IT WOULDN'T BE CHRISTMAS WITHOUT...
Tradition? It’s just another word for quirk as far as we’re concerned. A recurring quirk if you like, whose origin is often dubious and purpose almost always mysterious, but without which our Christmas celebrations wouldn’t feel Christmassy enough.
So we picked the brains of interiors doyenne, Michelle Ogundehin, and avant-garde fashion designer Molly Goddard, whose interactive fashion installation is showing at Greenwich Peninsula’s NOW Gallery – to discover their festive foibles and the things they couldn’t be without at Christmas time.
MICHELLE: Christmas decorating for me pivots around the tree. A six-foot Nordmann fir to be specific that I buy every year from a company called Pines and Needles. I place it directly opposite the front door, at the end of the hallway, so it can be seen as soon as we come home. The dogs attack it, the needles fall everywhere, but it’s the closest to a tradition we have so I’m sticking with it.
MOLLY: Real and as full as possible then covered in angel hair so it glows.
Lots of hand-made ones, that are really bad, old ones we have had forever and a couple of new ones. But it’s mostly old decorations, the christmas tree, lots of candles around the house, and the smell of mulled wine.
I don’t do all over house decorations. Just some simple fairy lights around the front door, and then it’s all about the tree. There is an ageing cardboard box in the basement in which the baubles and lights live from January to November. It’s dusted down and only one or two new baubles added each year. I’ve been collecting them for a while but the core theme has always been clear glass or white. There are some quite exotic ones in the mix, delicate soap bubble globes with prancing glass reindeers inside; a silk-tasselled porcelain-embossed ball from Wedgwood; and white ceramic trees and stars from Germany. My favourites though are probably the super-glittery cardboard hearts my son made at nursery last year. Whatever he makes takes absolute pride of place regardless of shape, size or hue!
MICHELLE: I’ve slightly fallen out of love with sending cards. Quality ones cost so much, plus the rising price of stamps, and many friends living abroad. I certainly don’t have the time or inclination to make my own so I’ve gently segued to Christmas Day phone calls to close friends or far away family instead. But I always give each of my team a card with a personal message written inside.
MOLLY: I am afraid I am rubbish and never do cards!!
Photography: Andy Mackie
I normally go to portobello market a couple of weekends before and try to find something for everyone, always very last minute. With close family I normally have a plan, and often try to make something. With wrapping I normally do simple brown paper with a ribbon. Surprises are always best!
MICHELLE: I love wrapping presents! I like everything to be in a box as its neater to wrap, and they look so great stacked under the tree. I use lots of different papers, the more bonkers the pattern the better, then they’re all tied up with waxed string and sport jolly gift tags. I kept all my favourite cards from last year with the idea of using them as gift tags, but I’ve yet to find a hole punch so I can actually tie them on, so that might have to wait ’til 2017. That said, I’m pretty organised when it comes to the shopping. I’ve trained myself to start putting things aside from about September onwards. The times I’ve left it to the last minute have been so unbearably stressful it takes the joy out of it all. Panic buying is also less thoughtful and inevitably more expensive!
Photography: Andy Mackie
This year, my middle sister is expecting her second child just before Christmas, so the whole clan is decamping towards my parents who live nearby. My holiday fantasies however involve renting an Italian villa with separate wings for each faction of the family, a butler and chef on hand, plus a Mary Poppinsesque nanny to fully occupy all the children. I would rise, rested, at around 11am, dress in layers of cashmere, and waft down to the great hall for an aperitif. A seven course lunch would be started at 12. We’d finish around 4pm and I’d be rolled in front of the TV, large box of chocs within easy reach. The reality will however be a rather more domestic, crowded setting, arguments over how to make gravy and the rules of Monopoly all punctuated by the hungry cries of a newborn. We shall stay three days then beat a happy retreat.
MOLLY: Normally all my family go to my granny’s house, everyone cooks and drinks. I love cooking, so I don’t think I could ever go out. You need to be able to get into pyjamas after the first serving, so you can manage a second.
MOLLY: Music is normally a combination of everyone’s tastes or whatever old cassettes my granny has.
MICHELLE: I confess to a soft spot for those dodgy carol compilations. Nothing like a resounding chorus of jingle bells with full symphonic backing to get you in the Yuletide spirit! There is a point though, usually Boxing Day, when enough is enough and I find myself switching to Radio Three or Four for something more soothing.
FAMILY AND FRIENDS.
For all the inevitable familial fighting, I love Christmas Day with just my immediate family, in-laws and our children. I’m not religious so I appreciate this time of year simply as the one occasion that we all get together and celebrate the gift of children, and being a family.
MOLLY: Its normally family, so about 15 of us from my dad’s side. On boxing day we visit mum’s family and then I often drive to see my boyfriend and his family or vice versa. The more the merrier for sure.
After dinner shenanigans.
MOLLY: We play the hat game which is an elongated version of charades and much more fun, and there’s always a walk to see the houses covered in christmas lights. We are not a very religious family but do enjoy carols if we can find fun ones.
I’m anticipating many silly games of hide and seek, pop the balloon, eat until you’re sick, hunt the newly lost toy, and probably interminable hours of Peppa Pig. And I can’t wait.
THAT ONE SPECIAL THING.
MOLLY: Twiglets, Baileys on ice and stockings. I think I will have a stocking when I am 60. It’s the funnest bit!
MICHELLE: New year’s day. It’s when I pause, take stock of the big picture, reflect on the year gone by, sketch out plans and make goals for the year ahead. I don’t stay up. I don’t go out. And living in Brighton, I have the supreme luxury of being able to start the year with a walk on the beach. Perfect.