In recent years, I have found Christmas a bittersweet time. When I was a child, it was a time of big family get-togethers with grandparents, uncles and aunts, and many cousins. Of course, as a child I also enjoyed finding what Father Christmas had left me in my Christmas stocking and opening presents under our Christmas tree. Overall though, it was a time for us all to be together.
Years later, our Christmases are much smaller affairs. Grandparents, aunts and uncles, and my dad are all missed. Presents no longer seem important.
I thought about this recently while preparing some of the food we have always enjoyed at Christmas: the German-style red cabbage cooked as my German nan, and then my mum, used to cook it; homemade pickled onions with an eye-watering bite as my nan used to make; the fruitcake that I now bake for my mum and the peach flan that my brother bakes for her; the mince pies my brother baked with the last remaining batch of my late aunt’s mincemeat. My dad loved most of this too, because he appreciated a time of plenty once a year after the deprivation of his childhood Christmases in wartime Germany.
Preparing, and eating, these favourites reminded me of the times we did share them with those no longer here and made me grateful for those Christmases, many long ago, which were so full of joy.