Not decorating the Christmas tree and other family traditions.
Around this time of year everyone in the family gets terribly upset with me because I refuse to decorate the tree until Christmas Eve. While all the other houses in the valley here in Dorset are switching on their lights (some of them displays worth paying to see), our tree stands stoically in the corner of the living room, bare except for the needles it was born with. And it will stay like that until Christmas Eve, when we’ll all gather round and decorate it together – a glass of our 2014 Blancs de Blancs in hand.
I inherited this restrained approach from my mother. She was firmly of the belief that Christmas should not start until Christmas Eve. I have to say I do think trees that have been ‘on’ for weeks beforehand, can start to look a bit tired by the time Christmas comes around. And it always causes great excitement among the grandchildren, when we can finally announce that it’s time to decorate the tree.
Other family traditions I’m starting to think about this month are mostly based around what to feed everyone. I’m never quite sure who will be turning up when, so I find it’s always useful to have a larder full of old favourites I can pull out at any moment. Over the years I’ve found myself returning to the pates my children and grandchildren love to spread on thin toast. Elizabeth David’s pate de campagne, smoked mackerel pate, and chicken liver. Thrown together with some fresh watercress, buttered toast and lemon wedges, they’re hard to beat for an informal festive gathering.