Watch out for the pigs... IAM Christmas traditions

As we move into the festive period – no we’re not sure how it came around so quickly either – the IAM team shares established family Christmas traditions and those that are just beginning.

We wish all our subscribers, friends and contacts a happy holidays.

A daughter’s delight

I’m looking forward to Christmas even more than usual this year. I will spend the morning at home with my wife, Lydia, and 18-month-old daughter Rosa. Last year was my daughter’s first festive season, but this year will be first time she is aware that something exciting is happening. She enjoyed her Christmas party at nursery recently and was delighted to watch us put up the tree. I can’t wait to see her little smile on the 25th. In the late morning, we will make our way over to my wife’s sister’s house, where she lives with her husband and three daughters. My nieces are a whirlwind of energy, especially in each other’s company, but loveable and very kind towards their cousin. My parents-in-law, who are good fun, will be there too. One of the joys of living outside London (which I left in 2021) is the ability to spend more with Lydia’s family, all of whom live within a few miles of my house. Everybody on my wife’s side of the family is an excellent cook. They’re also highly traditional, so I will be enjoying a roast dinner with all the trimmings. I expect that one or two glasses of champagne will be consumed. Later in the day, we will be playing board games and parlour games. Ordinarily, I would head up to my hometown of Blackburn, Lancashire over the festive period to see my parents, four siblings and their partners. However, due to ongoing rail strikes in the UK and the fact that I don’t drive, I unfortunately won’t be able to see them until the New Year this time around. Adam Houldsworth

A re-envisioned celebration

My family re-envisioned our Christmas tradition this year – much to the delight of my children, Matthew, 10, Luke, 6, and Emma, 22 months. They are spending Christmas at their father’s house, so I decided to shake things up by unfolding the festivities “backwards”. Two days after Thanksgiving, we bought a Christmas tree – my very first live tree in my adult life – and decorated it promptly. I accelerated my shopping into December’s first weekend, and then allowed the kids to dig into their Christmas stockings first (they targeted the chocolates and candy canes for quick consumption). We baked Christmas cookies and ate them, and over the next week, I surprised them every couple of days with a gift magically appearing under our tree. It was lovely to see them savouring each toy individually for days – rather than casting it aside to tear open the next parcel, as normally happens on Christmas day. But I do understand that through the eyes of a child it is astonishing to see piles of gleaming gifts reflecting lights from the tree. I relented on 11 December, revealing the remainder of their treasures and watching the living room floor disappear under discarded wrapping paper and bows. Though I will miss Matthew, Luke and Emma on 24 and 25 December, I expect distractions to abound as I am surrounded by my loving parents, brother, sister and her family, who all live nearby. Angela Morris

Northern pilgrimage

The north/south divide in England can be keenly felt and, as the only member of my close family who has “defected” to living on the southern coast, I will once again wend my way up the country to the beautiful landscape of Yorkshire (“God’s own county” to locals). Back in the family fold, I will complain it is too cold and they will tease me for becoming “soft” – a tradition which I think all northerners partake in when someone returns from milder climes. I am part of a large, patchwork sort of family so Christmas is loud affair, full of people, food, laughter and, inevitably, masses of board games. Outside, the weather will likely be far from hospitable, but the house will be full of twinkling candles and colourful decorations, not to mention a massive tree which is covered in a riot of baubles. On Christmas Day we hit the Bucks Fizz early and the cooking commences. As one of a vegetarian minority, I’ll be cooking alongside my mum, who will be grappling with feeding the masses. We’ll open gifts once we can get everyone in the same room – it’s a hive of happy activity, so rounding everyone up is easier said than done. In the evening we always have a small buffet as we wind down. It’s a tradition I like so much I once insisted we recreate it in summer, festive napkins and all! And on Boxing Day, more family arrives and we muster the stamina to do the whole thing again. Rachel Mountain

A curly tale

There are a few Christmas traditions from at least three generations in my family that stand out to me. But the first is a tale of my grandparents, where after my grandfather achieved success in business he apparently felt my grandmother was a woman who had everything, so one Christmas, either in a misguided attempt to be clever or simply lacking any better ideas, bought a pig’s ear at the butcher and gave it to her in a Tiffany’s box. Her shock upon opening it created an instant tradition of pig-themed gifts through the next two generations. One year, I surprised my mother, herself a spirited pig gifter, with a cheese in the shape of a pig. I laughed loudly at her reaction. But it was nothing compared to my reaction – and her delight – when one year later I opened an unassuming gift to find the exact same pig, now grotesquely green and barely recognisable. From then on, the pig gifts happily took a turn for the positive, like decorative items and kitchenware, the bottom seemingly having been reached and no one wanting to revisit it. My father stuck to simpler traditions, like Handel’s Messiah on Christmas morning, and my own family’s practice is Christmas Eve lunch in New York City. And the meal never includes pig. William New

Malt on the menu

This will be the first Christmas Day since 1989 – the year we got married – that my wife and I will be alone. Our three children are all grown-up now and have their own commitments and traditions to build, which is just as it should be. So, what to do? I’m thinking less mess, more quiet, better music and no arguments over what to watch on the telly! There’ll be a low-tide walk with the dog and maybe a quick pint in the pub before heading home. For both of us, as for everyone else in the UK, 3.00 pm will deliver something very new: the first King’s speech. That’s the point, I think, when we all finally fully realise the Queen really has gone. As the cook, I’ll be peeling fewer spuds and the sprouts will just be for me (my wife hates them). Turkey and trimmings definitely remain. After dinner, I will be reinstating an old tradition that somehow got lost: a large glass of single malt and a fat Cuban cigar. Perfect! Boxing Day will be nice and relaxed, then the whole family descends for New Year. Madness will doubtless ensue. We wouldn’t have it any other way. Joff Wild

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