We have asked all our Code of the Gentleman contributors to tell us what is special about Christmas for them, their family traditions, the eccentricities and the little things that make Christmas unique. We hope you enjoy them and maybe you will start a new Christmas Tradition yourselves this year.
“It’s a much quoted phrase that Christmas is a time to enjoy being with one’s family. When you’re half-Serbian however, that is particularly so. Christmas in the Cvetkovic household is a delightful blur of the door bell trilling repeatedly, and constantly catching up with relatives over a tumbler of Slivovitz (Serbian plum brandy) around the fire. For many years, the family’s place of pilgrimage was my grandparent’s bungalow in Leicester, run like a military operation at Christmas by the head-Chef ‘Baba’ (Grandma in English) and my grandfather ‘Deda’.
I have many, many precious memories of squeezing around my grandparents antique mahogany dinner table, knocking elbows with my cousins, fighting over plates of Serbian delicacies piled so high that the table spent the entire meal groaning under the weight of roasted pork, smoked hams, goose, Serbian fried courgettes, rich vegetable casseroles, pastries, stuffed peppers and pickled cabbage salads. I also remember very distinctly my grandfather’s penchant for ‘keeping the old traditions alive’ by which he meant butchering and spit roasting a piglet, or on one occasion a deer in his bungalow’s garage. A more Slavic sight you could not hope to be greeted with, pulling up on the little driveway to see the hind quarters of a rump of venison hanging there, being cured next to the tool-bench. Such is the joy of being part Serb.
In my case, it’s also a time that I have come to associate over the past few years with good shoes. As a self-confessed dandy, I tend to take advantage of the ritual of Christmas presents to request a pair of well made English shoes from my beloved parents. Barker’s are my personal favourite and over the past few years Christmas has swelled my collection of correspondents significantly; blue and chestnut calf’s leather, mahogany and white, chocolate and cream and a pair of black patent dress shoes for formal wear – I’ve been very lucky to see a pair of beautiful Christmas shoes walk their way into my wardrobe each year, this being a tradition that I’m also eternal for.
The ritual of collecting the tree is another joy. We are fortunate to live only a few minutes drive from ‘Little Field Farm’ which happens to supply No. 10’s tree each year. My father and I get our tweeds on and head over in the cold to peruse the barns full of pines in search one of with the ‘right shape at the bottom’ (something which my father is exasperatingly anal about) whilst nursing a polystyrene cup of the tongue-blistering but delicious (and decidedly mandatory) hot apple punch that the farm brews for its customers – a secret recipe naturally.”
Aleksandar Cvetkovic is a full time student at Oxford University. He is also a self confessed dandy, tailoring enthusiast and connoisseur.