|Our Christmas tree|
It's Christmas Eve, and both children are in bed, with one stocking laid out on the bed, and one hanging from the bedroom mantelpiece.
I didn't think we had many Christmas traditions, but realised that perhaps we do have some.
Our meal on Christmas Eve has become a big piece of gammon, glazed in marmalade this year, and accompanied by red cabbage and mashed potato for the adults, and baguette, carrot sticks, cucumber and cherry tomatoes for the children (Philistines).
I made a few mince pies while listening to the carols from Kings, and also made the now traditional dash to nearby shops for the last few outstanding items (this year celery, fresh thyme, Baileys for my sister and one last present).
I dug out the couple of really beautiful Christmas books given to the children, so we could look again at the illustrated carols and read "The Night Before Christmas". They also got to watch a DVD with their cousins, all sitting on the sofa in a row in their pyjamas - a couple of years ago it was Arthur Christmas, this year we went for Elf.
My daughter was keen to leave out supplies for Father Christmas, and had very definite ideas about which fireplace would be the point of entry. I even had to move the fireguard, as she was most worried Father Christmas might get trapped behind it. We laid a plate on the hearth with a mince pie for Father Christmas, a carrot for Rudolph and a shot glass of ginger wine.
Our Christmas tree presides over it all. The tree is not elegant. It does not have a theme, or a colour scheme. It is decorated in a haphazard way by the whole family, although I do sometimes reposition more fragile or precious ornaments further along branches or higher up, once the children are occupied with hanging other baubles.
Instead, the decorations have accumulated over time, and come out each year to be greeted with nostalgia and reminiscences. The assortment is a funny mixture of old and new, bought and home made, restrained and flashy, chosen when away on holiday or given to us.
Each one brings memories when unwrapped. The silver bell from my childhood tree, which is older than I am. A roll call of decorations from places we've visited, from exotic destinations pre childen to family holidays in Norfolk. Decorations from gallery shops and grandparents. The last couple of glass baubles from the box I bought for the first tree with my now husband, and the virtually indestructible silver baubles acquired when Woolworths was closing down. My daughter's snowflake crystal, grown at school last year, and my son's salt-dough circle, spattered with paint.
Tonight I can pause, before the frenzy of food and presents sweeps us through tomorrow.
So Merry Christmas to everyone, to you and your friends and family.