Christmas at Home on the Hill

Christmas is a pretty big deal round here – I know it’s not everyone favourite time of year and some people find it incredibly difficult, but I love it. A time for celebrating whatever good we can find in the world and being thankful for all we have I’m writing this as the battle for Aleppo continues and I feel the contrast between their lives and mine. I have so much to be thankful for.

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But I’m not a Christian and I try to keep Christianity out of my midwinter celebration – well, maybe the odd carole, but the tunes are mostly much older than the Christian words anyway. So my tree has a duck at the top, not an angel. And my decorations are all secular.

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We always have a real tree from a local garden centre – they are grown as a crop and help to absorb some of our excess carbon. I always compost it afterwards. This is placed in the living room and decorated with classy glass ornaments. I used to have more homemade and plastic ones when we had small children but now I indulge my adult tastes.

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Also in the living room we have an enormous dresser – our wedding present to ourselves. I decorate this too, with glass baubles, bunting and mistletoe.

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Above the fireplace is where the advent calendar hangs, filled with lottery scratch cards that we never win on. About a week before Christmas I add more bits to the mantelpiece.

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I’ve had a go this year at using some garden trimmings to make wreaths. I’m not so sure about the one on the window sill at the front of the house, but I had fun making it.

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On the day itself, we usually host for as many of the family as want to join us – we have 6 children in total and they’re all invited. We’re usually joined by Keith’s ex-partner and her partner too, and anyone else who wants to join in. The number expected this year is 14, but there won’t be any small children this year. I organise the table, and Keith does the bulk of the cooking, although I help when necessary. Other people usually provide puddings, and a vegetarian turkey alternative.

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I think the year these were taken we ate early because of the little ones (just visible on the left at the window end). It’s usually getting dark as we sit down to eat. This picture looks quite civilised because it’s only the starter course. By the end the table is laden with wine and beer bottles, plus lots of pans and serving platters. Keith cooks a turkey – free-range from Manor Farm at Catthorpe, plus roast potatoes, carrots, brussel sprouts, cheesy leeks, sweetcorn, roast parsnips, mashed swede, french beans, gravy, stuffing and Yorkshire puddings. Plus anything else that people turn up with. It sounds like a lot, but there’s not much waste – some left-over veges go to the chooks, but some also becomes bubble and squeak, the left-over turkey gets eaten with chips, and made into soup and stock.

We’re generally pretty exhausted after putting on that feast so tend to spend the rest of the week pretty quietly – well, in the daytime. I think Keith has gigs and parties planned for most evenings this year.

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Wishing you all a peaceful and happy Christmas.

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