It’s cold outside and I’m delighted. As I’m writing this, the sun is pouring through my kitchen window on one of those crisp winter’s days that I love about my country. It’s my first winter Christmas since 2014 and I’m as excited as, well, a kid at Christmas.
I love this time of year. I’ve had the Christmas tree up and decorated since the 20th of November. I’ve been writing Christmas cards to send overseas and mulling spices so my home smells like cinnamon. I’ve been planning the perfect gifts for my godsons, and finding my favourite photos of my daughter to give to her great-grandparents on Christmas Day.
I’m trying not to wish away the days until the other end of this month: when I’ll be back with my family in my childhood home, eating my mum’s homemade mince pies and mulling wine to sip from a sugar-rimmed glass. When I’ll be singing carols by the glow of candlelight in the ancient stone church in the middle of the village. When I’ll be meeting old friends in country pubs, catching up on each others’ news in front of roaring log fires.
I’ll dip into London for a few days, to get my fill of the frantic pace of the most exciting city in the world: to take a spin on the ice rink at Somerset House; to walk beneath the Christmas lights on Regent Street and in Covent Garden; to reminisce about our university days with friends usually scattered all around the world but home for this fleeting window. There’s never enough time.
On Christmas Eve, I’ll swap presents with my brothers. We’re starting a new tradition this year, borrowed from Icelandic culture, of giving a book and some chocolate, which we’ll then take a few quiet hours to enjoy; a moment in a busy holiday season to take it easy.
Click any item to view and shop
Jo Malone Candle in Orange Blossom (Burned at Kate and William’s Wedding) // Royal Teas Book (written by royal chef) // Become a Scottish Laird or Lady // Walkers Shortbread Biscuits // Classic Wool & Silk Burberry Check Scarf // High Tea Service // Union Jack Flag Pillows // Scottish Plaid Chefs Apron
And on Christmas Day, we’ll sit around the table, eating turkey and telling jokes, pulling Christmas crackers and wearing coloured paper hats. We’ll wrap up warm in Barbours and scarves and take a walk together under empty trees. We’ll probably watch the Queen speak to the nation at 3pm. We’ll definitely watch Harry Potter – whichever movie, doesn’t matter. And we’ll enjoy the few slow days we have together before normal life resumes.
Because that’s what Christmas is here; settling into the cosy rituals of wintry days. To traverse the whole island in quest of those who we love and never get to see enough of. And doing it all with the flavours, sights and sounds of British tradition. A sweet mince pie. Tangy mulled wine. Turkey with bread sauce. Twinkly light displays scattered around country houses and botanic gardens. Familiar carols, sung in the contemplation of Christmas Eve and the celebration of Christmas Day. Slow, sacred time of family, friends, and, for me, a little faith.
This is my Christmas. What’s yours?
Make your own mulled wine:
Pour a bottle of red wine into a saucepan. Add four tablespoons of sugar, some water, cloves, star anise, a cinnamon stick and a strip each of orange zest and lemon zest. Heat until simmering and then keep simmering for around 20–30 minutes to allow the spices to infuse. Make sure it doesn’t boil.
To serve, dip the rim of a heat-proof glass into sugar, or a sugar-cinnamon mix. Pour the wine into the glasses, taking care to avoid the sides. Drink warm. Any leftover wine can be warmed and enjoyed later.