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In the run up to the holiday I thought about what made ‘our’ Christmas in the UK. I wanted the kids to have as normal a Christmas as possible. What could I recreate? What were we definitely going to miss? And what was really not all that important after all?
These are the things I worried that we’d miss:
A real tree with our decorations.
Our Christmas lights and house decorations.
The kids Christmas stockings and ‘special’ Christmas toys.
Christmas Eve drinks with friends.
The school Nativity.
Marks and Spencer’s food.
Mince pies, Christmas pudding/cake.
…my mum spending Christmas with us.
So, how did our first Christmas in the States go?
We always have a real tree, but we decided to buy an artificial one this year. I bought a few baubles and garlands. My neighbour lent me a ‘tree skirt’ (yup, that was a new one for me too!). I bought some special decorations, all our initials and a 2012, along with personalised decorations for the kids which went into their stockings, to commemorate our first year in the States. And I think it turned out pretty well, my little girl loves it :)
I put some lights and baubles in vases. I hung a wreath on our porch. The house wasn’t decorated as ‘fully’ as it would have been at home (and no where near to the extent of our neighbours whose decorations extend into their front gardens…) but you know what, for the kids, the tree is the important bit and I was pleased with that, so we ticked ‘decorations’ off the list.
I thought that the lack of the kids Christmas stockings and Christmas toys might be an issue (especially after my 6yo told a friend all about their reindeer and Santa toys that came out for the holiday) but that was the only mention they got. I bought them all new stockings with their initials on them which they loved and that was it, job done!
We were actually invited to a friends for drinks on Christmas Eve, so could easily have ticked this one off, but with three snotty grumpy children we chose not to and had a restful evening at home instead, which was definitely a good choice (and helped when our little girl decided it was morning at 5.30am…).
The Nativity… See my previous post on this one!
I saw lots of comments about the CBeebies panto on twitter and I remember sitting and watching it with the boys last year, so there was definitely a bit of a pang there. And I missed the Dr Who Christmas special! Gutted – but I’ll get to see it at some point :) We actually didn’t put the TV on at all on Christmas Day and that was really nice. No TV meant more games, more laughs and more family time – this is something that I will make every effort to turn into a tradition.
Marks & Spencer… I miss M&S a lot, especially the food hall :) Christmas dinner in our house is not just any Christmas dinner, it’s a Marks & Spencer Christmas dinner… (to those not familiar with UK TV, ‘not just any…’ is one of their big advertising slogans!). I don’t cook on Christmas Day, I oven! Not an option this year, and I was starting to panic about roasting a turkey, but then my neighbour saved the day by very kindly inviting us over for lunch with her family. So, I did the roasties, the mash and a ham (a hubby Xmas tradition) and took something veggie for myself (was so excited when I found a Quorn roast in the local supermarket I had to text people!). Although, I have to admit at 1pm when I was mashing potatoes and the roast potatoes weren’t browning, I did wish very hard for M&S to magic me some of theirs….
I don’t like Christmas cake or pudding, but my husband does. As is probably becoming clear, I don’t bake, so he wasn’t getting home made ones (maybe next year…)! But their absence wasn’t noted, so all good! I had the odd notion for a mince pie, but not sufficient to get me to make any!
And for me, the biggie… My mum always spends Christmas with us. I have only ever spent one Christmas without her. I had hoped that she might come and join us, but it’s not a great time of year to travel, so I knew that she wouldn’t come. So, we Skyped, several times! She saw the kids open their presents. She saw them play with their new toys. And we raised a glass together! It wasn’t the same, but it was okay, not great, but okay.
So our first American Christmas was good! Old traditions merged with new ones. The elf on the shelf joined us for December, keeping an eye on the boys for Santa (a great new tradition, even if the elf is kinda creepy!)… I made ‘neighbour’ gifts (thankfully, as we got several in return)… Santa found us, much to the relief of the kids… Dinner with our next door neighbour was lovely and made the day more of an event for us and the kids… The kids went to bed exhausted and happy and hubby and I had a glass or two of fizz before following them, also exhausted and happy.
Having said I don’t bake, I did make and decorate cookies for the neighbour gifts, and enjoyed it more than I would probably like to admit :)