We ask the stars how they're spending Christmas
So a-listers do have the same yuletide rituals as the rest of us (well, unless they’re Mariah). Time to embrace our trad british festivities...
Well, we’d expect nothing less from pop’s ultimate diva. Of course the seasonal songbird who brought us All I Want for Christmas can be found hanging out in Aspen. Fur? Tick. Hollywood royalty as neighbours? Tick. Snow by the bucketload? Double tick.
For the rest of us mere mortals who don’t get a white-Christmas-complete with- sleigh-ride as standard, there’s no need to miss out on the magic. Check out Blithbury Reindeer Lodge in Staffordshire (blithburyreindeerlodge.co.uk), where the whole family can share in its award-winning Winter Wonderland complete with a trip to Elf School, feeding the reindeer, Santa’s Grotto and that all-important sleigh ride.
Let’s face it, Lorraine’s right: Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a Terry’s Chocolate Orange and a selection box. According to recent figures, we spend a waistband-straining £30 million each year on selection boxes in the UK. However, studies have shown that if you’re craving the choccies, it could be a sign that your magnesium levels are low. So if you’re doing a Mama Kelly, book a visit to see your GP to get your levels checked (the RDA for women over 30 is 320mg per day) in case you need to start slipping a magnesium supplement.
Or, as cocoa is rich in this vital mineral, you could try swapping your milk chocolate (which is low in any beneficial nutrients) for a dark, antioxidant-rich, alternative (look out for the 70 per cent cocoa varieties). Maybe not as fun as a Curly Wurly, we grant you, but come the obligatory January detox you’ll thank us when those sugar urges are much more easy to manage.
Oh, Soph, we LOVE the sound of Christmas Casa Ellis-Bextor. Quirky family rituals form the backbone of the very best festive gatherings, and it’s these idiosyncrasies that will loom largest in your children’s memories for years to come. After all, crackers, sprouts and a Trivial Pursuit marathon are de rigueur up and down the country. Singing to the figgy pudding, however – now that’s unique.
If you need reassurance that your brood hasn’t lost the Christmas plot, grab a copy of Weird and Wonderful Christmas: Curious & Crazy Customs & Coincidences From Around the World by Joey Green (£9.95, Black Dog & Leventhal). A perfect stocking-filler for the joker in your family, it reveals everything you need to know, from Santa’s alternative modes of transport around the world (kangaroo in Australia, anyone?) to the midnight-mass roller-skating antics of church-goers in Caracas. So, Ms E-B, you feeling quite so eccentric now?
Ah, we feel for you, Sporty. Christmas just screams familial friction – although the heady mix of Buck’s Fizz and Guinness could have something to do with it... Then again, according to a recent survey in The Telegraph carried out by the makers of Jarlsberg cheese (just go with it), the traditional British Chrimbo descends into acrimony at precisely 9.58am. According to the 4,000 UK households surveyed, the first cross words are exchanged before 10am, with parents giving kids a ‘proper telling-off’ at 11.07am – an average of 42 minutes before their first alcoholic drink.
Other hallmarks of the big day and their corresponding timings include opening presents at 8.19am; starting the chocolate at 8.39am; sitting down to the big feast at 3.24pm, and the first family member nodding off at 4.59pm. Throw in the obligatory board game at 5.46pm, and there you have it – the Traditional Great British Christmas Day Timetable.
Fans of Nigella’s Christmas cookbook, Nigella Christmas (£26, Chatto & Windus) will know that the Domestic Goddess goes all out for the festive season – and not just with lights. She even has a specific dining set – 1959 Crown Devon Stockholm reindeer china, no longer made (natch!) – reserved for Christmas lunch.
Why not follow her lead this year and deck your own halls with garlands of fairy or bistro lights? We’re particularly smitten with the Moroccan Lantern Line Lights (from £15, johnlewis.com). Or create the perfect cosy atmosphere with a scattering of battery-operated tea lights (£4.99 for 12, lights4fun.co.uk) that give an authentic flicker without any risk to tiny revellers.
And if you’re hankering after your very own set of stunning Christmas china, just take a look at Emma Bridgewater’s festive range (emmabridgewater.co.uk) or maybe the Swedish Grace Winter design by Rörstrand (scandinaviandesigncenter.com), bedecked with spruce needles, snowflakes and mistletoe, for the final word in Scandi chic.
Nothing beats a cosy Christmas in PJs – but make sure yours are fit for purpose before showcasing them tree-side on the big day. There are entire US websites that specialise in single-style-suits-all family bundles. We’re talking one matchy-matchy design of co-ordinated leisurewear for the whole family, from the youngest to the eldest.
Should you have five minutes spare and fancy a giggle, check out pajamagram.com – they’ll even send you something for the family cat and dog to wear for Noel. Or if you’re actually rather taken with the concept, check out Hatley’s family pyjama sets (hatley.com/en_uk/). There’s good news for lovers of Powell Craft too: you can now buy its vintage-style nightwear online (powellcraftboutique.com). And as for luxury basics for mum, we’re big fans of Bodas (bodas.co.uk).
Family traditions are funny things, but one thing’s for sure: you just can’t force them. If, like Joanna, you secretly hanker after being the kind of gang that bundles up every Boxing Day and embarks on a We’re Going on a Bear Hunt-type expedition, but in reality you’re far more inclined to pile on the sofa and hit the Quality Street, well... so be it. Christmas is meant to be a celebration, so celebrate in a way that works for you.
If you do fancy a bit of pre-Christmas carolling à la the Pages, don’t forget that A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols at King’s College, Cambridge, is broadcast live every year on BBC Radio 4, or watch the recorded Carols from King’s on the telly – both will be aired on Christmas Eve.
Stockings are as much a part of Christmas as turkey and sprouts, tinsel and carols. However, they also tend to divide the sexes – as per Darcey’s household. While many women love the ritual of stocking-filling, the majority of men admit to finding the whole thing a tad stressful – the same men who no doubt can be found in a blind panic running around department store perfumery counters at 4pm on Christmas Eve.
So why not make everyone’s lives easier this year by logging on to one of the more quirky and stylish online shops for ideas. Not only can you upgrade the family’s stockings, but you’ll find a lot of the gifts available are personalise-able – everybody will love that. And if, like the first lady of Strictly, you have a reluctant stocking-stuffer of a partner, steer him towards a site like notonthehighstreet.com, and not only might he find the whole thing more fun, but you’ll also likely notice an upgrade in the standard of the gifts he starts giving. Bonus!
Now, Katherine, far be it for us to criticise your family Chrimbo tradition, but a movie night? A movie night? Is that it? Come on! Christmas is about digging deep to pull something special out of the hat. Ok, so who doesn’t love snuggling up to watch It’s a Wonderful Life on Christmas Eve for the gazillionth time, or a Disney film on Christmas afternoon, but that’s just one part of the holiday fun, not the main event!
That said, if you’re looking to mix things up with your seasonal film choices and need inspiration, take a peek at the ultimate list of 50 festive family films online at Pocket Lint (pocket-lint.com/news/113242- best-family-films-50-christmas), which includes the likes of The Snowman, Scrooged and The Muppet Christmas Carol... Move over Frozen, this roll call of silver-screen treats will keep you and yours entertained for decades to come.
We’re loving Ashley’s nostalgia for a totally 20th-century Christmas. For your own Seventies-style shindig, check out the Nigella-of-her-day Marguerite Patten. We remember Nan’s box set of Marguerite’s recipe cards, but now you may have to make do with a second-hand copy of her Cookery in Colour: A Picture Encyclopedia for Every Occasion (from £2.43, amazon.co.uk).
Inside you’ll find a top prawn cocktail recipe and even Ash’s mandarin jelly. Invest in vintage baubles and tinsel from pineappleretro.co.uk, and if you’re really commited to the theme, stock up on the Blue Nun and Advocaat. Cheers!