Favourite Christmas traditions from our HQ authors

With the festive season truly in full swing, we asked our authors what their Christmas traditions are to help us feel Christmassy. From hosting Christmas parties to adorning Christmas jumpers, and from watching pantomimes to decorating Christmas trees, these are some lovely stories and ideas to get you in the Christmas mood!

Alyson Rudd: ‘Friends start asking in July. Are you hosting on Christmas Eve? They know the answer. It’s a big lunch that has, every year, grown bigger as friends bring their kids and sometimes their parents. It’s the official start to Christmas, so say my mates to ensure the tradition never ends.’

Khurrum Rahman: ‘I don’t need an excuse to act like a child, but this is the one day where I can get away with it. Early start and straight into my Christmas jumper and socks combo for the all-important gift giving tradition as we listen to Slade, Mariah and the rest of the gang. After, a living room carpeted with wrapping paper, happy children and my wife and I smiling at each other thinking the same thing. You better have kept the receipt.’ 

Darren O’Sullivan: ‘My Christmas begins with Pantomime, not as an audience member, but as a director or the show. Every year I take my boy to see the production, this year’s being Cinderella and I arrange him to meet the cast backstage, his little face when he sees the comic! The best Xmas pressie ever!’


Lindsay Cummings: ‘Every year we get a real Christmas tree for my mum’s Birthday, December 2nd, to kick off the season. We go to a big ice castle display as a family, to the place my husband proposed to me. On Christmas Eve, we go to church and end the night with a big candle lighting while people sing Silent Night. On Christmas Day, I always visit my horse and give him fresh carrots as a present!’

PL Kane: ‘As people might expect, being drawn to the darker side of things, one of our favourite Christmas traditions is reading and watching ghost stories in the run up to the big day. There’s just something about the nights drawing in and being by a roaring fire, glass of brandy or whisky in your hand, letting the words or images carry you away to a spooky place… Not just seasonal tales like A Christmas Carol, but also those old A Ghost Stories for Christmas episodes – many of them adaptations of MR James stories, like “A Warning to the Curious” or “The Ash Tree”. There’s nothing quite like it!’


Sarah Bennett: ‘Though I love the sparkle and joy of Christmas lights and can’t wait to put up the tree, Christmas truly starts for me when we sit down on Christmas Eve to watch and listen to Carols from King’s.The haunting opening strains of ‘Once in Royal David’s City’ echoing around the vaulted roof of King’s College Chapel bring forth so many memories of times shared with family and friends.’

‘In the darkest part of the year it is a glorious celebration, and, regardless of religious beliefs, there is a comforting sense of community and hope in the songs and words I’ve known since early childhood. With a glass of fizz, a plate of tasty nibbles to share, the reflection of the tree lights against the opaque blackness of the lounge windows and those I love close at hand as the voices of the choir soar, I can’t think of a better way to start the festivities.’

Amanda Brittany: ‘On Christmas Eve we always go out for breakfast, and then on to the cinema. Often, it’s to see a Christmas themed film, but I couldn’t wait to see Last Christmas and Frozen II this year, so I think we’ll see Knives Out. I know it isn’t very Christmassy, but I love a good murder mystery any time of the year.’

Louise Mangos: Father Christmas is called Samichlaus in Switzerland, and December 6th is his day – St. Nicholas’ Day. After dark he comes out of the forest wearing a tall pointed bishop’s hat, holding a long crosier staff and wearing a red and gold cloak. Accompanying him is a troop of white-shirted helpers, some of whom crack huge bull-whips sounding like rifle fire and some who ring enormous cow bells that can be heard across the valley. A black-clothed tinker called a Schmutzli* accompanies Samichlaus into every children’s home carrying a hessian sack. Samichlaus carries a book within which is written achievements of each child he visits. He might also give a small admonishment to a child who might have been misbehaving recently, encouraging them to improve their ways. Samichlaus is all knowing! The children usually sing a song or recite a poem or a small story for him. As Samichlaus leaves, the Schmutzli pours handfuls of nuts, gingerbread, chocolates and tangerines from his sack into the children’s shoes by the door.’

‘The first time I heard those bells and whips echoing down the street outside my home, I was an ex-pat resident with two small children who had just moved to a central Swiss village. It was a terrifying experience for all of us as it was so unexpected, but it became the evening my young kids looked forward to most at the beginning of each December, marking a few weeks of advent festivities culminating in the present-giving and feasting at Christmas itself, a tradition we have kept from my British roots.’


Jaimie Admans: ‘For me, it’s just not Christmas without Chevy Chase! My absolute favourite Christmas film is National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation and every year, we choose one night very close to Christmas, all the lights go off so only the Christmas lights are twinkling, and we get hot chocolate with marshmallows and a tub of Quality Street – yes, a whole tub, and no, there’s not many left by the end – and snuggle down to watch it. And even though we do it every year and I could quote the film back-to-front with my eyes shut, it’s one of the most special parts of Christmas for me.’

‘I also couldn’t let a Christmas Eve pass without watching Mr Bean bumble around with a turkey on his head! Merry Christmas, Mr Bean is a Christmas Eve tradition in our house!’

Victoria Cooke:‘Over the years we’ve accumulated a few Christmas traditions ranging from ‘the norm’ to the plain random and I love them all! At a push, I’d say my favourite family tradition is on Christmas Eve. We snuggle up and watch The Polar Express with nibbles and hot chocolate, then we leave out treats for Santa and his reindeer (if my kids ask; Santa loves a G&T!). Once the kids are in bed, hubby and I make mulled wine and watch The Holiday or Love Actually. Once the kids are really asleep we turn into Santa’s little helpers!’

Portia MacIntosh: ‘My fiancé and I always watch It’s a Wonderful Life after we put up our Christmas tree. Every single decoration on our tree is unique, collected from all over the world. Once they’re up, we know it’s Christmas time. On Christmas Eve, as we wrap our presents, we watch the Christmas episodes of our favourite TV shows, like It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and The Office. Oh, and breakfast almost every day of December is a slice of panettone with an advent calendar chocolate chaser.’

Terry Lynn Thomas: ‘Although we enjoy the hustle and bustle of Christmas, our tradition is to spend time at home, listening to music and reading. There’s something so comforting in hunkering down with a good book and a hot beverage while it’s cold outside. Traditionally, we do things a bit old school at our house, so on Christmas Eve, we surreptitiously fill each other’s Christmas stocking with gifts to be opened the next morning.’

Lucy Knott: ‘My favourite Christmas tradition is all about the food. Being Italian I look forward to all the mouth-watering specialties that Italy has to offer during the holidays; from Pandoro and Panettone, to the finest prosciutto and cheeses. My family and I spend a good portion of Christmas day around the table and I love it. But what I love most about the holidays now is being in the kitchen the days leading up to it preparing the chestnut pastries and Pandoro and custard cake using my Nanna and Grandad’s recipes.’

Robin Talley: ‘As an interfaith family, my wife and I have thought a lot about what holiday traditions we want to share with our daughter. Some of them are traditions we grew up with, and others are new ones we’ve come up with ourselves. Our perennial favourites include playing with dreidels and trying (and, in my case, often failing) to make latkes during Hanukkah, opening presents on the 25th (now that our daughter is 4 she finally understands why that’s fun), having an informal family meeting about which organizations we’ll donate to for year-end giving, and going to see our favourite holiday shows — the annual Magical Musical Holiday Step Show performed by the Step Afrika! dance company here in Washington, D.C. (we always follow the show with a trip to a nearby food market for dosas) and The Nutcracker (which our daughter usually insists we see at least twice). Plus, lots of hot chocolate and holiday snuggles at home, of course!’

Katlyn Duncan: ‘My favourite Christmas tradition is picking out a real tree with my family every year. It’s one of few activities that the entire family is involved in, and I’m happy to now include my child in this festive event. This tradition was one reason why I included a tree-hunting scene in Wrapped Up for Christmas, as I’m hoping my characters make this an annual event as well.’

Belinda Missen: ‘It’s only a recent tradition, but my husband and I make fruit mince pies on Christmas Eve while watching the carols broadcast. Our first year started with making approximately twenty pies but has quickly become an out of control beast. While I roll out the handmade pastry, he spoons the mixture into the cases. This year, I think we have enough mincemeat that we’ll be making something silly like 200 mince pies, pudding and cake. We eat them for breakfast on Christmas morning while swapping gifts, and hand them out during the day to visiting friends and family. Oh, and they make great snacks in my husband’s work lunch.’


Steve Frech: ‘For me, my favourite Christmas tradition is that I’ll pick one day in December, turn off the computer, the phone, everything, and I will read A Christmas Carol from cover to cover. The copy that I read is a decades old paperback that my sister got in 4th grade and then gave to me. A Christmas Carol is my favourite book and the day I stop everything I’m doing to read it is my favourite day of the year.’

Kellie Hailes: ‘It wouldn’t be a Kiwi Christmas for me without a homemade pavlova loaded with cream, strawberries, blueberries and raspberries being served up for dessert. Delicious!’

Katie Ginger: ‘Every year my mum makes the Christmas puddings with my kids.She uses a recipe of her grandmother’s and it has a secret ingredient that makes it the best Christmas pudding of all time (sorry but it totes is!). The best thing is we all have to get together to stir the mixture three times clockwise then make a wish. We’ve done it every year since I was little, through good times and bad, and Christmas wouldn’t be the same without it!’

Hester Fox: ‘My favourite holiday tradition started when I was little; we’d pile into the car at night to try to find the best Christmas light displays in the neighbourhood. I felt very important, as it was my job to navigate and tell my mum which streets to turn down. We chased glimpses of lights through bare trees or off in the distance atop steep hills. Half the fun was trying to get lost and discover houses we’d never seen before. Now that I have a son, I’m excited to continue the tradition when he’s old enough to go hunting for lights!’


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