Simple festive pleasures in December- read for simple, fun ways to get yourself into the festive spirit.

How To Luxuriate in simple festive pleasures in December

December really is the most wonderful time of the year for me. The weeks leading up to Christmas are filled with excitement and anticipation. We do plan several Christmassy days out as a family to make the most of it while our kids are young enough to really enjoy them, including a steam train ride to see Santa, a pantomime and breakfast with Santa on Christmas Eve. However, a lot of the things I enjoy about the weeks before Christmas are actually simple, home-based joys that cost very little.

Decorating the home

It starts in late November for us when we decorate our tree and put up all the smaller Christmas decorations around the house. Unpacking all the familiar decorations, recalling where and when we purchased them or remembering when the kids made them in previous years brings on a sweet sense of nostalgia. It’s a heavenly feeling to relax in the living room in the evenings, the room illuminated by twinkling white lights on the tree and snuggled up with fleece blankets on the sofa.

Festive films

Here in the UK, the TV Channel 5 dedicates itself almost completely to festive films (movies). They are mostly low budget TV movies and rather cheesy and predictable, but still enjoyable. I often set them up to record if they are on during the daytime then watch them in the evenings. Plus, I look out for some of my all-time favourite Christmas films being screened on TV to record, such as The Holiday, A Christmas Carol (any and all versions of it!), Love Actually etc.

Creating Traditions

Although Christmas Eve boxes have become popular here in recent years, I decided against starting this tradition for my own kids. This is mainly because Christmas Eve is a pretty busy day for us, with visiting our local garden centre in the morning for breakfast with Santa an established annual tradition, then we make preparations for hosting both sides of the family the following day. It’s a already enough of a challenge to fit it all in without introducing a special box for the kids to unpack. I do like the principle of the Christmas Eve box though and think that the kids will enjoy the tradition of it, so I decided to schedule it as an ‘advent box’ to be opened on December 1st each year. I didn’t want to go overboard, so just packed it with a few little items including mini polar bear mugs, hot chocolate with mini marshmallows, a net of chocolate penguin and their Santa hats.

Outdoor Lights

With the shorter, darker days that we experience in the northern hemisphere at this time of year, the abundance of festive lights everywhere is a real blessing to counteract what would otherwise be a dark and dismal time. As well as the indoor lights, it is cheering to see the range of exterior illuminations locally, from simple strings of lights around windows and wrapped around tree branches to less subtle giant inflatable snowmen and Santas. The latter might not be to my taste and I wouldn’t choose to display them outside my house, but they are still comical and the kids love them. Sometimes we glimpse them from the car whilst driving somewhere, other times we go for family walks and can pause to appreciate them better.

Baked Goods

My eldest daughter adores baking biscuits and cakes at Christmas time, especially as we have built up a collection of festive cookie cutters and I usually buy cake toppers such as silver balls and sugar Christmas characters. The end results are enjoyed by us all!

So, there are plenty of simple festive joys to enjoy during the month of December. What are your favourites?

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Decorating the house for Christmas

Apologies to those of you who still consider it too early to think about decorating the home for Christmas. In our house, it invariably happens towards the end of November. This is primarily because our eldest daughter’s birthday falls on the twenty-ninth of December and we take down every last decoration the day or two before her birthday, to make space for visiting guests and to make her feel that her birthday is a separate celebration from Christmas.

A large part of the joy of the Christmas season lies in the anticipation of it, for me at least. Indeed, that’s true of many of the most pleasurable things in life, such as holidays, birthdays, concerts etc- even though the event itself is, of course, enjoyable, a lot of additional pleasure can be gained by excitedly counting down to and looking forward to it. A French friend once told me that in the French language they have a verb that describes this anticipation: rejouir. From the last week of November, the time feels right to me to start embracing this period of anticipation so we assemble our 6-foot tree ready to decorate. We have had the same tree for almost ten years now and it is still in pretty good condition. I do love the heady pine scent of real trees, but on balance I prefer the convenience of artificial ones that don’t drop needles!

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We always opt for soft white LED lights to wrap around the tree first. Over the years, we have accumulated quite a large collection of tree ornaments. I adore hand-made ornaments and ones that are a little different or original in some way rather than multipacks of identical baubles. We generally buy at least one new ornament for the tree each year and it’s wonderful to unpack them one by one, rediscovering them. Paul proposed to me eleven years ago on the 23rd December and we purchased a little handmade, wooden carved decoration with a robin on it from a nearby craft centre that same day. Of course I’d remember it anyway, but I etched the date on the inside of it for the sake of posterity.

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We don’t consciously choose any particular theme per se, but I find myself naturally drawn towards decorations in and red and white more than any other, and I love ones made from natural materials such as wood, wool and metal. A few years ago, we went on a cruise holiday to Norway. On one of the days we disembarked at a small port city called Stavanger, where there was a huge shop that sold nothing but Christmas decorations, all year round. It did admittedly feel a little strange to be wandering round such a festive store in early August, but it was too good an opportunity to miss. Honestly, I could have happily bought one of every single ornament within the shop to add to my collection. It made me realise that my favourite type of ornaments are probably Scandi-style due to my preference of the colours and natural materials. We have a few of these Scandi dolls which came from Norway, but I’ve recently seen similar ones on sale in the Danish-owned Tiger stores here in the UK this year, very reasonably priced.

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Poinsettias (those beautiful potted plants with the red leaves on sale everywhere in December, in the UK at least) are so cheery around the house and I used to buy a few each year. At first I tried to look after them to save for future Christmases, but never had any success in keeping the leaves red, they always turned green. Then a couple of years ago I spotted artificial poinsettias in a shop and bought a few and I’m always pleased to unpack them with the Christmas stuff and place on my kitchen windowsills and table. They look pretty realistic, too.

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In the weekends preceding Christmas, we often visit local garden centres which stock a wide range of Christmas gifts and decorations.  Two years ago we were there on Christmas Eve and the adorable musical animated Christmas villages we always admired were being discounted. Unable to resist, we gave in and bought a fairground animated scene. The kids get so excited to see it and our baby is utterly captivated by the sight of the big (ferris) wheel turning, ice skating figures on the lake and pirate ship swinging. The photo doesn’t do it justice.

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As our children are getting older, they are starting to produce decorations at school and nursery which get added to the tree. Hopefully they will withstand years of use and we will be able to use them far into the future.

Are any of you readers early to put up your decorations, too? Or perhaps you are someone who always leaves it close to Christmas? I’d love to hear about your favourite decorations.