The urge to create Christmas perfection is all around us – from social media, adverts, and even inherited from a parent (fans of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation will understand parental festive fanaticism). It’s so easy to feel that what we’re doing isn’t magic enough, memorable enough, handmade enough, perfect enough. Especially true when you have children. So in an effort to focus my efforts on the right things, I had a think this week about what I remember from childhood Christmas, to see what things have stayed with me through the years.

And it’s trite but true: people make Christmas – the time they spend with you, and the attention they give to you.

I don’t remember what presents I got each Christmas (although the My Little Pony Lullaby Nursery does stand out as a jackpot year), but I do remember the people. People I loved – parents, grandparents and my sister, in my case – having time for me, and each other; doing their best to get on, even if they didn’t always; eating with them, opening presents with them, going for walks with them, playing games with them.

The Chocolate Game was one particular favourite – one bar of chocolate, a knife and fork, woolly gloves, a scarf, a hat, and a dice (or die, depending on your pedantry level). Everyone sits round on the floor in a circle, and tries to roll a six. As soon as you do, don the hat, gloves and scarf, and start trying to eat the chocolate using only the knife and fork (much easier back when Cadbury wrapped their chocolate bars in foil and paper). This is tricky enough, but everyone else is still busy trying to roll a six and unseat you as chocolate champion, so you must be quick. It’s hot, noisy, and hilarious, and like many things, astonishingly simple. If you’ve never tried it, I urge you to give it a go – and there’s no better time than Christmas. I remember playing it so clearly, and with such affection, year after year.

I do remember the anticipation the presents, of course I do – and it’s one of the things that makes Christmas so exciting for children. But it’s far from the thing I remember and cherish most about those days. It’s family, and the people I loved; and having those memories is so precious.

I’m going to stop worrying about making it ‘perfect’. If you’re there and you care, that’s all it will take.

This year, we will be immersing ourselves in a huge family gathering, which I hope will be an equally memorable Christmas for our boys to treasure. I’m planning to take a bar of chocolate too.

May yours be a Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year – I’ll see you on the other side!

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