Friday, December 18, 2015

Christmas: 3 Unobtrusive Traditions

I don't hate Christmas, I just don't really love it either. I'm... indifferent. Except for the one week every year where I realise, like every other year, it's me who has to do all the cards, organise and wrap all the presents and make sure that we have plans to visit all the family members who will moan if we don't. I guess I find Christmas to be more of an obligation than I do a festival. I'm also allergic to Christmas trees. Or more accurately, the mould/spores that live on evergreen trees. Yes, really. It's not so bad outdoors, but when they're in an enclosed space, it's like having really bad hayfever and peculiar wheeze. NICE. We also never manage to spend Christmas at home, so no, I don't own a 'proper' Christmas tree.

I do have 3 Christmas traditions that I like to indulge when we get within a week of Christmas though, so if you're not into hardcore Christmas, maybe you'll enjoy giving my festive three a go...

1. Cheese

New year in our house means all the cheese and all the chorizo and all the wine and all the anti pasto.

Sometimes it's New Year, sometimes, like this year, we have a mammoth cheeseboard with added charcuterie and nibbles. We tend to put it together around 2000 and stretch it through the evening. Wine is not optional. This is great fun with friends, but because we're miserable so and so's, we will not be sharing our feast this weekend!

2. A little slice of Germany

Marks and Spencer Christmas Decorations. The beginning.

This little metal tealight holder spins, propelled by the hot air the flame creates. I bought this at the Leipzig Weihnachtsmarkt when I returned after having lived there a few years back and it happened to be the same year I discovered the Yankee Candle advent calendar. I do have one this year, but I've been away so much that I'll have about 2 weeks worth to burn this weekend, but that's ok, because it's exactly the time of year for a festive candle and low lighting, in my opinion! That's my Leipzig mug creeping into the top right, which brings me onto my next point...

3. Glühwein
The mug did start off with mulled wine in it, and it's something I love. When I lived in Leipzig my flatmates made the most incredible version of Glühwein the weekend before we all went our separate ways for Christmas and it's something I like to do *properly* at least once per year. This year, my plan is to indulge in warm, spiced mulled wine after a long run (and a subsequently long shower). Yes, I have become that person!


My not so secret recipe goes as follows: 

Pour a 1L bottle of premade mulled wine OR 1 0.75 bottle of cheap red wine, 150ml orange juice & 60g sugar into a pan, bring to a gentle heat (you'll need to stir the wine until the sugar dissolves if you're going down this route)

When warmed add the following: 
a generous pinch of cloves
3 star anise
2 cinnamon sticks or a few large pieces of cinnamon bark
1/2 an orange sliced up (I use my own dried oranges)
no more than 5 cardamom pods
generous grating of nutmeg
1 earl grey teabag
very generous slug of spiced dark rum

Heat the whole lot gently for no longer than an hour- remove the tea bag after 15 mins. 

Some people love decorations, some people can spend hours wrapping presents and I know plenty of people who would be horrified if Christmas Eve wasn't spent eating *insert favourite meal* or visiting *insert Aunty here*, and that's cool. You carry right on. But sometimes I think it's easy to brand those of us for whom Christmas is something we tolerate to be categorised unfairly as people who spoil your fun. It's not that we begrudge you your own festivities, or at least I don't, they're just not my idea of good time.

Please also take a moment, before you cast aspersions, to remember that for some people Christmas is a time of difficult memories, loss or hardship. A friend of ours recently passed away very unexpectedly, and this Christmas his wife is preparing for a funeral. It is not for anyone to judge why Christmas isn't everyone's cup of tea.

I hope you have a fabulous Christmas week if you're celebrating and to all those who are struggling, may there be hope for 2016, as hope is a very powerful thing. 


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