This year, we have decided that we are no longer going to go to France over the Christmas holidays. It has been nearly 3 years since we were last at my parents for the festive season but it is now final. There are lots of reasons: the December weather, potential last-minute train cancellations because of said weather, the prospect of 12 hours of car journey with a 5 month-old in ice and snow, the mad Christmas rush meaning we are more stressed than anything else, a teacher’s workload; all play a part.
I will miss Christmas with my family, it is a time full of traditions we have built over the years. Like the fact that it’s always down to my brother, my sister, myself and our respective partners to sort out Christmas Eve dinner, whilst my mum knits and my dad sits on the sofa. Christmas Eve is usually a family thing in France, a massive dinner that takes over the night, but we don’t go so overboard because we are lightweights and can’t stay up till 4 am any more.
So we chat whilst listening to the radio and make nibbles, lots and lots of them, chocolate truffles, nuts wrapped in Marzipan, little toasts piled with smoked salmon or foie gras and whatever else takes our fancy. We spend most of the evening making all this stuff, and then it’s time to eat it all in front of a rented movie. The film is always a bit hit and miss, with sometimes awkward and funny results. I missed the time they watched Inglourious Basterds, it flopped with my mum apparently, not that I’m surprised but what do you know, she loved Kill Bill, and Inception was a winner all round last year.
At midnight, we may or may not open one present. I am famously impatient and would happily open the lot – it’s past midnight so it’s Christmas Day, right? – whereas my sister will not even look at the pile until the morning proper.
On Christmas Day, we get up whenever we want, usually not before 10am, that was before we had children of course. Then breakfast, hopefully some nice brioche and a coffee, then we open the presents, and it’s time for Christmas lunch, which my mum will have sorted in the early morning. One infamous year, mum decided we didn’t need potatoes with the capon – we may have had some for lunch the day before – and I had a bit of a melt-down, ‘no potatoes? Christmas is RUINED!’ Well, sue me, but it’s not Christmas without the spuds.
But now it’s my responsibility to make memories for my little girl, and I haven’t got the faintest clue, although nice food and a movie on Christmas Eve sounds cozy and fun to me. It’s not very British though. On Christmas Eve, you go out with your mates, usually to the pub and a curry, and maybe you make it to Midnight Mass. Do try not to drink too much with dinner beforehand, the consequences can be embarrassing – trust me, I KNOW.