Every year as the days of December rush towards the 25th, I hear people fretting about how much money they’ve spent, how long they queued for this years must-have sold-out-everywhere gift, and how stressful hosting Christmas dinner is. Yet sitting peacefully at home suffused in the cosy glow of the twinkly lights and glinting baubles on our Christmas tree always reminds me to slow down and appreciate all the little moments that make this season so magical and meaningful.
Putting up the Christmas decorations and decorating the tree is one of my favourite festive traditions. Unwrapping the baubles we’ve collected over the years always brings back memories and each trinket seems to have its own story. The newest addition to our collection is a simple wooden piece I found while my husband and I were on holiday in New York earlier in the year. This year I also made some simple decorations by baking slices of orange, which brighten up the tree and add a touch of traditional style to it. The combination of citrus and fresh pine needles also gives our home a subtle and natural festive fragrance. Luckily, our cat Mara doesn’t try to climb the tree or bother the baubles, though she occasionally gives the lower branches an experimental nibble.
As TV shows and social networks fill up with images of happy families in festive jumpers, it seems like there are impossibly high expectations for Christmas. Yet the reality is that life doesn’t stop for Christmas: families bicker, couples separate and people get ill, just as they do at every other time of the year. Within my own family, over the years there have been two deaths in December and one in January, which always gives the season a bittersweet edge as I remember and miss those who are no longer here, while feeling so grateful and fortunate to have my loved ones around me at Christmastime.
I can’t buy Christmas magic, but sometimes I find it in the simplest moments: wrapping cold hands around warm mugs of Gluhwein at the Christmas market, catching up with friends around a crackling fire, snuggling up on the sofa with my husband and Mara to watch our favourite festive films (It’s a Wonderful Life, A Muppet’s Christmas Carol and While You Were Sleeping), and of course, gathering around the table with my family to savour a three course feast on Christmas Day itself.
Slowing down at Christmas makes all these cosy moments with the people I love most stand out clearer in my memory, like twinkling lights set against the darkest month of the year. Wishing everyone a peaceful and very happy Christmas!