What Christmas means to me…

Christmas dinner table. Pic: Petr Kratochvil

From sausage casserole on Christmas Eve to her late Grandpa’s sublime carrot cake, it’s the family food traditions that signify what Christmas means to Georgie Laud

Christmas for me is, as everyone says, a time to be with family and be happy. My family have a typical English Christmas. We start the day with cups of tea, fuelling ourselves for the present opening. The radio is always on, softly playing Christmas songs and, after we’ve opened our gifts, sausage and bacon sandwiches are a must.

Every Christmas Eve that I can remember, my maternal grandparents stay over at our house and after Christmas Eve mass, we eat sausage casserole and apple crumble – lovingly prepared by my mum. We then migrate to the living room, and either play some games – Scrabble is a personal favourite although not everyone agrees – or watch whatever Christmas television there is on.

When we all woke up early once upon a time, we would run downstairs to the spare room and wake up my grandparents who always greeted us with equal excitement. We would go to the kitchen and inspect the half eaten mince pie, note, and empty whisky glass that ‘Santa’ (my dad) had left behind. Nowadays we venture downstairs to the kitchen and my Grandma will have prepared a cup of tea for everyone as they wake.

On Christmas mornings when we were younger, my dad would always have his camcorder ready and record our reaction as we stepped through the living room door to find the presents under the tree. With two teenage daughters, soon there were protests at having the camera in our faces that early in the morning, but looking through those tapes are heart-warming nonetheless.

My brother usually acts as Santa Claus, delving into the presents and giving them out to the intended addressee. The living room is a frenzy of wrapping paper and thank-yous and my dog, Gem, last year dressed in a Santa suit, gets far too excited with the paper on the floor.

My dog, in her Christmas outfit.

My dog, Gem, in her Christmas outfit.

If it is our turn to host Christmas (it alternates between my parents’ house and my Nan’s house) after opening presents my Dad readies the kitchen, puts on his apron and begins the mammoth task of preparing dinner for 10 people. I’m not sure how he achieves it but Christmas Dinner is always beautifully prepared and so very tasty.

We have all the traditional trimmings when it comes to our dinner. Turkey, of course, stuffing, crispy roast potatoes and mountains of vegetables. The gravy is always a perfect consistency, and everyone is soon making sounds of contentment as they tuck in. Even my dog eats well on Christmas Day, with a little portion of everything left to one side for her to enjoy. After all that there’s always enough turkey left over for sandwiches in the days that follow.

One tradition that I miss is that my late Grandpa would always make a delicious carrot cake with cream cheese icing, decorated with little figures and a sparkly ‘Merry Christmas’. My Nan and Grandpa, Aunty and cousin would arrive with bags of gifts and extra food and the amazing cake. We are one family member less, and we have tried to recreate the carrot cake many times but it’s never the same. He is missed at the dinner table, but we keep him in our hearts as we eat and in our thoughts as we remember previous Christmases.

After dinner, we move to the front room and enjoy Christmas television. This year I am certain we will be watching the Christmas Great British Bake Off whilst being offered mince pies by my Mum even though we are all far too full, and I’m definitely certain that someone (my Grandad), will fall asleep by the fire.

In recent years a new tradition has taken hold, in me visiting my boyfriend on Christmas Day night and spending the evening with his family, playing games and drinking wine. I love this new tradition as I have extended my family and get to experience Christmas twice.

The family times aren’t over after Christmas Day, however, our Boxing Day tradition has us all gathering at my Grandma’s house, where she has prepared the biggest buffet of cheese, meat, crisps, crackers, you name it, it’s probably on there. She encourages everyone to eat all day long, and delights in seeing everyone tucking in and enjoying themselves.

My dad and brother always organise quizzes and games for Boxing Day: Christmas quizzes, what’s happened that year quizzes, general knowledge quizzes, all complete with prizes. Everyone gets into teams and becomes very competitive.

Christmas for me every year is full of traditions, lovely food and time for family. With myself living in London, my sister in Leeds and my family in Stockton on Tees in the North East of England, it’s one of the times we all come together and can celebrate being a family.

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