Sea­sonal cheer

Christ­mas gifts home­made with love

Weekend Herald - Canvas - - BRUNCH -

As I write this, I am in Paris. It’s not quite snow­ing but out on the street every­one is rugged up to the nines, and all the Christ­mas dec­o­ra­tions are jan­gling in the wind. They look so glit­tery and bright against the dull, flat light of late au­tumn.

The big de­part­ment stores have their spe­cial Christ­mas win­dows up, vy­ing for at­ten­tion with their dis­plays and creat­ing a won­der­ful sense of an­tic­i­pa­tion around the year’s big­gest cel­e­bra­tion. This year the glossy de­part­ment store Le Bon Marche has a big win­dow with a danc­ing pup­pet show, and the pup­pets are wear­ing spe­cial Christ­mas jer­seys that you can buy in­side (full-size) and see be­ing made. It’s so ex­trav­a­gant and fun, and while I know it’s based around get­ting us all to buy stuff, in that way of tra­di­tions, it warms the heart.

The North­ern Hemi­sphere does Christ­mas so well, and I’m sure it’s all be­cause of the weather. For us sweat­ing in the heat of sum­mer down at the other end of the Earth, it all feels wrong, this idea of heavy food and fires and be­ing in­doors. I find I need to get into the kitchen and start bak­ing some tra­di­tional treats be­fore I ac­tu­ally feel like it’s Christ­mas.

When I smell the spice of the Christ­mas cake mix­ture I’m back in my nan’s kitchen, watch­ing her mix up a gi­ant cake bat­ter with her hands. Get­ting to lick the bowl af­ter­wards ce­mented that par­tic­u­lar taste in my mind as be­ing Christ­mas.

When our kids were lit­tle we of­ten had Swedish au pairs liv­ing with us, and they would al­ways pre­pare their favourite Swedish treats at Christ­mas – yummy choco­late balls, de­li­cious cook­ies and in­cred­i­ble gin­ger­bread houses. I know they did this not just to share with us, but as a way of bring­ing a sense of Christ­mas to life where it was hot and sunny and all so dif­fer­ent.

Ev­ery year in mid-De­cem­ber I dust off my mother’s won­der­ful old recipe file and put her spe­cial Christ­mas recipes through their paces. Hav­ing the cup­boards stocked ready and wait­ing with home­made treats makes me feel like I’m at least a lit­tle bit or­gan­ised in the run-up to Christ­mas. If friends call in, I can pop some Christ­mas bak­ing into a lit­tle cel­lo­phane bag with a rib­bon and send them home with a happy Christ­mas wish.

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