I have been lucky to experience 65 Christmases in two very different continents, and although my eight steps may not necessarily lead to Christmas sanity, they might leave a few memories that could last longer than the wrapping paper round the presents. by Chris Cowland –
A couple of years ago the famous English chef Nigella Lawson wrote an article in the London Telegraph entitled “Nigella’s 12 steps to Christmas Sanity.” She came up with some great suggestions, such as “Keep a pen and notepad in your kitchen,” and “A jar of harissa is your friend.” So we challenged our author of Cowland’s Chronicles to come up with some steps of his own.
1 – Get Some Wine
Seaside’s editor-in-chief Allison came up with this suggestion: “Buy a couple of cases of your favourite wine, early.” This required some corroborative evidence, which I have gladly worked on, and at this rate I might have to place a repeat order.
2 – Traditional Foods
My grandma used to make Welsh Cakes once a year, just at Christmas. Like Proust’s madeleines, the smell of her baking these in the kitchen would sweep me back year after year to my earliest childhood in Wales in front of a crackling wood fire inside grandma’s stone cottage.
3 – Roast Chestnuts
I stole this idea from Nigella. I detest them. I don’t know anyone who likes them. They are absolutely perfect for the end of the party when you can’t hide the wine from Uncle Percy, but you want him and Aunt Jessica to leave. Put a dozen under his nose; he will immediately shoot out the door gagging violently.
4 – Carolling
When we moved to Deep Cove over 30 years ago, we started a tradition of inviting around 20 families, mainly schoolfriends of our four children, for a potluck supper about 10 days before Christmas. We would go for a walkabout around the neighbourhood with carol sheets and flashlights, and some of the kids would bring violins.
5 – Advent Calendars
Sometimes it is better to receive a series of small presents rather than one large one, and those stocking stuffers can go a long way to supporting local businesses – a pass to the Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea or Star Cinema, a voucher towards a meal at the Surly Mermaid, a gift certificate for Muffet & Louisa or The Farmer’s Daughter … the list is endless.
6 – Reverse Advent Calendar
There are 24 days in the Christian Advent cycle. Imagine if you put a box by your front door and dumped in one food item on December 1, two items on December 2, and then continued until Christmas. The food banks would be overflowing! Even if you just added one item a day, you would make Christmas very memorable for so many people.
7 – Christmas Walks
We are so lucky to have both the mildest weather and the most parks and waterfront walking trails, and nothing puts people in a better frame of mind than a brisk walk either before the turkey or after the brandy. Horth Hill is one of my favourites, or Butchart Gardens with the gorgeous lights and meandering carollers.
8 – Mulled Wine
Although it tastes innocuous, and its smell is the absolute embodiment of Christmas, it is your second line of defence against relatives like Uncle Percy because it so beautifully disguises the addition of straight vodka. Probably quicker to add it to Aunt Jessica’s mug: she doesn’t drink alcohol, so when she passes out on the couch, I guarantee they will both be leaving shortly.