Author Wendy Holden, 50, lives with her husband Jon and her teenage children Andrew and Isabella.
“Sometimes we have family over for Christmas, but usually it’s just me, Jon and our two kids. We eat turkey on Christmas Day – cooked by Jon, who repeats the feat on Boxing Day with a delicious rib of beef. We have pudding and cheese, and drink local beer, and bubbly. We string white fairy lights round all the pictures and light potted candles.
“I love Christmas music; the sound of a high, pure choirboy treble soaring ’mid ancient stone! So from December 1st on-wards I’ve got Carols from King’s on a constant loop in the car. Tchaikovsky too.
“We decorate our huge Christmas tree with baubles we’ve had for years, but no tinsel – my husband hates it. Yet it still looks fabulous, rising proud from vast mountains of presents. Christmas Eve is my absolute favourite part of the festive period and we have lots of beloved routines. We chug into town in our Land Rover Defender to do last-minute shopping, we have lunch then head back home for an early evening service at our church.”
“After that, the parties start. One year I went to three in succession and the next day had such a bad hangover I lay groaning in the back of the car in the church car park, while everyone else was at the Christmas morning service.
“We open presents, which we do in turn so everyone can see what’s being opened. That’s the theory anyway. The best present-opening ever was when my husband’s parents were staying and my octogenarian father-in-law gave my septuagenarian mother-in-law a big box of Beyoncé glittery body products. He had no idea who Beyoncé was, but had just grabbed it in Boots!”
- Wendy’s latest novel, Wild and Free (Headline Review), is out now.
If, like Wendy’s husband, you don’t enjoy tinsel, take a look at our video on how to create a glamorous gold Christmas tree:
Author Tamasin Day-Lewis, 61, is divorced and has three grown-up children
“My children no longer live at home, but always arrive in the run-up to Christmas to stay with me. We still maintain the tradition of stockings – the presents will include knickers, socks, soap, books, chocolate, games – and use the same hand-knitted ones my brother and I had as children.
“The only difference is that the three of them club together for stocking gifts for my ex-husband and me – we still have Christmas together despite the divorce; we paste peace over our differences.
“I have kept alive my parents’ tradition of having any “waifs and strays” who would otherwise be alone, or far from home, to stay over. It’s a bit like the Six Nations cup – we’ve had people from all over the world and a Brazilian friend of one of my children has become an annual fixture.
ALSO SEE: Try this Christmas shortbreads recipe
“It enlivens everything and is a brilliant quarrel defuser – the expectations of Christmas can be seriously stressful and with relative strangers, everyone behaves better and is in the party mood.
“Jenga is played on the floor ; a hike in Somerset’s Quantock Hills in the morning before a smoked salmon and Champagne brunch, followed by presents, are all part of the fun.
“As well as our traditional food, I try and bring in a new invention. Shall I spike the jelly with Campari? Do I dare go off-piste from my traditional stuffing packed with walnuts, apples and celery? Will there be enough?
“Well, in my house, that means piling high ham or turkey sandwiches jaw-achingly wide with stuffing and cranberry sauce for days after, and having dozens of mince pies to keep visitors full through to New Year’s Eve. Sometimes tradition is all you want, and it’s certainly what our family looks forward to at Christmas.”