Monday, 14 December 2009
Things are officially getting festive. Forget the giant corporate-themed Christmas lights, switched on aeons before anyone's even thought about the holidays. Forget the Starbucks red cups (love their dark cherry mocha as I do), those bloody career-low extravaganza Iceland ads, the early bookings and menu decisions of the Christmas work do. There is a personal point in December where you quietly jump on the Christmas bandwagon and start to really look forward to it. Having spent yesterday singing in suitably frosty locations such as Somerset House, Trafalgar Square and the Royal Festival Hall with my wonderful choir, Accendo (download the Christmas single we feature on here) I was already feeling slightly sentimental in a rosy-cheeked, bobble-hatted sort of way. But this morning, somewhere between the visible breath and some festive Mariah Carey on my iPod, I really felt great about Christmas. So here is my little list of what makes this time of year sparkle for me...
Nothing too 'novelty' or overplayed, but the classics: White Christmas, Sleigh Ride, The Christmas Song etc. There's always room for a bit of Wham and even some Shakin' Stevens in my household though. My abiding memory of Christmas music will always be my parents dancing around the living room to that oddest of Christmas songs, Jona Lewie's Stop the Cavalry. Also carols: while far from religious, I do love the sacred sound of beautifully sung traditional pieces.
Turkey feast, naturally, but all of the food surrounding the Christmas period delights my tastebuds... smoked salmon served simply on buttered brown bread with a little lemon and pepper, classic champagne, my mum's freshly baked cheese straws (heavenly) and freshly made, creamy chestnut soup (nirvana-ly). A cold meats, cheeses and salads banquet at my Grandparents on boxing day, party food of all descriptions paired with a glass of spicy, sweet mulled wine, and of course those late night cheese and wine moments. I couldn't even begin to go into my love of all things cheese, suffice to say a nice mature cheddar, Welsh Teifi cheese, dolcelatte and an indulgent goats cheese will be on my dairy wishlist this year.
Every Christmas Eve since I can remember, my family have cosied up to watch It's a Wonderful Life before going out for a celebratory, no-one-wants-to-cook-at-this-point curry. If you haven't seen the former, buy and watch NOW: it will give you a much needed laugh and weep and remind you what life is all about in an extraordinary way. Boxing Day, as I have mentioned, usually means a post-feast feast with the family, a quiz and maybe a board game. It also means a rousing chorus of the Twelve Days of Christmas, for which we are all given an individual line in the hope of singing them back in perfect order, but which inevitably collapses into Christmas carol mayhem with confusion over how many maids/geese/drummers and whose line it was in the first place.
Much as I love donning a chunky scarf, jaunty hat and layers and layers of cosy woolies, it's the staying in that really makes Christmas for me. It means drinking at any conceivable time of day, playing music loudly while preparing food, collapsing on the sofa just after a meal with no thought to other plans. Having the tree, the lights, and the cards strung up means you wouldn't wish to be anywhere else. I might break my lazing streak and actually go on this year's 'Christmas day walk' - perhaps this is a sign of maturity? I doubt it will be enough to warrant a promotion from the Kiddie Table on Boxing Day, where I suspect I will remain into my 30s. It's that put down the diary, turn off the BlackBerry, put on your slippers and pick up a gin and tonic feeling that I am looking forward to the most this year.
Feeling even more glowing with Christmas cheer after writing that. You may just feel slightly nauseous - I will probably feel the same reading this back in a few weeks time. But for now I am happy to bask in my Yueltide coma.