So that was Christmas 2015

Happy New Year! I hope the first week back has been ok and coming out of that post-Christmas fug hasn’t been too painful. Finally, after trying all week, I have found five minutes of calm to post a few photos of Christmas at ours. I know I’m a bit late but I wanted to share them in case anyone is interested and also so that I can look back on them! It all seems like a long time ago now, doesn’t it?

This was the first year that we spent Christmas at our house, in fact the first year in as long as I can remember that we have been anywhere other than mum and dads’ (Christmas traditions are kind of untouchable in our family!) so it felt very different to be preparing for everyone’s arrival at our house in London, instead of packing the presents and loading up the car and hitting the M4 in a mad-rush excitement fuelled frenzy. 

The change was motivated by my sister’s antisocial A&E

shifts over Christmas (3pm to 3am Christmas Day – New Year’s Eve- that’s totes shit) and the fact that we couldn’t bear the thought of not having her with us for at least some of Christmas (even if she did spent most of Christmas in bed or regaling us with tales of blood and gore).

I was worried that it wouldn’t be the same and wouldn’t be so special, bla bla bla, but of course I needn’t have worried and we actually decided we were glad we shook things up. It made us realise (as we knew already of course) that these celebrations really aren’t about the location of the party or the amount of pressies, or the complexity of the menu or anything else that we all get our knickers in a twist about, but rather spending time with loved ones in that lovely unstructured, together way that happens so rarely when everyone lives in different places and works long hours and has their own shit going on.

It felt good having everyone together in our little house, bedecked to the rafters in crafted loveliness (more on that later), piled around the table or crammed into our sitting room with the fire flickering, candles twinkling, board games out, constant stream of food and drinks on hand, arguing, teasing, sharing, catching up and generally making a lot of noise. 

I had a lovely time prettifying the table with fragrant sprigs of eucalyptus and fir, sweet little plant pots with candles and tea lights in vintage metal moulds and French jam jars that caught the light and made the table twinkle. 

We shared the mammoth undertaking that is Christmas out a bit more this year too, which I think mum appreciated! 

Obviously I spent a lot of time thinking about, planning, discussing and making the decorations, which pretty much featured in every room and which I pointed out proudly to any passing family member who would listen. Mum and dad handled most of the cooking (thank God) and R did drinks (he always does drinks). I also realised more than ever before that Christmas isn’t really about the end result (the perfect meal, the beautiful table), but the process itself. The anxiety over the turkey, the tedious veg preparation, the endless streams of washing up, the debate about how to make the cranberry sauce, all the little rituals that form each family’s own celebration and which are re-enacted year on year. Those are the things which bind everyone together and create that familiarity and comfort that Christmas is somehow all about.

Having Christmas at ours was an excuse to go BIG on decorations and really enjoyed decking the halls this year. My overall theme was to keep things handmade and simple with lots of natural colours and materials. I also wanted to make things that we could use again next year as I like re-using things - it feels good to keep using things and I like the tradition of getting the familiar things out year on year.  

I bought a beautiful bunch of messy greenery and seasonal flowers from our wonderful local florist

You Don't Bring Me Flowers

in Hither Green a couple of weeks before Christmas and most of it was still going all over Christmas (some of it's still going now!) Lovely fresh mimosa and eucalyptus, silvery thistles and delicate astrantia. I supplemented it with big bunches of menthol-smelling eucalyptus from Leather Lane, carried home on the bus wrapped in brown paper. 

I made lots of little garlands of greenery and berries to hang from door handles and hooks around the house, little reminders of the outside!

One of my favourite things were these paper garlands that I made from a mixture of brown paper, white paper with gold smudges, old book pages (from broken books), vintage sheet music and paper that I painted with green and brown watercolours. 

I did two types of garlands – one with circles folded out and one with little stars. I stamped out all of the paper and then sewed them together on the machine. Very simple and effective. It was very difficult to take pictures of them but I can assure you they looked rather lovely hanging over our table!

Another very simple thing I made that I loved was this starry paper wreath made from vintage paper and stuck onto a wire ring. It hung from our French doors and people knocked their heads on it every time they went in and out!

Our tree was rather natural and rustic this year with orange slices, gold and white leaves and pinecones and some silver, gold and bronze decorations from H&M which I loved. He sat very proudly and prettily all Christmas in the bay window although he did drop a hell of a lot of needles and also weed himself all over the presents (over-zealous watering by me I’m afraid).

I used my vintage baubles to decorate some wintery branches and put them on the mantelpiece along with our lovely brass deer that made everything look very Christmassy.

Oh and in case you were wondering, the cats had a whale of a time (after they got over their initial WTF reaction to their house being full of guests).

So there it is. I love Christmas and always feel a twinge of sadness when it’s over. I know it can be stressful and exhausting and for many people (including us, often) it is full of travelling and driving all over the place, but I love how it brings everyone together in one place even for a short time and, after the spectacle of the big day is over, there’s something especially lovely about those in-betweeny days which are always better than Christmas day itself, when everyone breathes a sigh of relief and the hours go by at a slower pace, getting up late, working through the leftovers, looking at the presents, venturing out for a walk or two. Taking in the last few days of the year before it all starts over again.

I have a few photos of those in betweeny days to share, including some beautiful ones of lovely Topsham in Devon but for now I hope that the New Year is treating everyone well so far. Wishing you quiet and restful weekends (we’re returning things to the shops, cleaning and beginning the obligatory January de-cluttering).