Do you heart Christmas?
By Samantha Tonge
Tis a funny time of year, Christmas, and a bit of a Marmite event – you either love it or loathe it.♥
The great excitement surrounding fab food, TV and presents is often countered by the stressful preparations and potential family arguments! What’s more, it’s so commercial nowadays and many of us have forgotten that, at its core, for some of us this event is to celebrate a religious occasion – or, at the very least, should perhaps be the one time of year we strive to be charitable, tolerant and kind-hearted. But somehow this resolution can easily be lost in the quest to buy the latest must-have gizmo or make the most impressive mince pies. The joy of spending time together as a family can be tainted by stressed adults falling out – or expectations about how this “perfect” day should go, not being met.
Looking back, I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy most of my Christmases. I recall happy memories from my childhood of receiving presents I really wanted – not necessarily expensive ones. My Christmas morning would always be spent avidly reading the latest Beano or Dandy annuals, as an absolute priority. Then relatives would visit for a traditional lunch and tasty evening buffet. I also recall the excitement of opening each door of the Advent calendar, during December, not to receive a chocolate like nowadays, but to see a cute Nativity or Santa picture.
And now as a parent myself, I’ve love nothing more than trying to create the perfect Christmas for the kids – of course, it’s never quite all gone to plan, and there have been culinary disasters, like me pouring Hollandaise sauce on the puddings instead of custard! Then there was the year we were all ill and spent Christmas Day in bed. But overall, the memories are joyful – the children’s faces, for example, when they went into the garden to discover that Santa had brought them rabbits.
But when things have gone wrong, it’s always made me realize that Christmas isn’t the be all and end all. We big the day up and hope it’s going to be one massive nostalgic sparkly bubble of fun – but sometimes it won’t be, and no matter, it’s only one out of three hundred and sixty-five opportunities to eat well or laugh with friends or watch a great film. In fact, Kimmy, the main character out of Mistletoe Mansion is quite happy to simply spend the day, low-key, with friends, or chill. Whilst she loves the idea of Christmas and – to sensible boyfriend (or is that Ex-boyfriend!), Adam’s annoyance, splurges out on a few decorations – her mother’s problems have meant Christmas was nothing special growing up. So, her expectations are lower.
Perhaps that is the key – not to expect the food to be Nigella-standard, or every member of the family to still be speaking at bedtime, like the Waltons! Perhaps we should remind ourselves in advance that the turkey may be dry, someone may not like their present or might say something insulting after too many glasses of mulled wine. In fact, it’s the times when things go wrong that the real meaning of Christmas perhaps comes to the fore – forgiving someone for an indiscretion; cheering someone on if their Yorkshire puddings have sunk; thanking someone for that hand-knitted reindeer jumper that we know we are never going to wear…
Whatever happens, I hope you enjoy the festive season this year. And if you are short of ideas for Christmas sweet stuff, Kimmy is an aspiring cake maker, cue mini Stollens, chocolate logs, rich mincemeat cupcakes, cinnamon and spice cupcakes… I could go on!
Samantha Tonge lives in Cheshire with her lovely family, and two cats who think they are dogs. When not writing, she spends her days cycling and willing cakes to rise. She has sold over 80 short stories to women’s magazines. Her bestselling debut novel, Doubting Abbey, was shortlisted for the Festival of Romantic Fiction best Ebook award in 2014. Its fun standalone sequel is From Paris with Love. Mistletoe Mansion stars a new set of characters and is for fans of cupcakes and Christmas!