The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Every Christmas is different

Cute Christmas Chick

Cute Christmas Chick

Each family has its own Christmas traditions. And when people live together, they bring their own traditions with them. This can cause problems.

“The one thing that I adore about turkey is lashings of bread sauce!”
“What on earth is bread sauce?”
“I loved the way we always sang carols in the car.”
“We ate in the evening and had porridge for breakfast.”
“Presents were only ever opened after tea.”
My step grandmother announced this last comment and watched with horror as we tore open presents at eight am. She stuck to her guns and opened her presents at four o’clock. Sitting in the best armchair she opened a nightdress, handkerchiefs and boxes of soap. Aged ten I watched her ritual. Everyone else seemed to be busy.

In Ireland Danny’s family always lit a candle and placed it on a prominent window, indicating openness and room at the inn. In our house the wobbly Santa with legs made from springs watched from the mantelpiece during December. My mum told us that if we were naughty we might not get a stocking as this spring legged Santa would tell the real Santa Claus.

To be quite honest with you, I hated this Santa. When my mum wasn’t looking, we used to turn him to the wall and stick our tongues out at him, hoping that he couldn’t see. He always faced the room the next morning and this gave him a bit of extra gravitas.

Christmas stockings have always been a big thing with my family. I remember not being able to fall asleep with the anticipation of mine when I was a child. And finally waking to a crackly solid lump stretched over my feet. Tiny, thoughtful and even better, wrapped presents to extend the delight. Always a tangerine wrapped in silver foil at the toe of the sock. Smelling deliciously orangey but rarely eaten.

But even though I adore the surprises in a stocking Christmas is also a time for reflection. So close to the end of the year, most people are reviewing the past twelve months and considering the next year. That’s why I reckon that Christmas can be such a dichotomy. And perhaps this is why so many people fall out at this time of year. It’s hard to balance the seasonal excess with the simple Christian Christmas story.

I am not a practicing Christian but the Christmas story is always a sobering one for me. I always try to listen to the carol service from King’s College Chapel on Christmas Eve. It’s beautiful and cuts right through that tumultuous rush and grab of the shops. Compare your supermarket to that stable. I did that tonight and it shocked me

We’d like to wish a very Happy Christmas to all our readers. Danny, Dr Quito, The Contessa, Inca, our colony of bees (buzz) and flock of chickens (chitter chatter chicken grapevine stuff) are all nodding away as my fingers fly across the keyboard. Every writer needs readers. Thank you everyone for visiting. Giving a great big virtual hug to all of you. Happy Christmas!

Here’s hoping that all our best dreams come true in 2012.



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  1. Merry Christmas to you and yours, Fiona, and thank you for the blog…..many, many gorgeous recipes herein (not least of all the fruit gins!).
    Regards, Sue

  2. Merry Christmas Fiona & Danny and a very Happy New Year, Wendy x

  3. A lovely piece. As I get older I find I’m more attuned to the idea of comparing the supermarket to the stable. On another note, we are cooking our Christmas roast in our own newly acquired Andrew, thanks to you! My husband is possibly the least thrifty person I know but he’s entirely enamoured of our new halogen gadget. PErhaps there’s a sea-change ahead in our household! A Happy Christmas to you and I look forward to reading much more from you in 2012

  4. Merry Christmas to you both, I love looking in at you and reading all your news, I made you special Christmas cake this year. All love xx

  5. Merry Christmas to all of you in (and out) of the Cottage. Thank you for your company in the last year and I wish you a very successful and happy 2012

  6. Very best wishes to you, Danny, the MinPins and brood. I hope 2012 brings you everything you could wish for.

  7. Merry Christmas to you, Danny and the rest of the gang. Thank you for all the hard work you put into The Cottage Smallholder; it really is appreciated. I hope the New Year is happy, healthy, peaceful and prosperous for us all. Season’s greetings and blessings xxx

  8. Some beautiful thoughts there Fiona. As we settle into the delights of joining a completely different family for Christmas, as we visit our son and his new wife and her family, with all their own ensuing traditions I wish all of you at your abode a wonderful Christmas.

  9. Hi Fiona and Danny,
    I hope you have a Merry Christmas.

  10. Happy Christmas to you and yours. Good luck with the bees I had to give mine up when I became allergic to their stings but I really did enjoy having them. My hens are in their winter quarters that is the green house. Warm for them and manure for me!

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