The (Miscellany) Christmas Tag

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One of my favourite bloggers, Zoe Homes of, has posed some Christmas questions. Reading her answers has been interesting and it’s the sort of thing that always starts my subconscious pondering what my own answers are.


01. Do you have an Advent calendar this year?

No. Some weeks ago I saw a reference to a gin Advent calendar which sounded like a nice idea, but the cost was – understandably (24 gin minatures!) – a long way beyond affordable. I think chocolate Advent calendars are fairly pointless – the chocolates are so small they don’t deliver on the expectations they create. I like the idea of refillable calendars but always leave it too late to organise. One of my objectives for 2021 is to make the time for “fun little projects”, and this might be one, ready for Advent 2021.

02. Is your Christmas tree real or artificial?

Artificial. The last time I had a real Christmas tree I was a very young child. What I remember most is my parents’ despair at still finding pine needles in the carpet at Easter.

03. Are your Christmas lights one colour or multicoloured?

Coloured lights on the tree. White lights decorating the dining room.

04. Does your tree have a theme?

No, we just go for colourful.

05. Do you put lights up outside?

I’ve not been interested in the past, probably put off the the gaudy flashing displays that can be seen from space, but some of the outside lights in our neighbourhood are done well this year and we’ll consider outside lights for next year. We are planning an early evening walk round the area just to look at the displays.

There was fiction, fantasy, and first aid among this Christmas’s books.

06. What is your favourite Christmas film?

Terrible cliché, but it’s Home Alone.

07. What is your favourite Christmas carol or song?

I don’t have a favourite. After so many years of singing the same few carol at church I’m bored with most of them. And for too many weeks I’ve heard too many Christmas songs in shops.

08. Do you get time off work at Christmas? Is it ‘free’ or do you have to book it as annual leave?

As this is the end of my first year of retirement annual leave is not relevant. Every day is like annual leave (ha ha!). I don’t recall ever having to work between Christmas and New Year though perhaps I did in my first job as a journalist with the local paper. For the last 25 years my wife and I were running our own business and we always tried to close for up to a fortnight at Christmas. Christmas closing had the advantage that customers also tended to be on holiday for at least a week so the pressure was off. A fortnight in the summer was never that successful because there were always urgent calls to deal with while we were away, and a week or more of headless-chicken mode before and after.

The foam roller I asked for this Christmas came with two balls. The one on the right has an alarming similarity to Covid.

09. Do you open any presents on Christmas Eve?

No, we go the other way. There is always small (monetarily speaking) present for everyone on the Christmas tree, which we open mid evening on Christmas Day. If we are at home for New Year, as we have been for the last few years, we do a second round of tree presents then. They maintain a mild level of anticipation all day, and round each one off nicely. 

10. What does a traditional Christmas Day look like for you?

Leisurely breakfast followed by present opening and reading/playing with them, lunch, The Queen, phoning/Skyping/Zooming family, watching TV, buffet tea, more TV, and then the presents off the tree.

11. How will your Christmas Day differ this year (because 2020…)?

Christmas Day itself, very little. The biggest change on the day was a four-way Zoom with family instead of individual calls. Otherwise, the difference was pre-Christmas when the usual family-gathering-lunch-and-present-exchange didn’t happen a week before. 

12. What do you typically wear on Christmas Day?

Usually just everyday clothes, but this year I wore a smarter jumper because it seemed so long since I’ve had to dress up for anything. I’m not sure I can remember how to tie a tie.

13. What’s on your Christmas Day 2020 menu? Breakfast, lunch and dinner…

Croissants for breakfast, with cereal first if desired. This is a family tradition for high days and holidays. Lunch is a typical Christmas Day affair with roast pots, stuffing, carrots, brocolli, Brussels sprouts (of course), with something veggie replacing the turkey – a Quorn roast this year – followed by Christmas pudding and cream. Tea is a buffet with quiche, veggie sausage rolls, salad, crisps, biscuits and cheese, trifle, and of course Christmas cake. 

My presents included some goodies for The Big Outdoors. The dry sacks will be useful straightaway but it might be a while before I get suitable weather to use the sporks and mug.

14. What is your favourite part of your Christmas dinner?

Christmas pudding, because it’s the only time we get it (though we do usually stash a spare pudding to have a few weeks later).

15. What is your favourite Christmas sweet treat?

For weight and nutrition reasons, we don’t have processed-sugar puddings very often, but at Christmas we indulge in desserts all week. Christmas pudding of course, but also tiramisu, cheesecake, banoffee pie, Vienetta, brownies, crumble…

16. What is the best Christmas gift you’ve ever received?

I suppose I ought to say “our son” who was born on Christmas Eve 25 years ago. 

17. What is the gift you are most excited to give this year?

Actually a gift to my wife that I arranged on behalf of her parents – a large sewing box, so she can easily carry her current embroidery project from upstairs sewing table to lounge when we want to sit together.

18. Is Boxing Day a walking day for you?

Not in the sense of a long, grand day out, but we did go for a couple of miles this year to stretch the legs and get some fresh air. Christmas day was frosty and sunny, but Boxing Day had reverted to the default grey and damp, so not inspiring walking weather.

19. If you could spend Christmas anywhere in the world, where would you go?

The last time we had a decent amount of snow was several years ago. I can’t recall having even a decent frost last winter.

I was tempted to say “somewhere in the southern hemisphere” to experience a summer Christmas but on reflection I want to go the other way. I’m fortunate not to suffer from SAD, and I really like the seasons. I don’t have a favourite because each one has its pleasures, but they seem to be merging and losing their distinctiveness. It’s several years since we had a decent amount of snow round here, and it was so special even then that I remember feeling like I was nine years old and desperate to go out. So I’d like to go somewhere a white Christmas is guaranteed, contrasted with lots of colour and activity and open fires and warm jumpers and mulled wine… A really indulgent northern hemisphere Christmas. 

20. If you could make one Christmas wish, what would it be?

If you put aside all the altruistic answers – world peace etc – I think it would be to have the energy and enthusiasm to grasp 2021, whatever it brings. Carpe diem, and all that.