. . . and I have a frozen free-range turkey I got on half-price sitting in my freezer! The past two years we have enjoyed eating goose (bought from Lidl for around £13 instead of the £27 it is in other supermarkets) I hope I can get one for the right price this year. The bird-flu outbreak is hitting farmers hard here, particularly turkey farmers who make a major part of their income in the Christmas food market. I bought my turkey exactly a week before the current outbreak, but I noticed Sainsbury’s still have the same half price offer on.
Tomorrow is “Stir up Sunday” – the traditional day for making Christmas cakes and puddings. I’ll be sticking with this tradition, but I’ll do all the measuring, cake tin and pudding bowl preparing today so that tomorrow really will be just about stirring and baking/steaming. The dried fruit for the cake has been soaking in a bit of rum (we had more rum than brandy in the cupboard this year) and water all week so it is nice and moist. I never feed the cake with alcohol after it is baked, not a fan of that.
Apart from the cake and pudding I was thinking I really had nothing else to do in terms of practical preparations; until I remembered with a start that I’d forgotten completely about Christmas cards! Quite how they slipped my mind, I don’t know (but then it has taken me 5 days of searching to find a missing nightdress this week- inevitably I had put my hand on it several times before I realised where it was). I bought the cards in the January sales, and I have Bible text stickers to go on each envelope, too.
When I start decorating the house depends on when we get a tree. Last year I kept it in the garage for a couple of days as I felt it was too early to put it up. Then I decided that it was a shame to waste the beauty of a tree on the garage and moved it into our usual position in the living room. Once the tree is in place I will put some plain fairy lights on it, and that will probably be that until nearer Christmas. Only in the week before Christmas will I actually start decorating the tree and house properly. Decorating the house mainly consists of putting up every card we have received on doors throughout the house – that brightens the place up and enables us to see properly the cards people have sent us. I will do a hanging decoration with greenery and ribbons for the hallway, and decorate the mantle-piece and dinner table with greenery and candles – these will go up on Christmas Eve.
Quite a bit of my time before Christmas will be taken up with helping Simon in practical ways for Church typing, photocopying, washing, ironing, looking for the missing baby Jesus figurine again (I’m assured we have him safe this year, unfortunately the one from the travelling crib has been lost, obviously this is going to be a recurring theme in this Church!). . .
In my role as choir member we have extra practices and new music to learn for our special Advent service (Advent Sunday evening, this year 2 Dec) and our Christmas carol service (evening, Sunday before Christmas). I love the advent hymns and carols. I have a weakness for secular Christmas music – this wasn’t part of my upbringing in a Muslim country – and I don’t get tired of hearing it in the shops, it still seems so new to me. We don’t play Christmas music of any sort at home until Christmas Day, but then it is wall-to-wall Christmas hymns and music until Epiphany (6 Jan).
I take all the decorations down on Epiphany (the visit of the wise men), and we celebrate that day with a special meal, too.
We always have a special meal on Christmas Day (after worship at Church in the morning), then we usually collapse dozily in front of the fire (after the midnight worship on Christmas Eve, we are usually exhausted by Christmas Day afternoon, one year we were too tired to eat!). What happens after that depends on who is with us – my mother always stays at some time over Christmas but never comes for Christmas Day as she wants to celebrate that in her own Church (a sentiment I heartily applaud). When she comes we will have a feast, a replay of Christmas dinner!
When it comes to opening gifts we are often too tired to do that on Christmas day – I want to enjoy presents rather than just open them to get it over and done with, so we choose a moment when we both feel alert. Not that we have that many presents to enjoy, we do it all on a tight budget! Dennis (my father-in-law) will be with us for Christmas Day (I will try to enforce my rule of “No Church, no turkey” again), so any gifts between him and us will be opened on the day (he doesn’t do waiting, and at 84 who can blame him?).
Simon and I have one very silly tradition which we keep up – the tradition of Christmas stockings for each of us! Yes, we have a Christmas stocking each, at the foot of the bed, which we fill behind each other’s backs at around 2.00am when we return from the Midnight service. We get each other silly gifts and little treats, and the toe of each stocking has to contain the traditional tangerine and bag of chocolate coins! We will open one or two items from the stocking on Christmas morning over a cup of tea in bed – the rest might have to wait until bedtime in the evening.
Well, that is an insight into the practical side of our household Christmas preparations. On the spiritual side one of the things I’ll be doing this year is studying Hebrew 1-6.
Of course, if it is God’s will to bless us with a child in the coming year there will be quite a few changes to next year’s preparations!