With a birthday on the big day itself, Christmas for me has always been extra-special, and I have often said on-air that I love a ‘traditional’ Christmas. But what exactly is a traditional Christmas?
I suppose the answer today, is personal to you and yours. For example at home, we don’t burn a yule log (although I’ve eaten a few in my time!), but we do occasionally have a sprig of mistletoe! I have also been known to wear a Christmas jumper. We don’t cook a goose. But, particularly when our children were younger, we’d go to midnight mass. I still love ‘Silent Night’ too.
A modern Christmas is a now a glorious muddle of fairly new and some ancient rituals and celebrations. I love the ‘spirit of Christmas’ in the old sense. At home we try to stick to our ‘Franklin’ family traditions rather than that of Charles Dickens. That said we tend to have more Dickensian-esque decorations around the house, rather than some of the impressive contemporary ones (Charles Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’ is still one of my favourite Christmas stories).
Of course every family fine-tunes their own Christmas, and so our day is a blend of what mime and Tracey’s families used to do combined with our own inclusions. A log fire and a music medley of traditional carols and modern classics play all day on my Bose Soundtouch system. When I was a kid after a late dinner I remember we’d all watch a Bond movie followed by the Morcambe and Wise Christmas Special.
Many Christmas traditions have evolved from those brought over from Germany and Scandinavia such as the Christmas tree and Saint Nicholas. Although St Nicholas had been around Northern Europe for centuries – the jolly cuddly red-coated Santa came from a Coca-Cola advertising campaign in the USA in the 1930’s but shhhh! Don’t tell the little ones! Of course the Christmas turkey also originally came from North America.
The burning of the yule log pre-dates Christianity but I honestly don’t know of anyone who still does this. So we enjoy putting up our decorations, decorating the tree, opening advent calendars, singing carols and lots of eating, drinking and getting merry! I love the traditional British Christmas dinner (with the American turkey) – I also look forward to a traditional Christmas pudding!
I can still fondly remember my dear old Nan and Grandad hiding a few old ‘thruppences’ in for good luck – not such good luck if you chip your teeth on them, and anyway I expect health and safety have now banned this practice! Then we watched as it was flambéd with a generous shot of Cognac! Heaven! We’ve kept up that tradition!
In years gone past my wife Tracey would make the pudding in the summer and let it slowly ferment in a cupboard – amazing! But nowadays we buy our Christmas pud, and we have a gorgeous one in a porcelain bowl from H Forman and Son. But for those of you who would like to try making your own next Christmas, I’ve added her original recipe below.
Before the meal we pull crackers which contain the obligatory silly paper hat, a gift and a cheesy joke. This year we’ll be pulling a giant Joe & Seph’s Popcorn Cracker as well!
We tend to cut my birthday cake in the evening – If we have any room left after the Christmas feast!
We always have a steady supply of my Christmas special mulled wine on the go from early on Christmas Eve until Boxing Day. On Boxing Day traditionally we will have a selection of cold meats; turkey, beef, ham on the bone (the last two years we’ve enjoyed the Green Seasons Gammon Joint) and pickles including onions, beetroot, gherkins and red cabbage.
Here’s my Special Christmas Mulled Wine Recipe:
The base is an inexpensive bottle or two of full-bodied red wine, with sliced oranges, lemons, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves and sugar to taste, warmed gently till it’s piping hot! You can use an electric slow cooker for this and bouquet garni are readily available with the spices contained within.
Tracey’s Famous Christmas Pud!
4oz sultanas, 4oz currants, 2oz raisins, 6oz mixed peel, 1oz plain flour, 3oz suet, 4oz moist brown sugar, 1 lemon, 1 teaspoonful of mixed spice, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 2 large eggs or 3 standard eggs, 1 tablespoon of black treacle, milk, ale or brandy to mix.
Mix all ingridients together into a 1.5 pint bowl. Use non-stick or line with grease-proof paper and cover with muslin cloth if storing to ferment in dark place.
Heat before serving with brandy butter, cream or white custard – that’s probably why we only have it once a year!
If leaving for months to ferment, it may be necessary to slice the mould from the top (seriously)!
If you’re looking for more festive food inspiration join myself and guests from award-winning brands at 7pm this Monday and next Monday for ‘Festive Food with Dale’. Usually the ‘Andi Peters’ Food Fest’ slot, this is while Andi is with Ant and Dec in the Jungle in Oz for a couple of weeks,.
Whatever your plans for Christmas, when it finally arrives I hope you have a wonderful one!