December already! One of the tasks I got done at the weekend was to bake our Christmas cake - a rich fruit cake with a glass full of brandy poured over as it cools. Later it will be iced with almond paste and royal icing.
Traditional Christmas food doesn't really fit well with the New Zealand climate - traditional British Christmas fare, that is. The whole roast dinner, plum pudding with coins in it, brandy sauce blazing full-on midday meal on a day that is quite likely to be hot and sunny (but not always!). I don't care. Every year, recipe supplements in newspapers and magazines offer all sorts of suggestions for festive summer Christmas menus. The problem is that nothing about them says Christmas to me. If it's not the same meal every year, with something about it that we just don't have on any other day of the year, then it's just a festive meal that we could equally well serve on any other special occasion - a birthday, say, or wedding anniversary.
I think my children feel the same about tradition. One of our family traditions is to put out Christmas stockings. When the children were small, it was our way of keeping them busy with little treats while Mum and Dad enjoyed a lie-in. Then the bigger presents came later. Also, I felt that if Father Christmas filled the stockings, and the bigger presents came from Mum and Dad, it was easier to understand "we can't afford that".
Now they are grown up but they won't give up their Christmas stockings. So last year with budgets tighter, I suggested that everyone buy one item for each other person's stocking. That seemed to add to the fun.
When they were small, they could be filled very cheaply with crayons, balloons, children's scissors, and the like. I grew tired of running out of sellotape, so I started putting a reel of sellotape in each child's stocking, then they all had their own. Eventually we had such ample supplies of sellotape that I left it out one year. My daughter complained. "It's tradition", she said.