December dithering

There’s a mild tightening in my chest which often occurs at this time of year. The first cards that arrive in the post always throw me off balance. It makes me wonder whether I’ve missed a memo or skipped a week. It’s exacerbated by all the posts I see on social media of beautiful Christmas trees up and decorated, presents bought and already wrapped. Fair play to everyone who is ahead of the game and organised for the festive season but I am not. It seems too early to be in full-Christmas mode. I don’t want to be sick of it before it’s here but neither do I want to slide into a proper panic because I’ve left it too late to order the turkey or an important gift. It’s a fine line.

We won’t get our tree until after my son comes home from uni at the end of next week. Gift-wise, I plan to do most of my shopping online with a trip into Canterbury on a weekday when it won’t be as chokka as it is at the weekends. Fitting this in will be a challenge, though, as there isn’t a day between now and Christmas Eve when I don’t have at least one thing happening. (There’s that feeling again…) It would help if I knew what everyone would like. In years gone by, detailed lists would have been drawn up by now, but at 14, 17 and 19, there’s less excitement among my brood, less anticipation. To be fair, there’s less build-up. There aren’t the endless Christmas events that happened when they were in primary school – there are no school events at all that I’m aware of. (That’s not to say that there aren’t any, just none that I’ve been told about.)

Although we do have our family traditions, the stockings that we (actually, mostly David) made when the children were small, each one with a different coloured ribbon, our much-loved decorations, our favourite films like ‘Polar Express’, ‘Arthur Christmas’ and ‘Muppet’s Christmas Carol’ (just typing that makes me smile), our Christmases are definitely evolving now that the children are all teenagers. There’s no more waking up at the crack of dawn on Christmas morning, for one thing! This year, I’m planning to get them all more involved, to give them all jobs to do and I’ll try to not micro-manage every detail. Once the gift and food shopping is done, I intend to be relaxed about it, to enjoy the things that matter and not fret about things that don’t. This year, more than ever, I am acutely conscious of all that we have, of what’s important and how precious our time together is. My mother-in-law will be with us but my parents are going to my brother’s, so it’ll just be the six of us. I’m sure the teenagers will have plans and we’ve been invited to a few parties but I am looking forward to the times when we’re all here, when the curtains are drawn against the dark outside, the fire and candles are lit and we are safe and cosy together.

I took my daughter and a couple of her friends to the pantomime in Canterbury on Wednesday evening. It’s Cinderella this year and the ugly sisters were outrageous and hilarious, as were the puns, the costumes were amazing and fake snow fell all over the audience which was quite magical. And today was a gift of a day. I was due to attend a meeting in London but it was cancelled (I heard after I’d speed-walked the dog in the pouring rain but luckily before I left the house for the station), so I slowed right down, had another mug of tea and contemplated the kitchen. I spied the bowl of dried fruit in brandy for the Christmas cake covered with a tea towel which has been sitting on the side for a couple of weeks. It was meant to be soaking overnight but life got in the way.

Before I made the cake, though, I discovered that treacle had leaked out into the bottom of one of our big drawers where we keep all our baking ingredients, so I cleaned it out and threw away a load of out-of-date half-used packets. In full tidying mode, I cleared out the other food drawer and reorganised everything into similar products. THEN I made the Christmas cake. I always follow Delia Smith’s rich fruit cake recipe because it’s straightforward and always works and it tastes delicious. She says in no uncertain terms that you must NOT open the oven door for at least four hours. Meanwhile, the delicious smell is wafting through the house and David is complaining that we won’t be able to eat it for 18 days.

I hope all is well with you. Have a lovely weekend. I’m off to guard the cake.


11 thoughts on “December dithering

  1. I’m with you on not getting everything done too soon. As a child our decorations went up on Christmas Eve. I leave our until about the 18th but I do leave them up until January 6th.


  2. Thank goodness you put into words so eloquently how I feel at this time of year. It’s all too much too soon for me. You have such a talent for expressing the reality of life but making it feel so comforting at the same time.


  3. I must admit I always feel that November is too soon, but December is too short! Working in the Post Office is a bit like the cobbler being worst heeled – I didn’t even write my cards till the Xmas hols last year!


  4. I think that social media feeds the feeling that one is behind. Americans seem to decorate so very early and rush into the season. I like a slow anticipation and then celebrate Christmas Eve, the 25th, 26th and drift into the New Year in a cloud of festivity. Your cake sounds delightful and is giving me little niggles to bake something similar although I won’t eat a bite of it, but I know my husband and other family members would enjoy it very much.


  5. Another lovely read and do well put. I’ve just been on a Christmas wreaff workshop – something I’ve been meaning to do for years. So I’m starting to get in the festive spirit. Xx


  6. I know that feeling exactly, I have it too. There comes a time when I suddenly realise I’ve been left behind. I am trying to hold my nerve and be relaxed as well. I have a day of food preparation ahead to help the eldest with his photography homework – I will be making beautifully crafted dishes for him to shoot. I think we all know how that’s going to go. We’ve already been shouty and we’ve not even started yet. Have a good weekend Sam. CJ xx


  7. I know just what you mean! All the media/ads saying ‘it’s nearly here’ and ‘last minute gifts’! For heaven’s sake there’s more than 2 weeks! OK if you have to post abroad, but our tree is in a bucket in the garden because we bought it earlier than usual for the Festival in the church, and I’ve only just bought the first present!


  8. Why does treacle always leak? I enjoyed reading your thoughtful words about this hectic time of year. Christmas does change as children get older, we are noticing, too. It is still Sam’s favourite time of year, quite sweet really in an 18 year old young man.

    We like a low key Christmas here. Simple delicious food, few presents and lots of peaceful pottering around. I used to feel slightly inadequate with our underwhelming preparations but life is too short and busy to worry about a perfect Christmas. I am quite excited about buying a tree – just in time for Christmas Eve I think. Reading about your Christmas cakes reminds me of my own, must feed it with some brandy. x


  9. This all sounds so familiar Sam. As we sell Christmas trees and decs, we start planning for that in January but then suddenly about now, I realise that I’ve done absolutely nothing about our family Christmas.
    I wish everybody was like you and didn’t get their Christmas tree until the end of the week. We had people trying to buy trees the last weekend of November. Utter madness.


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