I’m not in the slightest bit religious, I suppose if I had to be pigeon-holed into something I would say I’m a humanist. Therefore, Christmas for me is all about the celebration, spending time with family and friends and generally having a good rest (and waaaayyyy too much food!).
I adore the run up to the big day and revel in the most mundane things that most people dread, like Christmas shopping which I adore, it always gets me in the Christmassy mood. I love walking around with everyone wrapped up with scarves, hats and gloves, seeing all of the amazing shop window displays and twinkling lights and listening to the sound of street musicians. And if there’s hot mulled wine available somewhere, even better!
As the time gets nearer there are particular things, usually very simple things, that really make Christmas special for me. It’s all about the build up. Here are just a few of my favourites…
Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without the music. There’s something very magical about it. For the rest of the year we all have very different tastes when it comes to what we want to listen to and what really touches us and we all get very elitist about it, thinking that our particular favourites are so much better than everyone else’s. However, at Christmas somehow we all seem to love the same songs. Think Nat King Cole and Dean Martin singing The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire) or Slade’s effervescent Merry Xmas Everybody. We all know the words, we all sing along at the tops of our voices and get that warm, fuzzy feeling that Christmas is nearly here, even if we refuse to admit it out loud!
For me, and I know for many others, Christmas doesn’t officially start until you’ve heard Fairytale of New York by The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl. It’s the perfect start to the season as it’s bittersweet theme eases you into everything without being full on. I always wonder what our friends across the pond make of this tune as it has a very British/Irish sense of humour about it.
I cannot do Christmas without Andy Williams and it’s all my Dad’s fault. The only Christmas album he had when we were kids was this and he would always put it on as we were opening our presents in the morning, everyone in their pyjamas and drinking a hot mug of tea. I now have a vinyl copy of the same album and it always takes me back to my childhood whenever I play it.
I have a Christmas playlist on my iPhone which gets a good workout throughout December and I always add at least one new song to it every year. Last year I added this haunting version of In The Bleak Midwinter by UK country duo Ward Thomas which was released to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Christmas Truce of 1914. All royalties from it were shared equally by the Homeless Veterans Appeal in the UK and the Volksbund Organization in Germany to honour those on both sides who took part in the truce. It still sends a shiver down my spine every time I hear it.
I love baking cakes and biscuits to give as gifts and I generally always do this for my work colleagues at Christmas. I try to do something different every year, either with flavours or decoration and my cupcakes in particular always go down a storm. In fact my bosses wife ordered loads from me a couple of years ago to give to her own colleagues!
This is a small selection of the cupcakes I’ve produced in the past. I’ve done my Christmas pudding cupcakes a few times now, either with a vanilla base, an orange base or chocolate base and they’re always quite popular. I think the little cutter for the holly leaves is probably my most used piece of baking equipment!
The Santa falling over in the snow ones are my favourite, even though they took forever to do. However, this year I’m doing something a bit different, mainly because my boss has become completely obsessed with salted caramel, and so I’m focusing on flavours instead of decoration. I’ve already done a rough trial run of my banoffee pie and chocolate salted caramel ones and was almost happy with the taste, although the (fake) banana flavouring was dreadful. I’m going to try another method this weekend to make sure I perfect it.
My biscuits are always a very festive flavour of cinnamon and ginger and, again, each year I like to do something different. Last year my Santa faces were a bit of a disaster due to me being lazy and buying my ready to roll icing from the local supermarket instead of getting the good quality Renshaw ones. The supermarket icing was really crumbly and dried out far too quickly meaning that when it came to construction a lot f the pieces just fell apart. The small group of Santa faces above were the only ones I could rescue and you can definitely see the difference between them and the nice plump icing on the ones underneath from a previous year.
I’ve also had a go at making chocolates which was very enjoyable figuring out different flavours to do but they took forever to complete so I haven’t braved doing them since. I also went a bit crazy a few years ago and made hampers for members of my family, which had things like Cranberry and Orange Vodka, Cheeky Chilli Chutney and Cranberry Oatcakes in it. You can see how they were made in my How to Make Your Own Handmade Christmas Hampers post.
Curling Up On The Sofa Watching Christmas films
As much as I love the good old-fashioned Christmas movie like Home Alone, Miracle on 34th Street and Santa Clause: The Movie, it’s the not-so-obvious ones I like to watch before the big day. Nora Ephron was always good at weaving the different seasons into her films and I adore watching ones that feature Christmas in them like When Harry met Sally and Sleepless in Seattle.
The Holiday is definitely one of my favourites to watch at this time of the year. I’m a big fan of Kate Winslet and I will watch just about anything with her in and this one shows off her funny, goofy side. It’s also got great eye-candy in the guise of Jude Law, as well as the king and queen of goofy Jack Black and Cameron Diaz. It’s a sweet, feel good, funny film with glamorous Hollywood locations and cute, wintery British countryside ones. What’s not to like?
Mean Girls has a place in so many people’s hearts. We’ve all been there, been the odd one out desperate to fit in, so we all feel we can relate to Cady in some way. However, my favourite character has got to be Janis played by Lizzy Caplan, who stars as the fabulous Virginia Johnson in Masters of Sex (are we ever getting season 3 in the UK?). She’s the type of girl I was back in school, a bit weird, knows her own mind and never gives up on her friends. This film, of course, gets a place in this list due to the fabulous Jingle Bell Rock scene. Who didn’t want to do this at school and have all the boys drooling over them?
And come Christmas Eve this is the only film I absolutely have to watch! Elf is the most Christmassy of all Christmas films and it is just so incredibly hilarious, even if I have seen and heard all of the jokes a thousand times. Will Ferrel is brilliant as Buddy, the human child who grew up as an elf. I adore this film and Christmas would never feel the same without it.
Decorating The Christmas Tree
Every year I have a theme for my decorations and often end up making my own decorations due to not being able to find what I’m looking for in the shops. This year, due to many things getting in the way, it completely slipped my mind to come up with my theme and suddenly December was upon us. I have very quickly cobbled together an Art Deco theme but it’s not as good as it would’ve been had I had time to really think about it. Once the presents are wrapped I’ll post a photo on Instagram to show you.
This was my fairytale theme in white, gold and silver, complete with princess crowns, Cinderella slippers, singing birds, magic keys and fairytale castles. The black fake tree was all topped with a very regal Lawrence Llewellyn Bowen design crown in gold.
This was last year’s Swedish theme in red and white with loads of the decorations coming from Ikea over several years. I also handmade a Santa Lucia crown as a centerpiece on my dinning table which you can see here.
This is my Tiffany & Co. theme and probably the one I’m most proud of. The colour was obviously Tiffany blue and all the little boxes I made myself after searching on the internet for days to find the exact colour. Again I’ve used the white keys which are actually old vintage ones that I sprayed white and covered in glitter whilst they were still wet. These were to represent my favourite collection of theirs, Tiffany Keys.
Last, and by no means least, is my London theme. Again,I used the gold crowns but this time to represent the Queen and added 10 beautiful Union Jack baubles that I bought from Past Times when they were still in existence. The London buses and black cabs I made myself out of felt and were just so much fun to do. The red telephone box was a gift from my mum as she knew I doing this theme and spotted it whilst out shopping.
Wrapping The Presents
As part of my themes I always like to make sure the presents are wrapped in a way that matches the theme. This is probably my most favourite part of Christmas as I absolute love wrapping presents and I have a huge box of ribbons, tags, bows, bags and etc. that never seems to run out. I’ve always said that one day I’d go and work in Macy’s or Bloomingdales in New York during the festive season to work in the wrapping department. Now that would be my dream job!
This wrapping took forever to do as I hand-stamped each and every one. I have a huge collection of stamps, all very Christmassy, and use them every year to personalise my tags. For this theme I used really cheap brown parcel paper so it was a really budget friendly way to create very unique wrapping paper.
These were part of my London theme but unfortunately the best wrapping I did that year I forgot to photograph. I created my own front page of The Times newspaper by laying the logo at the top of an A3 piece of paper and adding clippings and photographs I had done myself on the computer. My mum, who has a stationery shop, then ran this through the photocopier to create lots of sheets. It looked amazing and, of course, I used red,white and blue ribbons.
Sorry about the fuzzy picture but you can just about see all of the Tiffany & Co bags I made and stamped with my version of their logo. I loved giving these out because people really had to look at them twice before realising they weren’t actually getting a very expensive piece of jewellery.
So, what’s your favourite thing to do during the festive period? Are there any other oddballs out there who just love to wrap presents or is it just me? 🙂