Celebrations this year seem even more special having been separated from loved ones last year. Yet with all the news of poor supply chains due to Brexit and Covid, many have been concerned about being able to honour all of our traditional festivities. In fact, I was emailed by the company suggesting I order my Christmas Tree in October so not to be disappointed; I don’t think I have ever started planning my celebrations that early before!
The first sign of the run up to Christmas in my family is on Stir-Up Sunday on the last Sunday before advent, where I follow my grandmother’s family Christmas pudding recipe. It is handwritten in her beautiful script and in imperial measurements. I love the feeling of knowing that her mother handed this recipe down to her and that I am now carrying on the tradition. She is 101 now and not able to bake herself, so it makes it even more poignant. I also ensure that everyone in the family stirs it clockwise to honour the Three Kings journey from East to West to follow the old time tradition. I love this feeling of passing down traditions to my own family, knowing they will keep them alive in years to come. In all our cultures, the passing of knowledge from one generation to the next is valuable and precious.
And what about that tree I ordered so early this year? Most people think they were introduced to the UK by Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s husband, but actually it was a bit earlier than that. The first Christmas tree was introduced by the wife of King George III, Queen Charlotte, who brought the tradition from her native Germany. However, certainly it was Prince Albert (also from Germany) and Queen Victoria who popularised the tradition with the Victorians and it is why they are so ubiquitous today. Interestingly the oldest surviving Christmas tree can be found here in Bedford at Wrest Park. It was planted in 1856 and was brought inside every year to be redecorated by the family, before being returned outside to wait until the following year. It is now far too big and too old to be decorated inside the house anymore, but it lives on in the parkland watching over the celebrations each year.
So from my grandma’s Christmas pudding recipe to the grand old tree that have both seen well over one hundred Christmas celebrations, I think no matter what happens this year, whether we can fulfil all of our traditions or not, the central theme is being thankful for the opportunity to come together. For those of us celebrating Christmas, and those of us who are not, let’s focus this holiday on the importance of family and friends, about spending time with one another, experiencing our own unique traditions and enjoying each other’s company.
As I am sure many of us, with younger families, will spend at least a bit of time this holiday watching a Disney film or two, it seems apt to finish on a quote from Walt Disney “Life is beautiful. It’s about giving. It’s about family”. I wish you all a happy holiday.