’Twas the Night Before Christmas…
And, just like that, Christmas is here. It’s Christmas eve. No more time for planning and shopping. Lists have been made and chores ticked off (we still can’t get hold of tarragon or chicory, but no matter, we’ll just have to adapt or go without) - there are just a few hours left to wrap the the last of the presents, bring in the logs and start prepping the veg for tomorrow’s main event.
Now is the time to anticipate savouring the slower, quieter days of winter; for bracing seaside walks followed by warming brews; for hearty winter fare soirees, aromatic tipples and after-dinner games. For me, Christmas begins and ends with family. In our everyday lives, we eat together too little. Christmas is an opportunity to make up for that; to gather around the table and enjoy each other’s company.
On the big day last year, I had just about enough time to throw some tea lights on the table, and strew some scots pine and holly berries down the centre, wrapped in a string of copper wire lights. This year, I made sure I factored in enough time to create a table setting filled with the magic and drama and sense of occasion that feels fitting for this most important of family meals.
Christmas is so much about familiarity, and festive decorations call to mind seasonal stalwarts such as holly, fir and eucalyptus. Along with foraged finds, I’ve included them all in my table decorations, but, for a more contemporary feel, I’ve also added dried grasses and seed heads, some of which I sprayed lightly with gold lustre for a burnished look, that helps in creating warm golden hues I’m looking for.
Lighting is, of course, a key element in any table setting, but it’s even more important when creating a magical festive atmosphere. I haven’t skimped on the candles, or the fairy lights (why would you?). Yesterday I sent Charlie out with a bow saw to find the perfect bough to hang over the table.
He wrapped it with not one but two sets of lights, but I still felt there was something missing. Then I remembered the delicate little glass baubles that last year had hung in the window on my homemade string and fern garland. I found them packed away in newspaper with their string ties still attached, and so on to the branch they went, where they glistened pleasingly in the light.
The winter holiday - that wonderful calm period between Christmas and the new year - provides the perfect opportunity to reflect on the year gone by and lazily make plans for the one ahead; to look both forward and back.
My thoughts are already on my January to do list. But first, my intention is to focus on truly immersing myself in the here and now. I’ll be honest, my head is still filled with the same everyday worries and hopes, anxieties and trepidation about what the year ahead may bring, but also with the feeling that Christmas is here and everything is going to be alright.