We were a small but perfectly formed house party for Christmas this year: my sister is in Spain staying with friends, so it was my mother, myself, my dear friend Chloe and all our respective dogs — Billy, Posetta Baddog & Zelda who sat down for lunch this year. We used to have such large Christmas celebrations, but I rather like our slimmed down version. It’s certainly a lot calmer.
For the first time ever in England, we didn’t go to church on Christmas Day: last year was our first in a new village, and found the tiny congregation rather dispiriting compared to the packed church in which we used to worship, so we went to Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve instead, which was much jollier, and full of people.
I woke up on Christmas morning at a quarter to nine, just as the sun was rising.
We had a very relaxed few hours until lunch (although my mother had been up for a while attending to her goose). We were accompanied by this bottle of delicious sparking red from Napa’s Domaine Chandon, which I brought back from California swaddled in sweaters in my suitcase in April. (It’s 60% Pinot Noir, 40% Zinfandel and is extremely berry heavy: like delicious very grown-up fizzy Ribena.)
Then it was PRESENTS!
Traditionally we all wear hats: Madam stole a set of antlers, and I spent a good ten minutes chasing her around the drawing room
Zelda really wasn’t quite so sure about the whole thing.
I didn’t ask for anything in particular for Christmas: I have plenty of lovely things already. So my mother and I came to an agreement: she would re-gift me some things she thought I would love.
So, four bottles of excellent Bordeaux: a 2003 Château Cantenac-Brown, of which she had bought some cases en primeur.
Four beautiful pairs of gloves, which had belonged variously to my great-grandmother and to my step-grandmother.
And some lovely pieces of family Waterford crystal.
I was thrilled. So much nicer than flashy new kit that I don’t need.
Then it was lunch. My mother was responsible for the Roast Gressingham goose, braised red cabbage, proper giblet gravy, lashings of bread sauce, her special stuffing (which is almost like a baked pilaf full of pine nuts, bulgar & dried cranberries, so acts as a vegetarian option), petit pois, steamed Savoy cabbage. My contribution: apple sauce, roasted caramelised butternut squash, and the roast potatoes. I make excellent roasties. In fact I am a Ninja roast potato maker.
I do love a pretty Christmas table: the handmade lace cloth was bought by my grandparents in pre-war Madeira, my mother thinks about 1936. The engraved glasses are inherited family pieces, and the triangular goblets are Dartington crystal. The cutlery is David Mellor, the Pride pattern, from my parents’ 1968 wedding service, and the plates are Villeroy & Boch’s Petit Fleur pattern.
Then we rolled off, groaning quietly, for a constitutional through the grounds of Eydon Hall.
My mother in her Norwegian Christmas sweater, with P Bad, in her red Christmas polka dotted collar from Cath Kidston.
P Bad ended up marinated in mud and had to go in the Bristol sink in the laundry room for a thorough scrub upon our return.
Then we lit candles throughout the house, poked the fire into flames, and settled down for the evening.
oh and Chloe and I got into our Kigu cat suits to watch Doctor Who in quite some comfort.
I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas day too: I suspect many of you had very different celebrations all around the world.
(Hands up: who else wore an animal onesie?!)