Celebrating, without Christmas

Even when I was little, we always did things differently in my family. Ours was a family of two halves; one with me, my mum, and brother; the other with my dad, and grandparents. None of us were religious — not in the sense of following an organised religion, a book based faith — although my Nan liked to insist she was.

The years we spent the 25th at home were the best. I remember the envy of my friends at school when we would recount what he did during the holidays.

Red and Gold; a classic colour scheme for Christmas Tree decorating

We had very strict rules regarding the 25th. The tree would’ve been up in all its splendour for a fortnight or more, gifts wrapped and nestled beneath its branches. On the 25th, my brother and I would wake at whatever time we pleased, then go and wake mum by jumping on her bed. This was the only day of the year this was allowed, which made it all the more fun.

Downstairs we’d go — no getting dressed; the 25th is a pyjama day — and unwrap our presents. Of course, with us being children, there was always at least one box of chocolate each. The rule of eating chocolate for breakfast was something my friends could scarcely believe; their families insisted they have a “proper” breakfast, some even saying they should “wait until after dinner”.

We’d spend the day relaxing, playing with our gifts, whilst mum finished cooking the dinner. No dry turkey in our house; dinner on the 25th varied from gammon joint to topside beef, leg of lamb to pork belly. A larger, more delicious than usual — something which amazed me, even then — variation on our Sunday dinners. I found my appreciation for good food at a very early age.

Our bellies full, we’d settle down, sometimes even watching a film in the afternoon. Peace reigned throughout the house. The phone never rang on the 25th. No one ever came to the door. The 25th — those years we spent at home — was all about us; me, my mum, and my brother. In the deep darkness of winter, we would celebrate just being together, being happy with ourselves and with each other.

I wouldn’t swap those days for anything.