Whether you celebrate Christmas as the birthday of Jesus, or as an extension of the mid-Winter Solstice or simply as a time for feasting with friends and family, I trust you have a beautiful festive season, and that you're surrounded by love.
No matter what our religious, spiritual or other beliefs, in the end, all celebrations should be based on love ~ the glue which connects humans.
If you're in any of the flooded counties of the UK, stay dry and stay safe.
Thank you to everyone who has blessed us with cards and gifts. We've been so touched by your kindness and generosity. It means more than you can imagine.
I love Christmas. For me, it is such a sensual time of the year. We bake stollen (German fruit bread with marzipan, rum, citrus peel, flaked almonds and lemon zest), lebkucken (spicy christmas biscuits) and the scents of Christmas are all around: clementines, pine, incense, ginger, cloves, cinnamon, chestnuts roasting on an open fire...
My family and I celebrate Christmas today, on Christmas Eve. The girls and I will spend the day preparing our meal:
Sunflower seed roast with sage and onion stuffing, slow-braised red cabbage with apple, saddleback potatoes with garlic, oven roasted carrots, parsnips, cauliflower and butternut pumpkin, stir-fried or steamed Brussels sprouts. We bake enough to eat the next day. This is our family tradition. On Christmas day (our version of Boxing Day) we watch Love Actually. We've probably seen it about fifteen times now (and restrict ourselves to watching it just at Christmas) but still laugh and cry right from the opening scene.
We follow our Christmas eve meal with the girls playing songs and carols on their instruments: piano, violin, saxophone, guitar and cello. These rooms are filled with love and appreciation.
The beautiful thing about celebrating in the evening is the wonderful atmosphere created by the dark, and lighting the room only with candles and the woodstove. We spend all day building up to our celebration through the shared creation of the experience. Christmas isn't something we just serve up to the children, but something they've always been very much part of, Continuum-style. Right from infancy, they were there peeling potatoes as I carried them in the sling.
Christmas memories can live on for a very long time. As an adult, I particularly loved the Christmases when I was pregnant and Paul would massage my belly beneath the Christmas tree. Our first Christmas together, the tree was decorated only in baby booties.
My favourite childhood Christmas was when I was about seven. We'd just moved to the country ~ seven hundred acres in rural Queensland, Australia. My mother had made me a dolls' house out of an old television set. In the Seventies, televisions had wooden frames. She'd taken the insides out so that all that remained was the wooden frame and the glass front. My mother created a whole world of magic in there. She'd made the house with two floors and decorated it with wallpaper, curtains, carpet and furniture. The stairs to the first floor were made by a rope ladder. I can still see the purple string it was made from. When I came out on Christmas eve to find this gift, there was a real live kitten lying asleep inside.
Equally favourite as a Christmas gift was the one the following year where my mother created me a shop out of a dunny (and outdoor toilet). This amazing shop, at the far end of the garden through a dense patch of shrubs, was fully decorated, and had a verandah and serving window. It was magnificent. Year after year my mother gifted me with things that could never be found in a shop ~ certainly not with the beautiful, unique, hand-crafted-with-love energy that these gifts contained. Almost forty years later, these memories are just as precious as ever. I don't possess my mother's creative flair, but I do try to create a magical Christmas eve that will live on forever in my daughters' memories.
I wish you a gentle and supportive 2013, and Paul, Kathryn and I look forward to bringing you another year of The Mother magazine.