Christmas won't be Christmas without any presents

I have some empathy with Jo March. Christmas isn't just about presents, but a big part of Christmas is about traditions. These vary from family to family and evolve over time, but we all have things that we do at Christmas time which help us feel Christmassy and enjoy ourselves more.

In the Press recently there have been articles about the differences across the world in what is eaten for Christmas dinner, what Father Christmas is called and how people celebrate. But even in a "traditional English " celebration there are so many varieties.

As you grow up Christmas happens in a particular way in your household, which can make it difficult when you meet someone and you start spending Christmas together. You have to choose whether you spend Christmas with one of your families (and their traditions) or if you start again and combine the bits which mean the most to each of you.

My ex and I started our own Yuletide traditions and Christmas Day had formed a sort of routine. Last Christmas we had split up, but still spent the day together so we could both be with our daughter.

This Christmas Day is the first I will spend with my new partner. We have spent time talking about what is important to each of us and trying to include what's important. I'll admit I have much stronger views than G, but often people don't even realise what they have done year after year is different to other families or means a lot to them until it's changed.

This year is extra hard because I'll only have my daughter until midday. Due to pregnancy and my ever bubbling horrible heartburn I'll also be missing out on booze, clementines and chocolate! These all normally feature heavily in my plans.

Ten things that make Christmas for me:

Having a tree and decorating the house. I'm a fan of real tree's, not so much because fake trees are less attractive (some are fab), but with a real tree you don't have to find storage for the other 11 months of the year. I spent too many years trying to lift a heavy tree up into the attic each January.

My Christmas tree has gone up early the last couple of years as I think it helps my daughter (and I) get Christmas started. The tree may go up early December, but despite this I think decorations should come down on Twelfth Night (so 6th January). The 12 days of Christmas start Christmas Day and I think it's sad that so many people are bored of Christmas before the New Year starts.

Wrapping presents while drinking a snowball and listening to Christmas tunes. My shopping is normally done before December starts so I can get my wrapping done nice and early too.

Having friends and family over during the Christmas period and generally trying to encourage them to eat too much food is one of my favourite bits of Christmas.

Saving all the presents until Christmas Day. I'm a fan of choosing a present to open Christmas Eve, although a Christmas Eve box has sneaked in the last couple of years.

I like to open presents after lunch, because it always feels a bit of an anti-climax when they have been ripped open. Since my daughter has been born I have made the concession that she can start opening her presents earlier, this is mostly because she always gets so many and opening present after present without opening them all to play with isn't that exciting for her.

Christmas stockings are delivered over night by Father Christmas and can be opened as soon as people wake up. They appear upstairs and should be opened in PJs/ nightdresses. Contents varies but chocolate coins and clementines are essential.

Christmas dinner, or lunch, starts between 2 and 4 and lasts for pretty much the rest of the day. I'm not concerned about a starter, but the main course, pudding and cheese course generally are so filling that large pauses are needed between each one.

I haven't had turkey for years as I haven't had enough people around the table, but the bird (normally a chicken) should be accompanied by pigs in blankets, roast parsnips, carrots, sprouts, stuffing (sage & onion), gravy, bread sauce, roast potatoes.

I'm not a big drinker any more, but Christmas is still synonymous with booze. From the champagne for breakfast to spirits, beer and wine. There end up being a lot of glasses to wash on Boxing Day.

Whatever makes Christmas for you I hope you have a great one?

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