Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Time to think about Christmas' Past...

When I heard that travel brand Transun were running a competition to win a trip to Lapland it got me feeling all festive and thinking about my favourite Christmas.

It wasn't the Christmas that I spent New Year in a snow blanketed hunting lodge in the Scottish Highlands with my boyfriend at the time. He was (and still is) a talented chef and had been invited up to cook a gourmet feast for 20 lucky guests. While he was busy in the kitchen, I was busy trying to keep the hyperactive children of the guests quietly amused in another room...for free...until 11.30pm. The warming whiskey we sipped out on the snow covered lawn as fireworks were set off around us, went some ways to thaw my grumpy mood, sadly not all the way and I retired to bed, leaving everyone to party into the small hours.

It certainly wasn't our first Christmas after Dad passed away. We did everything the same as the previous year, trying to hold on to memories and normality but every house we visited had the same gap where he should have been standing. We snapped and sniped at each other and "Carrot-gate" is still wryly re-told over a glass of red wine every now and then.

Last year we took Sion's mum & step-dad out for Christmas Day lunch, our festive secret ready to be told. A quiet word away with the waiter to change my previously ordered pate to something safer was forgotten when he returned to our table and loudly said "Your order's all changed, and can I just say congratulations!!" Yes, the waiter told the in-laws I was expecting before we'd even taken our coats off.

No, my favourite Christmas was in 1986 when I was eight years old. The week before Christmas my Grandad had brought home the tree, always a real one, always more ball shaped than triangle and with needles already shedding into the carpet. The box of decorations was carefully brought down from the loft. Decorations we had made in infants school were wrapped with the same love as blown glass decorations that my grandparents had brought in the 1940s. Glittery and gaudy decorations, all mis-matching were hung from every branch by my brother and I. The little robin decoration, so old both his wings had long fallen off would have had pride of place. Miniature Chinese lantern lights, older than my Auntie & Uncle were draped onto the tree and overseeing the operation, sat in her chair, in amongst boxes and tissue paper was my Gran. Each year she would take the Christmas fairy and make her a new skirt out of crepe paper, glitter and sequins. Her arms and legs were lose from years of being posed on every tree. If I was really good I would be allowed to help fashion her new dress, but placing her atop the tree would always be Grandad's job.

Christmas Eve, we walked to a beautiful old church where my great grandparents were buried. Like every year we left a homemade wreath and had a little tidy up before heading home. The evening was spent watching the special tv programmes before a bath and a sit in front of the fire, in new pyjamas, to let my hair dry. I was allowed a cup of tea - more milk than tea, in my Muppets mug, before being sent up to bed to fall asleep under my candlewick bedspread.

Christmas Day itself started way before it got light by Auntie Ros banging the banister shouting "I'm up, you're all up!" My brother and I quickly open our presents while drinking more tea and eating as many shortbread petticoat biscuits as we could fit in. I remember I got a brand new guitar that I couldn't wait to practice, as well as some Fisher Price roller skates. We spent the morning playing outside with our friends, swapping stories of what we got, before heading back home. The men wandered down to the pub, while my Gran and Auntie made a mountain of food, the kitchen windows steaming up until condensation started to roll down. At some point they must have been ahead of schedule. I remember them coming into the front room where I was happily playing with my new wax crayons, with a glass of Bailey's each. I was given a tiny little glass too - "Don't tell Daddy you've had it, he'll have my guts for garters!"

After our Christmas lunch, where EVERYONE wore their hats, we went into the front room, some snoozed away their painful bellies, some played a board game, probably scrabble. I read my Victoria Plum books and filled in some of my Blue Peter annual (a stocking staple for many years). As people started to come back to life we looked around, waiting for the first person to say "I feel a bit peckish, you know" Out came cold meat, cheese, homemade sausage rolls and plenty of homemade pickled onions and piccalilli. The Christmas cake was brought out in the evening too. I remember it was decorated with a little plastic house with a christmas tree and three plastic robins, each bigger than the plastic house. I remember not really liking Christmas cake, but loving the icing and marzipan. I fell asleep on the sofa (probably watching Morecambe & Wise!) and woke up to the twinkling lights of the tree, before being carried up to bed by my Dad.

Two years ago I watched my 3 year old niece stare in awe at the sparkling tree in the same place as it's always been, I watched her excitedly eating biscuits before she ate her breakfast sat in a big box. I saw what my Gran and Grandad must have seen all those years ago.

Sadly this year we lost our much longed for Christmas surprise and had to say goodbye to a much loved family member, but Christmas day will still be celebrated by us.

You see it's not about the presents, the designer decorations or the stunning location. It's about the people and the memories, its about setting up a home production line to make huge numbers of sausage rolls and mince pies, it's about buying a Christmas pudding even though no-one likes it, it's about being home...and despite never having a white Christmas, it will always be about opening the curtains in the early hours of the morning to check for snow.

If you would like to be in with a chance of winning a day trip to Lapland for four people, courtesy of Transun, write about your favourite Christmas experience. Make sure you tweet your entry to @Transun, using the hashtag #TransunXMAS. The deadline is 11.59pm on Tuesday 21st October 2014. Further details can be found here - Good Luck!


  1. Thanks for sharing this lovely post about Christmas and here's hoping that the festivities provide lots more happy memories.
    Good luck with the competition x

  2. What a lovely post Carrie. I hope that this Christmas turns out to be a happy one despite what has happened and that you enjoy being with your family. I love your old memories. Take care of yourself and I am always around on social media somewhere if you need to chat. Thank you for linking to PoCoLo, lots of hugs xx

  3. I actually dread any holidays before. My father was an alcoholic and my memories of all my holidays or any other occasions was with him drunk and ruining it for us. Reading this made me feel warm and fuzzy all over. Such a nice story and so true. Christmas is not about the stuff but the people. Sadly mine was not as nice =( #pocolo