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I'm (Not) Dreaming of a White Christmas

59

tricia-and-baby-patrickWhat are you doing for Christmas? Are you going to theirs or are they coming to you? Are you a) Excited and can't wait, b) Slightly frazzled that you haven't yet written any cards or finished buying, let alone wrapping any presents, c) Looking forward to when the whole kerfuffle is over for another year. There is a saying "Christmas comes but once a year and when it comes it brings good cheer." To which I'd say "Christmas comes but once a year and when it comes it brings most women to the verge of a nervous breakdown!" I say 'women' because I truly believe that Christmas wouldn't happen without the women of the family investing a huge amount of physical and emotional energy into trying to create the perfect Christmas.

Let me get you to search your memory for a moment or two. You may need to close your eyes (I know how tired you are so try not to nod off)! Now call to mind your perfect Christmas. Think about how old you are, where it's happening, and what kind of things you are doing. Try 950s-christmasto make it as real as possible by visualising the sights, hearing the sounds and imagining the smells of the day. Is there a particular kind of music playing? What food are you eating? And what presents have you received? Who is spending the day with you? In my very best Christmas memory I'd be about 7 years old and it would be Christmas Eve. My mum is making mince pies (delicious smells coming from the kitchen), my dad has just come home from work and my brother and I are sitting by a roaring fire and we are watching a Disney cartoon (Bambi?) on TV. There are some intriguing looking presents under the twinkling Christmas tree and I am so excited I could burst with the anticipation of all the delights to come.

The trouble is that I'm not sure this actually happened. I suspect it's a combination of a partial childhood memory muddled up with some nostalgic TV Christmas advertisement set in the 1950's! I wonder what your perfect Christmas memory involved and I also wonder whether you have ever been able to recreate it because I don't think I've ever come close! I've had some truly awful Christmases in the past 69 years. When I spent my first Christmas away from home I realised just what a joyless affair our family Christmases had been. My mum was kind, generous and loving but she was also controlling, fussy and hated mess of any sort. She disliked cooking but wouldn't accept any help in 'her' kitchen. Our main meal every day was served at precisely one o'clock and she made no exception for Christmas. We had to hurry up and eat the roast turkey she'd spent all morning complaining about cooking so that she could get everything tidied away in time for the Queen's Christmas message at 3 pm. There were no silly paper hats, no family games, absolutely no alcohol and very little in the way of fun. I was amazed that other families had different rituals that involved chaos and laughter!

Divorce brought many more challenging Christmases. My ex and I settled into alternating 'one year with and one year without' the children. So every other year I had to find something to do with myself during the Christmas period. The nadir was the one I spent in a cold and remote part of Germany with some friends of a friend. This was alienating on so many levels. Foreign country, foreign language, foreign traditions, strange food and people I hardly knew. Because I went by plane I didn't have much room for presents so I had two or three small gifts to open on Christmas Day and each was for various reasons a terrible disappointment. I can remember thinking 'just get through the next hour and you will be one hour closer to going home'. If that sounds ungrateful it probably is, but I can assure you that it's truly horrible being somewhere you don't want to be with people you don't want to be with, especially when you feel as though everyone else in the world is having a fantastic time!

These experiences taught me some valuable lessons which I now try to apply to Christmas every year:

If you are hosting:

  1. Forget your fantasy of creating the perfect Christmas. It doesn't exist and there will be few people who are actually experiencing or expecting it. Aim for a relaxed 'good enough' Christmas.
  2. Delegate specific tasks, ask for and accept help. Allow people not to do it 'your way.'
  3. Remember your 'children' aren't children any more, so don't indulge them as if they are still  three years old.
  4. Don't do 'martyr'. Remember you are choosing this.

If you are a guest:

  1. Don't make other people's traditions 'wrong'. Just because they don't have turkey or bread img_3426-copysauce or serve brandy butter with their Christmas pudding or they don't open their presents until 5pm on Christmas Day, it really doesn't matter.
  2. Offer to help but also take the initiative and do things off your own bat (like washing up - I spend most of Christmas day wearing rubber gloves)!
  3. If you are staying take your own pillow. This is the only way I can ever sleep in a guest bedroom, however beautiful.

And wherever you are:

  1. Be insanely delighted when you open any present you receive, leap up immediately, kiss the gift giver and say 'how lovely'. Even though you already have at least 6 scented candles in a drawer at home.
  2. Don't expect the same response as (#1) to the gifts you have spent hours choosing. Maybe that green thingy wasn't such a good idea after all. Always give gift receipts.
  3. And finally smile benignly all day long, stay calm and extremely tolerant of all excess (and any untidiness and mess - I am my mother's daughter!) including noise, terrible music, boisterous children, food, alcohol, chocolate, cheese and nuts.

suzy-and-ben-christmas-dayI no longer have fantasies of a perfect Christmas wherever I happen to spend it. For the past 14 years I have spent the day as a guest (lucky me) with one or other of my two daughters (see Suzy left) and their families and in-laws. I usually have a wonderful time because the only thing I need to feel happy is to be with at least one person that I love and who I know loves me too. This year I'm very lucky to be spending my Christmas birthday with all of the people I love most - five grandchildren (aged from 5 months to 8 years) and eight adults. I very much hope that you will also have a wonderful Christmas and that it lives up to your dream of what constitutes a very happy time.

 

 

So, what do you think ?

59 Comments

  • Shelagh Garvey December 25, 2016 at 19:58

    Childhood Christmases were always enjoyable, but the magic ended somewhat when my father died unexpectedly at age 53. We were all still young(ish) children and Mum struggled through, but she never really enjoyed Christmas Dinner again until she retired and finally got the Christmas that she really wanted. She told us that we were all welcome at any time, but as she lived near a hospital for cancer patients, she thought she could spend time more usefully than cooking turkey at home, or eating other people's offerings. She spent many happy Christmas Days volunteering on the wards, especially looking after patients with no visitors. This for her was the true meaning of Christmas, and it made her really happy.

  • June Ratcliffe December 20, 2016 at 16:53

    This is all so true. The amazing thing for me while reading it was the 'imagine your best Christmas' instruction at the beginning. For me it was my busiest ever. My parents came Christmas Eve and stayed until 27th we had 10 round the table both Christmas and Boxing Day (different mix of folks) and others staying Boxing night. Perhaps it's poignant for my as 4 0f the close family members who came have since passed away and 3 others live in Australia. It was the whole mad family thing I remember not the being knackered.

  • Carole Leary December 20, 2016 at 10:53

    An outstanding memory as a small child brought up in the country (with no telephone or local shop) was a (what seemed to me at the time) large box brought from my grandparents by my father on Christmas morning. Inside was a selection of fruit and nuts, beautifully presented in nests of coloured tissue paper - some of which I had never seen before in my young life, including Bananas and Grapes. Not only that, I was told that it was all just for me..............Christmases since then are always special when the family can be together. Some we see the week before - as this year - and others can make Christmas Day itself. This is doubly special as, like you, it is my birthday too. I take great pleasure in serving up a traditional Turkey lunch with all the trimmings and seeing the smiles on all the faces - a wonderful family time.

  • Linda December 20, 2016 at 01:31

    I really liked your frankness and openness about Christmases. When I first started reading it, I thought " I've never had a nice Christmas" -- my childhood Christmases were awful, full of fights and arguing between mom, brothers, stepfather. But then she got divorced and remarried. Christmases became a joy to attend in her new home. She was a delicious cook; adored my children, and finally had the money to shower them/us with the gifts she couldn't in our childhood years. Her home was always warmly decorated for Christmas, and we usually spent 4-5 days there, basking and eating. Dinners were usually followed by a movie out- which we all loved. Mom left indelible imprints and a legacy of Christmas for my children that I didn't have. .

  • Sue December 19, 2016 at 15:09

    I enjoyed your post very much. It really hit home with me. I confess that for most of my life I have been trying to create the perfect Christmas of my dreams. Turns out I was the only one it was important to. I would work myself half to death decorating, cleaning, shopping, wrapping and baking. After our children were grown it became our tradition to open our presents on Christmas Eve. I was very strict that we couldn't do it too early. One year my son called me the Christmas Nazi (in jest I think) but that made me stop and think. Instead of making our Christmas perfect I was putting my unrealistic expectations on everyone else. So I have tried to lighten up on what I expect Christmas to be. I know I'm still a work in progress. I want to try to just enjoy Christmas whatever it may bring. I am happy to be able to spend it with our children and their spouses and remember how truly blessed I am. Merry Christmas everyone.

  • Sharon Brattle December 19, 2016 at 12:41

    Brilliant Blog Tricia! My childhood memories of Christmas are ones of excitement and anticipation.. We lived in a big country house, so all the family, Aunts & Uncles,Cousins and close friends, all came to us and stayed. I remember my mother getting quite stressed and thoroughly exhausted trying to get everything ready. I was the youngest of three, and the only one still living at home, so I was roped in to help get the rooms ready, then helped dad ( and anyone else seen wandering around looking lost!) peel the sprouts - seemed like hundreds of them!- and prepare all the potatoes and veg the night before. Mum made mince pies, sausage rolls, puddings and cakes, weeks in advance, and froze as much as there was room for in the freezer. There was always at least 15 people round the table on Christmas day, I remember lots of laughter and fun. My grandmother always drank a bit too much brandy and started singing and dancing round the table, grabbing any unsuspecting guest to join her, which of course they all did! My brother played the piano, and at the end of the meal everyone would sing and dance. There were little presents for everyone at the table, and being a child it was just a magical time. Every year my mother always quietly slipped an extra slug of brandy in the brandy butter ( saying that she couldn't taste enough) so after the meal, most people collapsed in front of the roaring fires and fell asleep while the rest of us helped cleared up. The kitchen looked like a bomb site, but somehow it all got cleared away with good cheer and plenty of jokes being told around the sink. Then the family games would start, like the card game Newmarket, played with a huge storage jar full of pennies, collected through the years, or our family favorite, Mah Jong..I inherited the game, and still have to play it every Christmas, whoever we're with and wherever we happen to be, it has to come with us!
    Christmas these days is a much quieter affair, as most family members have passed on. This year my husband & I have been asked to our daughters for the day, and we spend it with our two young grandchildren here, Our two older grandchildren and our son & lovely daughter in law live in Melbourne Australia, and we have been lucky enough to spend Christmas with them before. We feel we must travel for as long as we are able to.
    I often think of our large, joyful Christmasses of the past, and now I am older, realise how wonderful and resiliant my mother & father were to organise it all themselves every year for so long. But having grandchildren is a most wonderful experience, and I relish it for as long as I can because they grow up so fast, and you never know what's around the corner in life. It has been great reading everyone's experiences, and made me feel grateful for what we have. May you all have a happy, healthy Christmas and New Year! xx

  • Francesca December 19, 2016 at 10:34

    I too was a child of around 7; making Christmas decorations at the kitchen table by the coke fired boiler with my mother. We made paper chains, found pine cones and pretty shaped twigs and painted them white with the white stuff used for plimpsoles and sprinkled silver glitter on before it dried. Everything was so pretty and magical. I loved seeing the wrapped gifts under the tree (never placed there before Christmas Eve). I now live in Australia and so Christmas day is usually hot and the decorations look tawdry in the bright sunlight. It is a completely different experience for my grandchildren than it was for me as a child in England.

  • Susie December 19, 2016 at 10:11

    Thank you for your post Tricia. There are similarities in our experiences! What I try to do now is relish and celebrate the small. The big picture in life is not always perfect but listing the good things in a day or celebration..the good book, the Boxing Day walk, the long bath, the glass of prosecco...it adds up !

  • Barbara December 19, 2016 at 01:06

    My perfectly selfish Christmas!

    This year I have put my foot down with a firm hand and will be Home Alone for Christmas. Doing what I want, how I want, when I want and if I want. Can't wait.

    I have had my years of exhausted frazzle, of being "taken in" by concerned friends and relations after divorce, lost and solitary in a huge family party of people I don't know, or being polite with my ex "for the sake of the children".

    Yes all this sounds ungrateful - but for the past decade I have dreaded Christmas - so this year - a few days of me time.

  • Wendy December 18, 2016 at 23:42

    My best memories from Christmas was as the youngest of three hardly able to sleep on Christmas Eve. My brother who was three years older always buzzed around our home so excited once the tree was up and a few presents underneath had our names on them. Upon Christmas Eve, he and I were so excited that Santa would soon leave more gifts. My older sister was thrilled but thinking more like sleeping in rather than waking our parents at 6 am, (my brother's idea,of course). My parents always showed amazing Christmas spirit, my mother sang and played piano for us, joyous music for sure, and my dad loved to help her decorate. Much later I realized that the money for most of the gifts must of come from my grandparents, (mom's). Both my parents were U.S. Air Force veterans, and how could they possibly treat us three so well? As an adult as I look back on their many hardships just to keep food on the table and then offer these wonderful holiday memories to their children, doing what they could for all of us,; my heart is always grateful at Christmas time. My siblings still love this holiday as much as I do. We all look back with gratefulness to our parents that so loved their children to make Christmas as magical as possible.

  • Flicka Slade December 18, 2016 at 22:45

    My Christmas (es) were pretty wonderful. Lots of people cooking the Day of Christmas Eve. The dinning room table pushed back and then loaded with ham, turkey, meatballs, Swedish brown beans, cheeses, shrimp, and on and on. The whole day was fill with excitement and anticipation. The extended family all arrived one by one, and in two and threes. We ate a bit here and then some more there. The adults drank Glogg and watched out for the fruit which seemed to soak up all the alcohol. As kids, we always got new pajamas from someone to go to sleep in. and on Christmas morning we opened presents and ate sweet rolls for breakfast. Christmas Day was completely relaxing because we just put out the smorgasbord again. We explored our new toys and played what ever game we were given. The adults could relax and enjoy the day....the children were occupied and there was not cooking to do. Just wonderful..!

  • JANEY December 18, 2016 at 22:29

    Tricia, I too am not dreaming of a white Christmas, but a real loving one, warts and all.
    We as a family always go to the Whitsundays in Qld. Australia, for Christmas.
    Last year I left behind the Xmas tree, bonbons and presents on the dinning room table. I was devastated, my husband wanted to drive 2 1/2 hours back home to retrieve them, which was out of the question, as we would loose 1/2 a day of being together.
    We still had fun on the day, it was beautiful. Good food, good wine, and good friends, and lots of laughs.
    This year like you, I will have all my family together, with my eldest daughter coming from the Netherlands, and another coming from Brisbane (1000 kls away, I am sure ( well, as the mother, I hope it will be), very relaxed, fun, and more important, a special time. for all of us.
    I hope your Christmas will be the same. Joy to all.
    Janey, Ayr, Nth Qld Australia

  • Liz May December 18, 2016 at 20:29

    I remember when I was in my early teens one Christmas Eve. My parents, brother and I had enjoyed a lovely family evening of food, games and TV, but at midnight I still felt wide awake so with my parents' consent I took the dog for a walk. The walk "round the block" lasted about 45 minutes and I felt absolutely safe. The sky was clear and full of stars and I met several other dog walkers who wished me a Happy Christmas as we passed by. It felt as if there was something truly magical in the air that night.

  • Robbie December 18, 2016 at 20:23

    I guess we can never recapture Christmas as a child, we had the magic of Santa didn't we? Like most I was a child in the 50's when there was still rationing but it was still the most exciting and wonderful time of year. Presents weren't lavish but who cared? I think part of the problem is that we try and recapture the magic but of course as an adult that's impossible and ultimately we're going to fail.
    What we can do, however is try to recreate the magic for others.
    Worst Christmas? The first without my children following a divorce! Let's not go there, it's utterly foul. I am so thankful now when I have them with me.
    This year I feel so very blessed because both my stepdaughter and my own daughter have had babies and within a month of each other! Archie is one month old and Lily is one week!
    I am so very lucky I know, but girls if you are alone this year why not help out at a crisis centre? I am convinced that helping others worse off than yourself is a great panacea, and as you're reading this you are fortunate indeed because you can afford the delicious treats from Tricia. Let's all count our blessings eh?
    Merry Christmas to one and all xx

  • Janice December 18, 2016 at 19:40

    I loved your Christmas letter!! So true of our generation. I was raised in a military family, so my Christmases where all over the United States. Only times with aunts, uncles, grandparents and cousins, were when my Dad was overseas, so it was even lonely then. Lonelier for him I am sure. My children are in different states with their families. We can not seem to get together due to their work schedules and our volunteer schedules, but one day soon we will have a "perfect" Christmas with both families together...

  • Anne McKenzie December 18, 2016 at 19:34

    Merry Christmas from Sydney, Oz. My daughter is doing Christmas this year in her new home overlooking Pittwater with little yachts bobbing about in the dazzling water below. It will be fun with kids running about, the excitement of last night's visit from Santa, lots of presents to open and lots of wonderful inventive food, as she is basically a vegitarian who does fish. I imagine there will be lots of huge prawns etc. The best part? After 58 years of doing Christmas continuously - I am off the hook!!

    All the very best for the festive season to everyone and let us hope that 2017 will bring peace, joy, good health and plenty. To all.

  • Mary Hartnett December 18, 2016 at 19:20

    Thank you Tricia a very honest appraisal of Christmas very similar to mine ! I wish you and your family a very Happy Christmas.

  • Pamela December 18, 2016 at 18:59

    We don't have kids so we don't feel pressurised into doing anything we don't want to do. My worst nightmare would be some well meaning soul thinking they were doing us a favour by asking us to spend Christmas with them. It would be a lovely gesture on their part but not the way I want to spend Christmas. When we were working, for many years we went on holiday over Christmas to escape the tyranny of those awful rituals. Now retired, we've broken free and we don't rush round the shops buying presents nobody wants or mountains of food nobody needs to eat. We go for a good walk in the hills or on the beach with the dog, have a relaxing day doing exactly what we want and a lovely meal in the evening. It might not sound very exciting or your ideal Christmas - but it is ours. Oh, and then in Jan/Feb we spend the money on a long winter holiday somewhere hot. Sorted.

  • Gill Hars December 18, 2016 at 17:47

    Been having a bit of a meltdown myself today just realising the enormity of what I still have to do! Then I sat and read your blog and I don't feel quite so bad.. I think we try to be superhuman at this time of year and I personally think I've failed if I haven't managed to do everything singlehanded by the end of November! It stresses me out so much. I'll take a deep breath and just go with the flow this year! Thanks Tricia.


    ,

  • Sally December 18, 2016 at 17:20

    As I sit by the fire with my cat Gus in my lap I wonder that my husband and I are still able to celebrate Christmas together with joy and thankfulness in our hearts. Our children, grandchildren, and great grandchild are scattered throughout the country, and their schedules preclude most visits. My husband at 81 has had some severe health problems the past several years as have I. Our celebration may be limited, but our love is boundless.

    Looking WAY back to past Christmases, the year which really does shine is when I got my own child's roll-top desk and a copy of the book "Citadel of a Thousand Stairways" about Machu Picchu. As a protected 1950s only child, I craved adventure, and I wrote little stories about what I would do when I grew up. As it happened, in my 40s after my children had grown, I metamorphosized into a travel writer and photographer covering the globe. The gifts were prophetic.

  • Bobbie W December 18, 2016 at 16:23

    I to like others miss my husband terribly. He was such a kid at heart and brought joy to every holiday. I am the last of my family with no children . Have friends and neighbors but the hard fact is everyone is in their own world doing their own thing. Not one stops (or cares to) extend any type of invite for me to join their world. Interesting as all make statements like let's get together, what are you doing for the holidays, did you have a nice holiday or what did you do for the holiday. I guess that's the extent of their social obligation.

    Over the years you loose friends for different reasons and it really comes home during the holidays. Finding friendship in your 60's is very hard and different. I have decided to make it my goal to not sit at home next year and really work on gathering a circle of people who may really care.

    Having surgery on the 21st so sadly this makes the holiday an all time low. At least I will be around people (none that I know) but people none the less.

    Things will get better, but only if I put in the effort!

  • julie miseldine December 18, 2016 at 16:18

    Hi Tricia

    Your advice is so wise and I try to do it myself.I spend Christmas with my lovely son and daughter in law in Germany, just up the road from where I live and Christmas has been great since I adopted your rules!! My son is a real diva in the kitchen so I have learned to take a quiet back seat and offer to do horrible bits of preparation like shelling langoustines which was like untangling barbed wire, and smiling sweetly and generally just keeping out of the way!!

    This year may be different as my daughter in law is cooking. I love her dearly but she is Ukranian and my son has said xxxxx knows what we will be eating. It will be lovely as there is so much love and care in their home that Christmas will be wonderful. Finally I'm sure you will have seen this but if you haven't then it pretty much sums up what you have said.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z29p7m1CNcU

    Have a great Christmas and hoping that Look Fabulous forever continues to go from strength to strength in 2017
    in 2017

    kindest regards
    Julie miseldine

    PS I am hoping for some gift vouchers from the above

  • Valerie December 18, 2016 at 16:04

    Brilliant blog Tricia. I loved Christmas as a child and when I was married with two small children. Now that I am divorced and alone, it is not always so magical. My married and childless daughter always insists on spending Christmas day on her own with her husband and won't bend from that. We do see each other on Boxing Day however. So this means that, unless my son and his wife are over from Australia, I can be entirely on my own on the day itself. My neice and nephew with their children are also in the southerrn hemisphere. I have wonderful girlfriends who have invited me but I always have that feeling that I am gate crashing their family so just stay for the meal, help with the clearing up an make an excuse to get back to the dogs as soon as politeness allows. However this year my Aussie boy is here with me so all is well in the world. Maybe next year I should take myself over there to experience Christmas in the sunshine. Who'll give my doggies their turkey dinner though?

  • Renee Carey December 18, 2016 at 16:03

    Thank you for writing the truth about Christmas. Many of us are deluded by what Christmas "should" be. I was moved by your description on being alone after a divorce. I have been struggling with that for three years now, and you gave me "permission" to feel that it is no big deal to be alone on that day. I have my dogs, my little house, and I am very grateful for what I have! Thank you!!!

  • Christine Hynes December 18, 2016 at 16:00

    Thank heavens for someone telling it as it is! Some people may be lucky enough to have a fairytale Christmas but for many it is a case of going through the motions. Well said.

  • Heather December 18, 2016 at 15:16

    I was a child in the 1950s and although my parents had very little, my Mum (yes, I agree it is always the woman who 'does' Christmas) always did her utmost to make sure my Christmas was special. I think that your experience as a child reflects how you feel about this time of year. I have also been divorced but that did not dampen my enthusiasm for all things Christmassy. I have always tried to make sure that Christmas was special for my two children, one of which was born on Christmas day - very bad timing I know! I always expect to enjoy myself and am pretty sure that my family do too. My children are now adults with their own families, also I have two step sons who also have families, and as many of us as can manage it get together. I generally cook,- a roast dinner for a houseful holds no terrors for me, but we do change what we do and I feel its good to keep flexible. The grandchildrens' anticipation is rising and I am looking forward to sharing their excitement next week - Happy Christmas everyone !

  • Rachel December 18, 2016 at 14:59

    My best Christmas would be, any of them prior to 3 years ago -Motor Neurone disease my husband, and this year me Breast cancer.

    I cannot remember what is is like not to be worried about the future!

    I am not miserable really, but this is tough!!
    Bless you all, have a lovely Christmas!!

  • Jacqui December 18, 2016 at 14:57

    Hello, I have to say you sound like a lovely person - the kind of person I would like as a friend.I am fairly new to LFF and I really enjoyed reading your blog - thank you. I have had some wonderful Christmas's in the past mainly when my two boys were small and we were a family. Christmas was a magical time for me then and, I hope for the children too. However, my marriage broke up 16 years ago now and there have been difficult times, both at Christmas and throughout the years. I am glad to say most things have settled down now and I have been lucky enough to always have had my sons home at Christmas. It has always been my tradition ever since I've had my own home to make my sausage rolls and mince pies on Christmas Eve. My elderly parents spend Christmas at my home too and I am all too aware all this will change in the coming years but I guess the message is to make the most of what you have. These days I don't enjoy Christmas but I try to make the effort so it is enjoyable for everyone and I find that helps me to get through it too by doing all the things I do at Christmas and I hope that when my sons have families of their own they will take some of the joy into there own homes and have happy times.

    I wish you all a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy, Healthy 2017.

  • Heather December 18, 2016 at 14:39

    A lovely, helpful, and thought provoking post. Thank you. X

    You are right -you always imagine everyone else is having a wonderful time. But, reading these posts makes me realize that this is not actually the case!

    My best Christmas was the year that I realized that everyone did what they wanted at Christmas, except me . So I decided to try and be brave and selfish, stand up for myself and say and do what I wanted. Because of my divorce there was only me and one teenage daughter at home that year. We went some miles to our favorite little village church for morning service (a rebellious act in my family) . the service was lovely, the congregation welcoming, the singing joyous. Already feeling spiritually fulfilled, we drove directly out into the Northumbrian hills. Under our best coats and hats we had our running gear on and went went directly from the church to Cragside house, a national trust property near Rothbury. It was normally too expensive for me, as a single parent, to gain access but we knew it would be closed on Christmas Day so we parked in a lay-by, walked around the barriers and ran 6 miles around the estate, over pristine snow. It was silent, crisp and bright and cold. The estate was enchantingly beautiful. Together stride for stride we ran around the lakes and startled a fox - who didn't expect to see anyone about. I felt such contentment and togetherness with my daughter. (Runners high!) When we got home it was around 2pm - we were starving, relaxed, spiritually and physically fulfilled, so really enjoyed our Christmas dinner. By then other family were calling and we still had the pressies to open.. Time to chill. It was perfect. That was 8 or 9 years ago now, sadly, my daughter is a junior Doctor working nights over Christmas and far away. I will drive 6 hours on Boxing Day each way to see her for her few hours off. I now work overseas and will be spending the holiday living out of a suitcase, being a guest with various kind friends and relations, and traveling back and forth the length of the country for my holiday - If the weather allows. I am actually dreading the weather, the traveling, and being a constant guest. Economics force me to work in UAE. But, I will have my first ever order of look fabulous forever products waiting for me at my elderly mothers house and am very excited to try your products!

  • Marion December 18, 2016 at 14:38

    My present-day Christmases are pretty 'perfect' to me - just my husband (80 next year) and myself (we could not have children) eating the food we want, when we wish, with a nice wine and thoughtful gifts under the tree. We get invitations from friends, but it is not possible to feel really 'at home' in the middle of someone else's Christmas! We are still happiest in each other's company, after 51 years of marriage. By the way, he's bought me some LFF goodies for Christmas.

  • Jane Russ December 18, 2016 at 13:36

    Decorating the tree/house on Christmas Eve is the big thing in our house and has been for 20+ years. The tree is put in place and the lights (warm white only!!) are put on and tested and then switched off and then, at exactly 3:00pm, when the lone chorister sings "Once in Royal David's City" from Kings, we all simultaneously place a decoration on the tree. Sometimes it's just me and my husband and sometimes the children and their partners are here too. Then the rest is done as the carols proceed in the background. No tinsel, glass only and handmade deccies are the order of the day, with all history known and loved. That's the key of course, visitors always say 'what a wonderful tree' but it's not just the tree, it's every Christmas in the past that it represents and all the love that engendered.
    Lunch is a laugh and no stress, just fun.
    We're in a different house this year for the first time in 20+ years so perhaps there will be new traditions. Newest thing of all; my daughter is due to present out second grandchild on the 21st so that will set the tone... and who knows, it could be a Christmas Day baby!!!
    Happy Christmas, wherever and whoever you are.

  • Di December 18, 2016 at 13:32

    Wonderful blog, as always, Tricia.
    Like Helen Irvine I too would give anything to spend Christmas with my husand who died three years ago on New Years Eve. I'm always glad when the whole festive thing has been and gone.. Have no family to buy presents for--they're all gone too. Spend 'part of' Christmas day with lovely friends (I provide a pudding NOT of the Christmas variety and home made cakes). They don't do Christmas like my family did but, 'what the hell' it beats being stuck on your own. First Christmas on my own I was invited for a few days to my sister in law's house.To cut a long story short there would have been no meal, unless it was going to be eaten around midnight, had I not gone into the kitchen and started it. Grabbed my nephew (clearly bored by the way he was wandering about), and showed him how to prep veg etc whilst I got on with other things. Not my idea of a relaxing time. Turned out that the family usually went out for their Christmas meal ( aaarrrrgh !!) and had forgotten how to do it themselves. I did wonder whether that was why I'd been invited-- and why didn't we go out for Christmas lunch? .Needless to say they've not asked me again, for which I am truly grateful!
    Hope you have a wonderful Christmas Tricia and Happy Christmas to everyone.

  • Pauline Wilby December 18, 2016 at 12:32

    I too am divorced and live away from my son and daughter and the five grandchildren (they both live in different places), however, my partner and I now live in the same town as a lot of his family so our Christmas tends to be spent with them. I still find this incredibly difficult especially as he doesn't get on with my daughter so going to her isn't an option. I am at present here with my daughter for several days having seen my son last month and I know I am going to feel envious of my ex husband and his wife who will be here with them on Boxing Day. As we have Christmas lunch at his eldest son's house we also share that with my partner's ex wife. Luckily we get on well but again, not my choice. So, in a nutshell, my Christmas is all about compromise and trying not to bawl when I speak to my grandkids. I hate this time of year and have to smile my way through it, helped by champagne, but I am also aware that I'm not alone like so many other people. I was alone for 2 years in the distant past but worked part of the time which helped. However, it's really only 2 days in a year and it is a pity that so much emphasis is concentrated on this which magnifies loneliness and fractured families. I always say to people that I loved Christmas when my children were young as, to me, it was for enjoying it with them and there wasn't the huge commercialism there is today. I wish everyone a contented and peaceful day, and 48 hours later, it'll all be over!!

  • Christina Geeves December 18, 2016 at 12:19

    I love reading about your Christmas memories, because mine (& everyone else's in Australia) are so different. For a start, we expect heat - up to 40 deg. C. in some parts, often in the low 30s in Sydney where I come from. Second, my son does the Sydney-Hobart yacht race every year, which starts on Boxing Day, so he is a bit edgy ( & doesn't drink much). We always have a few 'waifs & strays' from the race at our place - sometimes yachties from Europe who have come to Sydney for the race. In fact, a couple of Italian sailors have come every year for the past few years, so we get a gift of wonderful prosecco & panettone, made by their mothers. We sit up to 15 along our balcony, which is above the harbour, & we eat seafood bought at the Fish Markets on Christmas Eve (my husband's job), followed by plum pudding ice cream and mangoes, My daughter-in-law makes a wonderful watermelon salad which has become a tradition as well. Other traditions are drinks on the waterfront with the neighbours on Christmas Eve, children splashing in the pool with their new water toys, and then out on our yacht with friends on Boxing Day to see the race off. I usually stay at home & watch the beginning of the race on TV - that way I get to see more of it than in the maelstrom that is the spectator fleet, with my feet up. Of course we then have the fireworks on New Year's Eve - down to the park that overlooks the Harbour Bridge, back to a sort of progressive dinner among neighbours...then total collapse on New Year's Day! But it is always fun, and each year we think it was the best one yet....

  • Helen Irvine December 18, 2016 at 11:54

    My Beloved Husband made every Christmas from 1973 to 2012 absolutely perfect. He was and is the love of my life and I would give everything I own to share just one more Christmas with him.

  • Pat December 18, 2016 at 11:54

    My best memory of Christmas is my mother having her annual drink, a small glass of sherry. She then proceeded to throw the sprouts into the bin and served a large vegetable dish with greenish water with a few bits of sprout floating about in it. She gave up on the alcohol after that!

  • Jan December 18, 2016 at 11:44

    Good Christmas memories probably around the late 50's early 60's when I was 7 or 8. Main shopping high street ( Wood Green) shops festooned with decorations especially Woolworths, goodies in the shops that you never saw at any other time of the year. ( I was overwhelmed to see a whole big tin of Quality Street !! ) a chill in the air and the Salvation Army band playing Christmas Carols. The anticipation of Santas visit. Unpacking the Christmas hamper that mum and dad had saved for all year. Mum cleaning out the fire grate in my bedroom ready for santa to descend on Xmas eve and a freshly laid fire ready to be lit on Christmas morning. This was the only time we had a fire in my bedroom, presumably couldn't afford the coal for more than one room. Determined to stay awake all night to see the great man delivering my presents and gazing into the night sky hoping I'd see him and his reindeer. The sky always seemed clear on Christmas Eve but I don't suppose it was ! Then waking early in the morning and discovering what he had left. Going into the street to see what friends had been given - an array of bicycles, scooters, roller skates, dollies etc. Mums in new slippers and Dads in brightly patterned knitted jumpers. Neighbours popping in for drinks. Early lunch ( wonderful smells of a roast dinner) Getting dressed in a new outfit, usually some sort of frothy party dress and then off to Auntie Rubies a short walk away for a family get together. All the family lived within a short walk of each other then, and only one uncle had a car ! Being allowed to stay up late to play alongside my cousins. Cannot remember any family feuds only lots of laughter. Don't remember the TV being on either - just the Dansette record player going all night interspersed with someone playing the piano. Everything at Christmas then was a " treat" and was so looked forward to - can't remember mum getting stressed out about it - but perhaps she did. Still enjoy Christmas with family but those early years hold such special memories that will stay with me forever. Nice to write this down as I never have before. Sorry if I've waffled on a bit ! Happy Christmas everyone !!

  • Morag Burton December 18, 2016 at 11:36

    My mother wasn't overly affectionate, but for some reason she went 'all out' for christmas. On christmas eve, after my brother and I went to bed, the sitting room was decorated and the tree put up (real candles in those days!). When she took us through on christmas morning it was as if the fairies had transformed the room, and of course, a roaring fire in the morning made it special too since normally it was only lit in the evening. The downside was cooking the turkey in the oven of the Rayburn cooker - I remember finding her slumped over it in tears more than once when the Rayburn wasn't co-operating.
    I loved reading your article Tricia, you write with a very generous and positive spirit and I hope you have the best if times with your family this year :)

  • Dorian December 18, 2016 at 11:29

    Merry Christmas

    Your's is the most honest wonderful Christmas letter I have ever received. Thank you so much!
    Love, Dorian (age 77)

  • Raynette Mitchell December 18, 2016 at 11:24

    Wonderful blog, Tricia, beautifully written.
    I don't have a particular Christmas memory which stands out although virtually every Christmas when I was a child was terrific. Both my mum and my dad made Christmas day really special for my brother and me. Then as I grew up and eventually married, Christmas for me became all about obligation and duty, not necessarily something to look forward to, not all that enjoyable, often full of forced cheerfulness and artificial bonhomie, conversation full of platitudes and insincerity.
    Well, don't I sound like the old curmudgeon that I'm not really! It's just that now, Christmas tends to irritate me!
    On the other hand, I just love New Year - out with the old, in with the new, a fresh new year to look forward to.
    May 2017 be a good year for all of us.

  • Elaine Lovell December 18, 2016 at 11:21

    I, too, am divorced, live away from my two daughters, their spouses and my 6 grandchildren.
    The holidays have been most lonely for me until I decided to do something about it.
    For the past few years, I have done 2 things:
    1. Sought out a needy single woman (and her children, if that is the case) and provide joy, gifts, a meal and groceries for her.
    2. I select 2 holiday events in my city, with a spirited, joyous ambiance, to cheer me. Sometimes I go alone, but, I love to take another "alone" gal with me.
    I find that when I give of myself to others at these times, when I want to stay in my night clothes, shuffle my feet and feel down in the pit of despair, that I truly find the spirit of Christmas alive and fabulously beautiful within me.

  • Melanie Mitchell December 18, 2016 at 11:17

    Thank you for reminding me why I will be in my daughter's home with her sister and both families for Christmas. I too love my children very much but sometimes count the hours away just be going home. Your honesty and wit will allow me to relax and enjoy myself this Christmas as I think of your words. Thank you for making me feel better and thank you for all you do for us.

  • Donna December 18, 2016 at 11:01

    My favourite memory of Christmas is when in the early hours I would come home from my Christmas Eve celebrations and the smell of the roasting turkey in the oven would greet my nose. I knew then as I crawled in my bed possibly a little tipsy that it was going to be a good day. X

  • Sarah Craggs December 18, 2016 at 10:49

    Perfect and comforting advice Tricia - thank you so much for your openness & honesty!

  • Pauline Lenney December 18, 2016 at 10:47

    Early one Christmas Eve morning our travel operator called to tell us that our skiing destination was overbooked and they were upgrading us to a different resort.
    The problem was that I did not want to go to a different resort ...
    We took the option of a full refund.
    But everybody thought we were going away!
    In the days before email and social media, we were able to lock our car in the garage and pretend we had gone!
    We had none of the usual Christmas cheer; a quick trip to the supermarket enabled us to buy some fresh food and basics and an adequate supply of alcohol!
    We stayed at home and quite literally watched the world continue without us. It was wonderful. We laughed most of the day, secure in the knowledge that for once, we really had escaped!

  • Trudy Wilson December 18, 2016 at 10:12

    My Christmas memory is going to Smithfield Market with my dad on Christmas Eve at midnight where they sold the turkeys off cheap. I sat on my dad's shoulders (he was 6ft 2"), we always got a cheap turkey. My parents (no matter what time) always wanted to watch us open our presents so they were put in their bedroom. I then walked around all day with a small pile of presents. Handkerchiefs with embroidery in the corner, a petticoat, a selection box, a writing set and best of all Monopoly. I am 70 and still have my original Monopoly. My mum and dad took on a different demeanour and we were all happy that day. My parents let my brother and I get away with some things that we were not normally allowed to get away with. We did not have a lot of money but that day, all was forgotten.

  • Heather December 18, 2016 at 10:09

    Forget the day job and become an author. I love your wit and written style!

    • triciacusden December 18, 2016 at 10:16

      Thanks Heather - I am writing a style handbook for 'fabulous forever' women as we speak - due to be with the publishers by 1st April 2017 for publication in early 2018. It's always lovely to know that people enjoy my blogs! Merry Christmas. Triciax

  • FussiMoo December 18, 2016 at 10:04

    I am a step parent of over 25 years to two girls (we still call them girls although they are 38 & 40!) and 2 granddaughters. When my husband and I found ourselves alone for the first time on Christmas Day as it was his ex's turn to have them, we were a bit down. We decided on positive action and use the day as one long posh lunch. We dress in nice clothes, have different wines with each course (including bubbles with breakfast). All the girls come for Boxing Day (cold cuts and cheesy jackets) which is lovely and stress free. This is now our family tradition. Two years ago, however, I offered to host Christmas Day for all, including my husbands ex and her husband, to whom she is now his primary carer. I thought it would be nice for her to have a break. It was perfect from the turkey, to the table, to the after dinner games. This is only exclipsed by walking on an Irish beach on Boxing Day with my beloved Dad and husband, followed by chips and Muphy's in the local pub - now that is perfect!

  • Mary Ginn December 18, 2016 at 09:59

    I think for me the magic of Christmas never fades even though I am now in my mid sixties. One in particular stands out. It was when we were living in Germany. All the family were fast asleep and I was completing some last minute tasks. It was a beautiful night and slowly and magically large flakes of snow began to gently fall. I remember thinking how lucky I was to have such a lovely family and live in such a beautiful part of the world.

  • Patricia December 18, 2016 at 09:59

    Karen....your story made me cry. What wonderful memories.

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