Ilex and paper garlands - every year
Bristol's best Christmas lights. The kids were ready for bed but we hopped into the car with blankets and hot water bottles, and a flask of hot chocolate. They were enchanted by the lights, and more so by the adventure.
One of my favourite presents: a dipped terracotta jug from Decorator's Notebook
Operation wear 'em out - Christmas Eve hide-and-seek at Ashton Court
Homemade wrapping paper
Christmas Eve ice skating followed by pizza and a couple of limoncellos. We walked back along the harbourside, the kids on their scooters with fairy lights tied around, all of us singing rude carols.
There is no month like December for observing rituals so keenly. Every year the same: the box of decorations comes down from the attic; the choosing of the tree and its adornment; songs on the radio, songs sung at school; stockings dusted off and hung on the mantelpiece; mince pies and carrots left out for the man in red; feasting with loved ones, that food and drink only consumed during these short weeks; staying up late, sleeping in, forgetting what day it is.
With ritual comes great comfort. Repetition intertwined with familiarity; a security of sorts, those traditions particular to each household are so reassuring and signify that Christmas is here. I am a sucker for nostalgia, and for its markers. Like the pudding drowned in brandy, this time of year is drenched in nostalgia. Nostalgia literally means 'the pain from an old wound', and there are times when I feel that ache just observing the ritual, the traditions, the children repeating Christmas in the same way as last year; this time a little older, a little wiser, a little further away from being my babies.
I've decided to make ritual the subject of a new blog series, each post exploring a different ritual personal to my family or observed more widely. What are your rituals?
Oh, and Happy New Year!