It’s that time of year – time to deck the halls and all that stuff. It’s my favourite time. It’s Christmas time.
I am not what you would call a religious person – I know this, because I was once very religious and I am now the antithesis of that – but I LOVE Christmas. Love it, love it, love it.
The only reason that I don’t listen to holiday music all year around, is to retain its specialness. I love Christmas music – and I mean everything from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir signing ‘The Little Drummer Boy’ to Mariah Carey singing ‘All I Want for Christmas is You’, to Nat King Cole’s ‘The Christmas Song’. ‘Carol of the Bells’ gives me chills, and my all-time fave is ‘Silent Night’.
The only Christmas song I don’t like is ‘Baby It’s Cold Outside’, a.k.a ‘The Date Rape Song’. Listen carefully to the lyrics if you don’t believe me. As an side, I have also just discovered Eartha Kitt’s ‘Nothin’ for Christmas’, which is essentially the Christmas sexual harassment song. So, I guess that’s two Christmas songs I don’t like, but, as I often do, I digress.
My family is a wonderful mix of Australian, American and English, so the Christmas food that hits our plates is also an incredible mix.
American-style Christmas cookies are a must. Once, my sister and I embarked on an all-day baking intensive. We baked hundreds of cookies – 5 different kinds – including the ones that have to be individually iced. By the end of the day we were in a foul mood, but it soon lifted – we just ate Christmas cookies and all was well!
We ALWAYS have Russian Tea Cakes, which are, quite simply, the best food ever. In the history of the universe. And just so you can enjoy them too, here is the recipe:
- 1 c butter
- ½ c icing (powdered) sugar
- 2 ¼ c sifted plain flour
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1 tsp vanilla
- ¾ c chopped nuts – pecans/walnuts
Mix, form into balls, bake at 180C / 375F for 8 minutes, dust with icing sugar while still warm. Then roll in icing sugar when they’re cool.
They looks like this:
The Pommie influence is in the traditional Christmas dinner, which we often persevered with even in the 40C heat of Perth. Christmas pudding is absolutely essential. I love it. And I can recommend buying it, not making it. The ones you can buy are so damned good, why would you spend all that time and effort to make one? Heston Blumenthal’s are apparently the best you can buy. We’ll be having one of those this Christmas. With custard. Warm, runny custard. Oh my.
My partner’s family traditionally make steamed cranberry pudding, which I have yet to master after two tries. It is tart and bitter, but is served with a super sweet caramel sauce. It’s not my fave, but I will give it another try – for him.
And, because I grew up in Australia, we have a Christmas tradition of breakfasting on prawns, smoked salmon, a summer fruit platter and champagne – lots of bubbles!
Every year, my mom (she’s the American parent), gives my sister and me a new Christmas decoration. The collection is now vast, and each year, I trot out the old and add the new. I’ve taken to collecting them too, and giving them – it’s such a lovely way to mark a Christmas spent with special people. Mom has also extended this tradition to our S.O.s and my nephew. This year I will be delivering all five 2014 decorations to London, but more on that later.
I love to decorate for Christmas. Sometimes we’ve had a real tree – especially when we lived in the Evergreen state, Washington – and sometimes we’ve travelled for Christmas, so we decorated our hotel room with our Christmas stockings.
We also wear antlers during Christmas celebrations. My dad started this tradition, and it’s carried on to the next generation:
And, there are the Daves…
The first Reindeer Dave was made by my grandmother, Joan, along with Celeste, the angel who appears in this picture. My step-mum took up the tradition after grandma died, and made a Dave for all of us. Last year we travelled to spend Christmas with family in Western Australia, where several Daves congregated. Our Dave is on the right.
And here’s our Dave this year:
We’re travelling again this year, so no tree, but Dave shares a little Christmas tableau with our Aussie Christmas animals, and some of the Christmas bells that were given to Ben by his grandparents every year.
I love giving presents. I do love getting them too, but I have a lot of fun seeking out the perfect gift for my loved ones – right down to the stocking-stuffers. And oh yes, we’re big on stockings in my family, something I have enjoyed carrying on with Ben. This year, the biggest gift we’re giving is our presence, as we’re flying to London to spend Christmas with my sister, brother-in-law and nephew, who is 3-and-a-half.
I am guessing that once we’re packed, we’ll discover that one whole suitcase is dedicated to presents. It’s hard not to spoil your only nephew, especially when he’s such a great, appreciative kid, and he’s now at that age where Christmas is a big deal to him – and so is his aunty and uncle travelling to see him from Australia. He’s also a Brit born to two Aussie parents, and we are loaded up on Aussie children’s books and toys, so he will be an Aussie kid too.
Yes, the music is festive, the decorations make me giddy, presents are awesome, and I adore eating Christmas food, but the best part of Christmas is family. And, that of course means the family I was born with and those who have become family. We dress up, we get together, swap gifts, eat amazing food, have lots of bubbles, and just generally partake in a mutual admiration society. The thing is, I am really fortunate that my family gatherings – and especially Christmas – are fun. We laugh, we play bocce or sing karaoke, we play party games, we watch concerts on DVD and Christmas moves, like ‘Love Actually’ (my fave). We just have a good time, which is maybe the reason I love it all so much.
Oh, and this year we will get to watch the Downton Abbey Christmas special as it airs live on British television. It’s a long way to travel for a favourite TV show, but it’s one of my Christmas presents to myself.
Merry Christmas, everyone. I hope it’s grand. And make the Russian Tea Cakes – you won’t regret it.