A Christmas to enjoy
Kate figures out what she does enjoy about the festive season (and it includes a visit to a beach)
There is something wonderful about getting together with people you love for good food, fresh air, wine and laughter
Regular readers of this column will know I am not a big fan of Christmas with all the trimmings, and as the buildup starts ever earlier, I find myself with tinsel fatigue before we’ve even got to November. But despite myself, I have realised that it is still possible to get excited about Christmas, when you have worked out what it is about Christmas you love and what is best avoided. I remember one year when as a family we all finally admitted to one another that none of us really liked turkey, or Christmas pudding, and had a much more delicious, less stressful lunch of beef casserole and mince pies. None of us wanted big presents, but loved Christmas stockings, so we agreed that is what we’d do every year. We have some family favourites that always go in - the chocolate orange, the tub of twiglets, a walnut and a tangerine in the toe - and then there are the clever little finds that make Christmas stockings so much more fun to buy for and to open.
I am secretly delighted now when I get emails from friends asking if they can come and join us for our rather different take on Christmas, when we spend the day, whatever the weather, walking on the beach, eating sausage sandwiches hunkered down in the dunes and heading home in the dark for supper of smoked salmon and a resolutely unChristmassy film. Last year it was Gone with the Wind. We haven’t decided on this year’s yet, but I might put in a strong bid for Butch Cassidy
and the Sundance Kid.
But even though I shy away from what seems to be the accepted, traditional take on Christmas, I have now realised that the things I enjoy most about the time of year are probably the same things that everyone else enjoys too. It isn’t the decorations, the parties, the presents. It isn’t the Christmas edition of Strictly, the Queen’s Speech or Wallace and Gromit (although I do love them!). It definitely isn’t the Christmas songs and the queues in the shops when all you’ve gone to get is a much-needed new pair of socks. But there is something wonderful about getting together with people you love for good food, fresh air, wine and laughter, and it doesn’t need to be the 25th of December for that to happen. We have some great friends in Wales who run a smokery. It is their smoked salmon we have at Christmas, and very delicious it is too. The run-up to Christmas for them is, as you can imagine, one of their busiest and most stressful times of year, and on Christmas Day they are in a state of collapse. But they have started a tradition which we now look forward to far more than the day itself - an alternative Christmas a few days later than the real one. We gather at their house on the edge of the Black Mountains at coffee time, with dogs and wellies; a group of regulars and some new faces. After a couple of mugs of rocket fuel, we head up the slope above the house for a heart-racing stamp and then back down for a lunch of baked potatoes, leftovers and a glorious sickly collection of Christmas confectionery - which has to include what are known as ‘granny jellies’ - for pudding. It is a day that encompasses everything I realise I love about this time of year, so irritatingly I’m going to have to admit I’m looking forward to it. Bah Happy Humbug everyone!