Merry Christmas from IAM’s editorial team
It’s that time of year again, the IAM team has downed tools and suddenly finds itself with time to spare – not a regular occurrence! Here’s how we’re spending the break.
We wish all our subscribers, friends and contacts a very happy holidays.
Family of four
This Christmas will be particularly special for my wife and me. In September our second daughter Iris was born, and although she hasn’t the faintest notion what Christmas is, I’m really looking forward to spending the festive period together as a family of four.
Unlike Iris, my two-year old, Rosa, is very excited for Christmas. She now has an awareness that this is a special time of year that she did not have on her two previous Christmases. Rosa delighted in helping us to decorate the tree at the beginning of December. And she has asked us questions like “Where is our chimney?” and “What happens if Father Christmas forgets me?”. Last year, Rosa’s main present was a wooden role-play kitchen which it took six hours for Santa’s helper (me) to assemble. This year, “a rabbit” (cuddly toy) is at the top of her wish list. I’m looking forward to seeing her face on Christmas morning.
More generally, I love the opportunity Christmas provides to spend time with family, to eat well, to share jokes, to remember old times and to give thanks.
This year, we will be driving over to my parents in law, who live 30 minutes outside my small town, out in the sticks, for Christmas lunch. Everyone on my wife’s side of the family is an excellent cook, so I am looking forward to the food, and though I seldom drink, I may cave in to peer pressure and have a glass of wine. Adam Houldsworth
At 25, my Christmases are still dictated by the trains that run between Somerset, Cardiff and the Isle of Wight, where my and my partner’s parents live. My partner and I will travel to the island when the holidays begin for pre-Christmas celebrations with her family, before we part ways to celebrate the big day in our respective hometowns. Christmas day will be spent in Somerset with my mother and sister, where I will prepare what is sure to be a sub-standard vegetarian version of a Christmas dinner. Nothing that enough Rhône red can’t mask.
I am a keenly active person, and will run a half marathon on either Christmas Day or Boxing Day morning, whichever finds me less hungover. This year is special, as it is the first for almost a decade on which I’ll spend Christmas Day with my mother, rather than the gaggle of Welsh that is my dad and step-family. Not to worry, as I will be re-united with dad, step-mother, step-siblings, seven step-aunts and uncles and enough step-cousins to form a platoon in Cardiff on Boxing Day. This will, of course, differ largely from the three-person Christmas day, and involve a lot of toing and froing from the pub and the houses of relatives. My dad and I can chat for a long time (Indefinitely? It’s never been tested…) about nothing in particular, and I’m sure this “jibber jabbering”, as my step-mum calls it, will occupy many of the evenings. Sam Lovatt
Christmas this year will be magical because I have renewed my connection to God after being lost for nearly 30 years. My life since the spring of 2020 has been too hard. My family and I were hit by the covid pandemic – like everyone else – and my then-husband lost his job. Amid the financial stress, I became pregnant unexpectedly with my daughter. In August 2020, as I struggled to work full time and homeschool my then eight-year-old son, he was diagnosed with a rare solid tumour on his tongue. I believed he would die; it brought me to my knees, where something miraculous happened.
With raw emotion, I prayed to God, begging him to save my son’s life, bargaining that I would return to church. My son is alive and healthy today.
After going through a hard divorce, I have re-dedicated my life to Jesus Christ. Now truly pledged as a Christian, my soul has gone through a miraculous metamorphosis. I feel alive spiritually for the first time. Although I have suffered from anxiety and depression since my teenage years, today through scripture, prayer, and praise, I am filled with peace and joy.
The way He answers my prayers is phenomenal – including blessing me with a new romantic relationship with a strong Christian man who is loving, compassionate, handsome, and witty. I thought long and hard about whether to reveal this publicly to my professional community. I said “yes” because I realise now that God gave me the skills to excel at IAM: the ability to connect with people, build trusting relationships, ask good questions, listen deeply, understand complicated subjects, and communicate effectively through writing.
After all, Jesus is the reason for the season! Angela Morris
2023 was a pivotal year for my family. As part of joining IAM in June, I moved over to the company’s Hong Kong office – the furthest I’ve ever lived from my parents and sister. My parents also reached a major milestone, officially handing in their resignation at a school they have worked at longer than I have known how to read books, and buying their dream home on the coast of Sardegna, Italy.
To uphold a promise we made to each other a long time ago – no matter where we live, we will be together at Christmas – I will be spending Christmas day with them on the gorgeous Sardinian coastline. While I am very much looking forward to returning to my home country, and tucking into our traditional Christmas Eve (vegan) lasagna, I am most excited to be reunited with the family dog.
Rory, our 14-year-old border terrier, was a core part of my upbringing and being away from him for so long has given me very bad puppy fever. He will most likely make himself the star of our Christmas Day by stealing one of our mince pies from the breakfast table or knocking down the ghastly ecological tree my mum has bought in the place of a plastic one this year. And, there is no doubt that after our annual festive feast, Rory will force us all to get our walking shoes on for a stroll along the beach. But for that, I am sure we will all be grateful.
Although my sister now lives in the UK, and I am in Hong Kong, being able to celebrate in a lifelong dream house with my immediate family, all under the same roof, is what will make Christmas day particularly special this year. Olivia Rafferty
Three-dimensional fondant art
After spending the Thanksgiving break with my family (and, subsequently, coming down with a terrible flu), I've decided to have a quiet Christmas at home in Washington, DC this year.
I don't celebrate Christmas, but I enjoy partaking in some of the traditions, like watching a holiday-themed movie or exchanging presents and Christmas cards. This time around, I'm planning to start a new tradition: baking cupcakes with three-dimensional fondant art.
In DC, there are plenty of cupcake shops that have received high praise — Georgetown Cupcake, Baked & Wired, Sprinkles, to name a few — but I was left unimpressed by the lack of imagination. I don't want assembly-line cupcakes; I want cupcakes that could be displayed in the National Gallery of Art. I know that 99.9% of the population aren't bothered by that sort of thing, but as a former fashion designer and connoisseur of cool-looking cupcakes, I take it very seriously. Which is why I've decided to bake them myself this year instead of outsourcing.
And if that's not ambitious enough, I've decided to make the cupcakes completely healthy. No sugar. No cream. I've made healthy cupcakes before that were a hit so that won't be an issue. The real challenge: Sugar-free fondant doesn't exist so I will have to create it. But I'm not the least bit deterred by that. If anything, it motivates me to get creative and find a novel solution.
While that is sure to keep me busy this break (and into the New Year), I will also be FaceTiming with family and friends, in the US and abroad, swapping stories and making grand plans to see other in 2024.
Maybe when we next meet each other, we'll be sharing a plate of my cupcake creations. Nisha Shetty
Pondering what will make Christmas special this year, as always it comes down to spending time with family, who we don’t get to see as much as we would like to. The Christmas holidays are always a two-part adventure in the Little household. My wife is French, so first we jump on a plane and head to Toulouse for a week, to spend Christmas with her mother and various friends. That usually involves great food, even greater company, a not insignificant amount of cheese and wine, and relentless ridicule from my seven-year-old son (name: Marlon; purpose: translator) as I inevitably mangle and muddle my efforts to speak French. Having a perfectly bilingual child is both a gift and a curse!
After that, we return to the UK and head to my parents where, once again, food, drink and gift-giving will be high on the agenda – and perhaps a pub visit or two. My Christmas highlight should be the wonder in my child’s eyes as he opens the present he didn’t expect. It is, of course, but is firmly in joint ‘first place’ with the evening slump into an armchair, with beer in hand, football on the TV and sports banter with my Dad. That is usually centered around why, as a staunch Crystal Palace fan, I have let my son support Tottenham Hotspurs. My only response is ‘that just shows much I love him – I can forgive him all of his foolish ways’. As I said, it is all about family. Trevor Little
Christmas tree roots
This year, instead of travelling to either Georgia or Germany to reunite with the family for Christmas, we – my German husband, our seven-year-old Albert and myself – will just stay at home in Nottingham. This means I will be missing a supra in my home city Tbilisi – a feast with traditional Christmas staples such as satsivi (chicken made with walnut sauce), eggplant rolls, and boat-shaped bean pies, while Albert will be missing playing with his cousins, my sister’s two kids. Instead, we will have video calls with songs and toasting performed virtually around our real Christmas tree. Have you ever wondered where your Christmas tree comes from? The tradition to put a tree in one’s home originated in Germany in the 17th century, and the trees themselves… most of them come from Georgia.
The so-called Nordmann Fir is native to the South Caucasus and finds its best climatic conditions in the heights of the Caucasian Mountain ridge. Even today, exporting firs and, more importantly, fir cones, which are used as seedlings for growing the plants elsewhere, is an important contribution to the Georgian economy. In the northern regions of my country, home to iconic Mount Kazbeg (have a look at Google pictures), young men climb into the trees, which can grow up to 70 meters high, and harvest the precious cones, supplying plantations of premium Christmas trees all over the world.
Finally, we have a piece of Caucasus in our living room! So, one of the songs my husband will perform on Christmas day will be the traditional “O Tannenbaum”, a German Christmas carol bare of any religious content. The text is slightly curious, iteratively celebrating the looks of the tree: “O fir tree, o fir tree, how beautiful you are…”. Maia Biermann
This year marks the first time I will be rolling up my sleeves and taking over cooking the Christmas dinner. It will be a small affair as the bulk of my family will not descend on my mum’s rural Yorkshire home until the following day. Having me as the cook does come at a price, though, as the whole feast will be vegetarian. Still, I am hoping to win the more carnivorous members of my family over with mushroom wellingtons, Yorkshire puddings (of course) and a vast array of rainbow-coloured vegetables (all lovingly cooked with generous amounts of butter and salt).
Replete, my sister will start looking hopefully around the room for a walking partner – whether I cave to the pressure or not is rather weather dependent. I have always been somewhat of a city mouse, enchanted by bright lights and the buzz of human activity, and so persuading me to ditch my heels, don my walking boots, and hit the fields can be a tough sell. Still, those that know me best will remind me of the cosy pub down in the village centre, and the lure of an open fire and a glass of red wine will likely prove irresistible.
Before new year I will make my way back to my beloved Brighton and my little pad by the sea. I will be welcoming a few friends to ring in 2024 with me, which will likely leave my cat extremely disgruntled. Last year, the rain at midnight was torrential. If the skies stay clear, we will wander down to the beach with blankets and drinks to share the turn of the year with the rest of the community and watch some brave (or perhaps foolhardy) souls immerse themselves in the freezing waters. Rachel Mountain