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Evening, all.

When I was little, Christmas Eve had a pretty well-established pattern. To be honest, it still does, although this year was a bit off-point as ChrisC and I only rolled into Darlington mid-afternoon. But one of the parts of the pattern when I was small was to go into town for the Crib Service and (either before or after) to potter across the market place to the town clock.

Grouped around the base of the town clock were the people the mother always referred to as "the holly men". They were not, in fact, some kind of sinister shadow force written into existence by Mr Gaiman, but a small group of guys selling holly. Not fancy wreaths, or arrangements, just holly. We'd buy a bundle and bring it home to tuck sprigs behind pictures and - if at all possible - for general decking of halls.

The Problem of the Holly )
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I have been a total posting failure of late, despite interesting things having happened. So instead I present three words:

Winter. Spiced. Ribena.

Spotted in the Co-op on Thursday. It's the Ribena version of mulled wine, and it is fabulous.

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It's been the usual round, you know all about it after years of Christmas posts. Pick the order up from the butcher, decorate the house, Cullen Skink for lunch, take the presents round to the godparents, take the presents to the nextdoor neighbours, blanket the pigs and peel the veg. for tomorrow.

Though come to think of it, my write up from last year implies I was offered biscuits by the various people to whom I distributed presents. Clearly standards are slipping. On the plus side, both the godmother's newish-but-oldish cats have decided that we are to be tolerated in the house and snoozed vaguely at us. I spent sufficiently long chatting to the nextdoor neighbours that I got a text messages from ChrisC telling me that my dad had eaten my share of the tea-time pork pie. Fortunately it was untrue, thus avoiding potential bloodshed.

Deviations )

Decorations )

If you're celebrating Christmas, merry Christmas. If you're not, then enjoy whatever you're doing.

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Last week, I invited people to swap Christmas traditions. There weren't many takers, so I present here a small selection of traditions anyone can choose from.

1. Read 101 Dalmations.
2. Buy a new bauble for the tree.
3. Read Tolkien's The Father Christmas Letterson Christmas Eve, preferably an illustrated edition.

(These traditions belong to [livejournal.com profile] huskyteer, [livejournal.com profile] lnr and me, respectively.)

Let me know if you give any of them a whirl. Especially if you're currently gritting your teeth for a Christmas with not-especially-compatible relations (in which case, my sympathy!)

I'm currently indulging in another Christmas tradition, that of being in crap traffic on the M1. I don't recommend it at all.

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While eating my breakfast this morning, I read a letter from the mother. She keeps this up weekly, despite me having been an atrocious return correspondent for the past year, which is lovely of her.

Anyway, she appears to have been eating mince pies, trundling round stately homes ogling Christmas decorations, going on lovely frosty walks and flash-mobbing shopping centres with carols.

Frankly, I'm jealous. I have been working, organising rapper things, and generally trying to keep on top of ordinary life. It is not even beginning to feel a little bit like Christmas.

In an attempt to fabricate some Christmas cheer, I invite you to join in:

The Christmas Tradition Exchange )

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So, Christmas-time. It's pretty traditional round here, as you may recall. We have little in the way of innovation. However, in the course of decorating the house this afternoon, the mother requested I do something that (within my memory) has never been done...

Hoop-la! )

So, decorations up, log fire burning, turkey giblets on the stove making stock for gravy tomorrow. Several yards of Cumberland sausage linked, some turned into pigs-in-blankets, stuffing made up, a bit of advanced vegetable peeling done. That's Christmas eve round these parts :)
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Of course, the other day's question about my leftover red wine missed the most important detail. So did I until now. There was me worrying about red wine when there was also leftover prosecco in the fridge (slack bastards, my dinner guests, never finish anything).

Anyway, I'm now addressing the issue. It's not as fizzy as it might be, but is otherwise surprisingly decent.

However: settle an important conundrum for us, will you?

I want to know what you think is usual to put on Christmas pudding. Not necessarily what you want on your pud, or that weird thing that your family's done for years, but the list of things you might consider it customary to offer, or put, on Christmas pud. (Why yes, the use of the pejorative word "normal" in the poll does indicate that I have an axe to grind ;)

[Poll #1948620]

If, like me, your answer is different based on whether the pud is hot or cold, this one is being served hot.
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In my family, there's a bit of a tradition of giving lots of small Christmas presents rather than one big one. I like it; unless there happens to be a large and obvious present that someone actually wants, of course, a mixed bag of parcels always seems far more exciting.

The obvious problem, though, is that buying stocking fillers is tricky. You don't want anything terribly pricey, which risks meaning cheap tat that no one wants. And which may well have been made in dubious working conditions and sent halfway round the world. I hate giving the sort of presents which I fear will either be chucked out after a few days, or end up gathering dust in a corner somewhere because someone feels guilty chucking them out.

However! I have what I consider to be a fail-safe stocking-filler idea, which works for almost everyone.

Venta's Smashing Stocking-filler Idea )
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Christmas Eve? It must be time for the annual bulletin from the north.

Rain, baubles, sausages )
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Lots of people have been doing a 25-days-of-Christmas thing, answering a different question each day, and I've been enjoying reading their answers. I haven't been doing it myself, because I've already banged on endlessly about Christmas.

Yesterday's question was "What's your view on eggnog?" which is largely irrelevant if you live in the UK. I claimed (commenting on [livejournal.com profile] strange_complex's LJ) that I liked eggnog. But I definitely haven't had any recently, and in a post answering a similar question in 2008 I claimed I'd never had it at all.

I went to look at Wikipedia to find out what it actually was and then got confused. If it's made with whipped eggs, and served hot, why don't the eggs cook? Er, apparently it is not served hot.

I don't appear to have a clue what I'm talking about.

Time to investigate )
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I briefly looked over recent Christmas write-ups to see what I said, and was gently boggled. Even by my standards of Christmas being the same each year, we seem to have excelled ourselves on similarity. Even down to the "famously loquacious" friend of the mother's whom we narrowly avoided as we left the butcher's on Christmas Eve last year.

(This year we did not avoid her. We left the butcher's, weighed down by giant turkey, and she caught us fair and square. I am now very well informed on the state of her largeish family.)

The tree? Well, that looks pretty much like it did last year. I have again shoe-horned all the baubles in the world onto it, including the costume-jewellery Maltese cross that used to be the "star" at the top of the tree when I was a kid. It's now been replaced by a silver snowflake, but I found it lurking at the bottom of a box and squeezed it onto a lower branch. ("Oh blimey," says the mother. "That was Ann's when she was a teenager". Ann is a schoolfriend of hers. Erm, so what is it doing in our Christmas decorations box? This seems unclear.)

ChrisC (bravely risking my family Christmas for the third year running) has mostly been looking about in confusion all day. Apparently he barely recognises Darlington without the festive snow, and has been asking rather anxiously when it's going to arrive. I considered explaining that Darlington isn't really that far north and the last two years have been aberrations, but it seemed safer just to assure him the snow would doubtless be along tomorrow. It'll be delivered by a magical polar bear just after midnight. Won't it?

Merry Christmas to all, and to all goodnight.
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Gosh. It's cold.

Yesterday morning, the car thermometer was reading -8.

Unexpected consequences )
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Gosh. It's snowy up here in Darlington. Apparently it wasn't particularly snowy up until we were about twenty minutes away last night, whereupon the sky threw snow around madly for around twenty five minutes. We arrived in appalling driving conditions, then the weather promptly settled down into a smug, festive, picturesque backdrop.

Popping to the shops... )

... and putting up the tree )
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Help. I have goblin-fear )
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So... ages back I promised a write-up of what happens when you try to play conkers using sprouts ).

So now you know.
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Early this morning, by which I mean around 10am, I was tucking into tea and toast and marmelade. My parents were out in the cold, cold snow collecting the butchers' order. I sent forth an sms, because I'd forgotten to ask a favour: please could they bring me five Brussel's sprouts.

They're obliging sorts )

I'm not sure I can remember a proper white Christmas before. It made the journey north last night rather more exciting (and time-consuming) than normal, as the band of falling snow seemed to be travelling north at about the same speed as a car in a snowstorm could travel north. It certainly made this afternoon's short walk round to the godparents' to swap presents harder work than usual, and makes the prospect of driving anywhere distinctly unappealing.

Not that that puts me off snow, of course. It is a well-documented fact that I love snow. Even driving up the A1, peering between the flakes and trying to stay approximately in lane, I could be heard squeaking "ooooh, snow!" Even today's slippery slidey walk was worth it for the snowmen, sparkling vistas, and rather curvaceous snow woman passed on the way.

The friends I usually go out with on Christmas Eve are variously not in Darlington this year, or under a baby. So I'm all tucked up in the warm. Any minute now, I shall sort myself out a glass of wine and wait for QI to start.
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Maybe if I make this sound somehow appealing, people will go for it...

Every year, I buy Christmas cards. Every year, I use most of them. Over the last decade I have slowly acquired a very motley collection of leftover cards. This year, I resolved not to buy any new ones, but to use up all the leftovers - which I've nearly done.

The trouble is, I'm now left with all the slightly suspect ones. The cutesy Victorian children. The odd Christmas bunnies. The nasueous verses. The snow scenes which were painted too late and look like nasty, dribbly thaws. It seems wasteful to throw these straight in the recycling.

Accordingly... if you think your world would be brightened up by the receipt of a rather tasteless, tacky or unpleasant Christmas card leave your address in a comment![*]

Offer available while stocks last, priority given to people to whom I have not already sent a card.

I must concede that many already sent this year have been passed over in earlier years, so if you received one of the teddy-bears which look like they've gone several rounds with Freddie Mills, apologies!

[*]Comments now screened, although I initially forgot. I'll unscreen anything which doesn't contain address information (unless you ask me not to).
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Well, you can all stop panicking. We didn't have to cancel Christmas.

The box was found. )

This afternoon, we wandered down to church to go to the Crib Service. And were greeted by some slightly alarming news: we've lost the crib. )

Now, having joined the church choir in the pub until they departed to serenade the Christmas diners in the local hotel, I'm home and warm in front of a proper fire. The tree is copiously over-decked with garish baubles, the presents are piled up for the morning, and the cat is regarding us with thinly-veiled contempt.

Happy Christmas, all.

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