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.
We use to receive a Yule log and bottle of apple brandy from the Naish brothers from the farm next door. They went on to considerable fame as the oldest cider makers in Britain. Harold passed on a few years ago and sadly his younger brother Frank joined him in that great orchard in the sky last month at the tender age of 86.
The production method for their “Calvados” was noteworthy as involved locking themselves in their barn with a barrel of cider, some industrial spirits and a large pork pie to sustain them through blending. Frank said when they woke up several days later whatever was the conclusion of their chemistry was coloured with caramel, bottled and given to their neighbours at Yuletide. Such generosity and neighbourliness showed the true spirit and indeed spirits of Christmas.
Through all the mountains of wrapping paper on Christmas day, I have three brothers and a sister, my main recollection of Christmas and one of the great traditions that has stuck with me is Bubble and Squeak on boxing day.
This is a heady concoction of cut up leftover Brussels sprouts with cubed roast potatoes fried in a searing hot frying pan with a little oil until everything is very lightly charred. This envelopes the whole house in a wonderful aroma that evokes so many boxing days as I was growing up.
The charring is a point of much discussion in our family since I married my wife. To me and my family it imparts something extra and magical, a real punch and a very special flavour to complement cold turkey and jacket spuds. My wife believes, I think, that it is a devilish formulation but as it is Christmas she humours us and just opens a window (or two).
I have fond memories of popping into my Grandfather’s workshop. On the run up to Christmas it always had that special atmosphere, almost like a Victorian wonderland. The smell of fresh leather from the newly sewn boots mingled with the crisp pine of the Christmas tree, a truly sensuous experience, as if the aroma of Christmas was there, just for us.
For me it’s the small handed down traditions that make Christmas time so special. The old hanging Father Christmas decoration that is made from stretchy paper that has hung over my Mother’s fireplace since before I was born. Due to the nature of the paper, Santa’s body is now about 4 times longer that it should be but neither my Mother or my children can bear the thought of it not being up.
Also food traditions – has to be smoked salmon, scrambled eggs, toast and bucks fizz for breakfast and the full monty for lunch. This year there will only be four for the actual lunch as our big day will be on Boxing Day. Having offered my guests any type of food, however unchristmassy, it appears that I have to do the roast turkey with all the trimmings – so no getting away from it.
Lastly one of my enduring memories from a childhood Christmas is eyeing some sugar mice that had been put on the tree. Gradually I started to lick at bits and pieces of them. Come Christmas Day they were just sugar blobs – not a remnant of the mouse was left! I denied responsibility of course but that only left my 2 year old sister and I doubt if my parents really believed my innocence.
Deborah Gayle is the Managing Director of The Refinery in Mayfair