Every year on Christmas morning I find in the toe of my red velvet Christmas stocking a beautifully wrapped package containing a Christmas decoration to hang on the tree. These are not your run of the mill baubles, but special ornaments like a Swarovski Crystal star, or an antique Czechoslovakian glass Santa. Each is exquisite; each is unique. I love every one.
Over the years I've built up quite a collection of these special decorations, but even the run-of-the-mill ornaments are precious to me. There is the little terracotta gingerbread man that Jemimah's big sister found in her Christmas cracker when she was the age that Jemimah is now. There are the two plastic snowflakes that we had even earlier. There is the fluffy feathery white bauble that my sister-in-law posted over from England, and the Japanese temari one from my hubby's dad. These are as much heirlooms to me as my crystal stars, and each one is packed full of wonderful memories.
On the weekend closest to December 1st we open the boxes to adorn the tree. This annual ritual is a highlight of our year, and the date is marked on the calendars in ink. Our Trimming the Tree party is layer upon layer of tradition. We always drink warmed spicy Glögg from the Stuart crystal brandy balloons, Jemimah's non-alcoholic version tasting quite as sublime as that of her parents with lashings of sultanas and almonds hiding in its depths. We munch on loads of shortbread, and often gingerbread as well. There are always bowls of new-season's cherries and pepparkakskola - gingerbread toffee. (Apparently, eating gingerbread at Christmas makes you kind, and we can never have too much kindness now, can we?) Christmas music plays on the stereo for the first time for the season, and scented candles burn on the mantelpiece.
My especially favouritest part of the evening is the opening of the Basket of Delights. This is it back in 2008 - it has overflowed into two baskets now as we add new favourites to those of years past. We read the first book of the season snuggled by the tree. Ah, such nostalgic goodness.
This annual ritual brings with it so many memories of Christmases past, and sets the scene for the present one. For me is as almost as good as Christmas Day itself.
If only I could discover a way to make dismantling the tree on the twelfth day as much fun...