Tuesday, 12 December 2017

not quite Christmas

While everyone around me seems to be slightly stressed about Christmas, I am happily plodding along. It's ok you know, not getting sucked in to vortex that is Christmas. On the whole, I prefer my Christmas fresh. If I have Christmas in the house for weeks before the actual day, I grow tired of it. But I am looking forward to choosing a tree next week, and decorate it with the kids. Preferably with some cheesy pop Christmas songs blasting out of the speakers. I have been resisting the urge to play those so far but I am not sure how much longer I can resist. I am also looking forward to baking Christmas cookies and making a few festive decorations. I have a few strings of fairy lights to hang in addition to the one that has been on our apple tree for a few weeks already. Lights are my favourite decorations.

Of course, gifts need to be organised ahead of time but our gift giving tradition is comparably modest and we only exchange gifts with close family. The list of purchases or makes is short. I do all my shopping online because I feel completely paralysed by the overwhelming message to buy and buy some more. I went to Boots today to get a couple of things I needed and I was stunned by aisles upon aisles of "three for two mix & match" special offer presents. I spent a few minutes exploring the selection. The majority seemed to be future school fair tombola items. I can see how one can get sucked into buying though. A set of one hundred eye shadow colours found its way into my hands and I don't even use eye shadow! And no, I didn't buy it.

Our Christmas meal is not complicated and requires little shopping. This year we are having a BBQ with a selection of favourite steak cuts, some seasonal sides and of course pudding. I fancy lemon meringue pie. I also want to buy some cheese. The local cheese monger is one shop I enjoy visiting. The queue is long but merry and new fleeting friendships are formed.







Christmas cheerfulness is happening though. Last week, St Nicholas paid me a visit. St Nicholas Day is one of my favourite Christmas traditions that is not celebrated in Britain. In Switzerland, St Nicholas day is celebrated on the 6th of December. When I was little (and not so little), St Nicholas would come and visit in the early evening. He had a big hessian bag containing little hessian bags full of nuts and chocolates and other little treats. Our St Nicholas was dressed in red and had a big white beard. More traditionally, St Nicholas would wear  a bishop's robes. St Nicholas also had a big book in which he kept notes about me. One year I remember he was very pleased that I had learned to use cutlery like a big girl. You had to be good to get a little hessian bag with treats. I was always good. St Nicholas also liked to hear a little song, or a poem or something. Family folklore has it that I offered him a glass of whiskey once but I can't remember that. Maybe I thought of distracting him from a naughty thing I feared might be noted down in the big book of good behaviour. When I was a little older, we would get together with other families for a bowl of goulash soup, sharing the anticipation. The meat was like treasure, hard to find and a little gristly, too. At some point, we got too grown up for a visit. Last week, St Nicholas day came and went unnoticed by anyone but me. And St Nicolas it seems. He had recently passed through Britain, and posted a parcel to me, with the help his good friend Elizabeth, who knows just how much I miss the St. Nicholas tradition. It arrived spot on time despite the Royal Mail being overstretched with Christmas parcels already. The parcel contained a beautifully wrapped box full of goodies. There was a short note that made me cry a little. There were nuts and chocolates and a candy cane, two beautiful crochet stars, hand made tea bags, a dried tiny orange studded with cloves and festive muffin cases. I must have been a good girl in the past year. Aren't I lucky? Thank you St Nicholas. Thank you Elizabeth for remembering this special day for me.  

I am off work now and won't have to go back until January. The children are still at school. Double lucky, eh? I am very kind to myself and limit the chores to one hour a day. For the first two days of my holidays, I have been listening to a ghost story and favourite radio programmes. I have enjoyed long walks with Jack and I have spent hours stitching on my big quilt. Tomorrow, Richard and I are planning to buy Wedgewood seconds in a local kitchen shop. There has been a lot of accidental plate smashing lately and we don't have enough dinner plates for our visitors. On Thursday, I am going for a Christmas lunch with my former work colleagues. On Friday, I am having a hair cut. What are you up to? I hope you are enjoying some peace and quiet, too. xx

26 comments:

  1. Yes Christmas can be a wee bit stressful for some but over all it is mostly joyful and what a wonderful package to receive in the post.

    Allie of ALLIENYC
    www.allienyc.com

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  2. Almsot ready for Christmas here, a few gifts to still wrap and cookies to make. Mostly I'm just counting the days till our daughter gets here, then it really feels like Christmas.

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  3. Ah Christina, I LOVE reading your blog because you're so REAL!! It's refreshing to read of your low-key preparation for Christmas - thank you! Merry Christmas to your family. from New Zealand :)

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  4. Our daughter just got home from college today, so we decorated the tree this evening, and made two batches of cookies today. I didn't want to do anything until both kids were home. It's good to get a start on the holiday baking! Tomorrow I will make a grocery list so that I can get all of the special baking ingredients that I don't always have on hand. We are trying to keep things low key this year, and it is lovely. Our shopping is minimal, as we are taking a family trip to Chicago to see Hamilton next week as our Christmas gifts. I can't wait!

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  5. it's all peaceful and quiet here and Christmas has had little thought or effort put into it as yet - if I do the dishes and hang out a load of washing during the day, i think I've done enough for the day :) . What a wonderful St Nicholas Day parcel. I'll have to find out if my nieces in Switzerland celebrate this.

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  6. It's quite refreshing to read about your Christmas preparations. I'm sure it's fun to prepare for this special season with your children and the family. What a lovely gift you received for St. Nicholas day. I visited the ancient city of Myra this summer while in Turkey. It's amazing to think of the history it contains. Have a wonderful day and I send you warm sunny greetings from California! Pat xx

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  7. Sounds like you have Christmas just right. I love it fresh too:) Glad you have a little time to yourself before your very over excited boys break up. We are pondering on Christmas Day food. I feel something different this year..who knows! Loved reading about your childhood and st Nicholas. Lovely that you had a parcel this year. Enjoy the next few days. B x

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  8. Always happy to help St Nicholas out - he gets very busy and is sometimes grateful for an extra pair of hands especially to make sure that his parcels get delivered on time! I think it's a lovely tradition and less commercial than some of the Christmas madness in the shops etc which like you, I find just too much. I mean, if you only want one of something, getting three for two is no bargain at all but somehow one feels pressurised into thinking that. Staying clear is a good approach. For various work-related reasons, I can never cook a proper Christmas meal on Christmas Day so like you, we dispense with tradition and actually it's lovely. This year it will be pheasant casserole from freebie pheasants that arrived fresh from a shoot and I had to dress myself and are now in the freezer. Takes a lot of hassle away from trying to manage a huge turkey and that ominous phrase, "all the trimmings" which makes my blood run cold with the inherent stress involved in producing same! Enjoy your well-deserved Christmas break and your steak BBQ when it comes! E x

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    1. I don’t like the phrase “all the trimmings” either. We never have turkey, usually beef and it’s enjoyed by my family as we don’t usually eat roast dinners during the year.

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  9. My Christmas is much the same as yours these days, low key and not so stressful. My children are in their early twenties now with one teenager so they don’t want too much and we have a small family so don’t exchange gifts with all of them. I have also avoided shopping this year and mainly bought online. I saw all the 3 for 2 gifts in Boots and thought about how it’s the same stuff every year but repackaged. I like the St Nicholas tradition and I think it is celebrated in Germany also. Happy Xmas to you and your family.

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  10. Christmas is going to be very similar here. I absolutely loath the Boots style gift rubbish that no-one really wants and that's full of packaging. Ugh. Don't get me started. I love the idea of St Nicholas day. Father Christmas comes here one Saturday in early December and checks out who's been naughty or nice and gives out a sweet or two. He goes round the streets in his sled, all lit up, with his helpers. The biggest ones weren't around for it this year, but the littlest boy was still happy to take a chocolate. CJ xx

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  11. I'm happily sitting with you on the non-stressed side. My brother would say that the Grinch suit I'm wearing protects me. ;) Thanks for sharing your St. Nicholas memories - so sweet of your friend to help you celebrate. My daughter just learned about the St. Lucia tradition in Sweden. Nice to hear about different cultures that aren't based on such blatant consuming like here in the US.

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  12. There is no reason to be overly stressed. My biggest stress comes from the commitments at school and other kids' activities, but those can't be avoided; everything has a performance or a show of some kind, so we just push through and enjoy them. Otherwise, it's all pretty quiet around here. I enjoyed reading about St. Nicholas Day, I think that sounds like a nice tradition.

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  13. Love your blog and your lil doggy.No stress for us as there is only the 2 of us.I love decorating the house and Sparkly lights are my fave thing.No presents to buy but I do send some cards.xx

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  14. Hi Chrtstina -I enjoyed reading about your Christmas plans. We're having a quiet Christmas at home this year, enjoying our new kitchen which I hone will be finished by then.

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  15. I do love your sensible approach to Christmas. I too avoid the shops if I can and resist all the "gift" items on offer. I was happy to read that a friend remembered 6th December for you... a special friend indeed!

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  16. I so agree about saving Christmas for the week or two closest to it and not over- buying. I love your St Nick traditions. So nice to have some holiday time to unwind when it’s just you, the more so when you’ve got family time to enjoy ahead. Have a lovely break xx

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  17. Your lovely post really made me feel Christmassy, especially the link with Elizabeth. I find the way Christmas is celebrated these days rather depressing, with all the over consumption and massive over spending. Simple home made gifts are so much more thoughtful and your little package from St. Nicholas was exquisite, and the beautiful calligraphy was a lovely touch.

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  18. I agree Christina, Andy and I went for our annual day in town together yesterday and there is so much rubbish in the shops. We bought the girls a book each from Waterstones and then went for Lunch instead. It normally works out that way. I used to share the story of St Nicholas with my class when I taught Year 2 when I did Christmas around the world themed activities. You bought back happy memories there with your special parcel. This week I had less work commitments and but two of them were swiped away from under my nose because of school closure Snow days. Anyway it is Friday and I have the whole day to myself. One hour chores you say? your're on.

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  19. Thank you for the wonderful memories Christina. As usual I have gone a bit overboard when it comes to gifts for the family. I get caught up in the sales and I just get one more thing. I hate a tree with hardly any presents under it. I have one more to get and then I think I am done. Hooray for that! Wishing you a wonderful and festive weekend.

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  20. Thank you so much for this lovely post! Happy Christmas to You and your family from Sweden!

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  21. It so wonderful to hear about all the different Christmas traditions around the world.
    We don't celebrate Christmas.. but it's still one of my favorite times of year, can't help but be caught up in the magic.

    http://www.henatayeb.blogspot.com

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  22. Love to read about people's approaches to the festive season. The tree and other bits and bobs made their appearance here just the other day (if I had my way they'd go up on Christmas Eve). Good to hear St Nicholas had you on his list. Hope you're still enjoying your time off.

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  23. I love the sound of your Christmas and I hope it is exactly how you wish it to be. Best wishes for a wonderful festive season, Christina, and here's to a happy, healthy 2018. Sam x

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  24. Merry after Christmas Christina as I am just catching up on blog reading. I could understand your comments about not wanting to "do" Christmas too early as it's so easy to get overwhelmed and exhausted before it even arrives. This year, we were far from getting ready ahead of time as we were away from late November until just a week before the day. It's not that were on a vacation trip, but had several stops in several states to check on a house we're still hoping to sell, visit with a few friends and then celebrate a granddaughter's 1st birthday. We decorated only a couple of days before the 25th on a snowy day here in NH and we actually had a wonderful day of it even though we were listening to holiday music non-stop. We also did not get carried away with gift buying or giving because that isn't what it's all about and sadly many folks don't seem to get that. Hope your time away from work is relaxed and restful. Best Wishes for a Happy New Year too!

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Thank you for visiting and leaving a comment, I love to hear from you, I really do. I sometimes reply by email but I am not all that reliable... Christina xx