish you all a Happy Christmas (and to thank you for your lovely support!) I’m hosting a festive giveaway with Reform Social, one of my favourite restaurants and bars just minutes away from Oxford Street, perfect for a restful hideaway after battling the crowds.
I’m giving away a chance to try some of their fabulous drinks, such as The Olde Popcorn or a walnut infused Cognac. You can take a friend, lover or mother for cocktails, with a voucher for 2 each. Competition ends at midnight on Thursday 22nd December, a perfect Christmas treat!
Entrants must be 18 or over and will get 2 cocktails each from Reform Social’s cocktail menu (menu is subject to change)
Competition is open to residents of the UK only
Giveaway ends at 12AM GMT on Friday 23rd December 2016
Voucher expires 31/03/2017
Good luck everybody! What are some of your festive traditions?