died Christmas has been a much more low key affair in our house. It was my mother who put up and decorated the small artificial tree which had belonged to her mother. It was my mother who put out the nativity set. It was my mother who wrote the seemingly endless Christmas cards. It was my mother who went off to Christmas lunch with her church Guild, her Probus group, her sewing class, her two lunch groups etc.
My father would retreat to the shed and finish making Christmas presents. He would make sure the front garden stayed reasonably tidy whilst also watching over his tomatoes etc in the back garden.
Mum liked Christmas. It was another excuse to socialise. She would even do a little baking so as to have biscuits to exchange with friends and neighbours.
My father and I do very little of that. I do not know where the tree is. The nativity set is now at my sister's place. It is a family heirloom but I am not going to have children so she uses it for her now grown up children who may one day have children of their own.
My father and I respond to Christmas cards if they are sent to us and I send a very few to people I care about who live abroad. I avoid Christmas lunches, Christmas "drink" parties etc.
As I have neither a licence to drive or a car and the taxi service is unreliable at best (and often non-existent) I just quietly excuse myself if invited.
But I do head into the kitchen and do some Christmas baking. I make shortbread and gingerbread biscuits. I make mince pies for my father and Christmas cake for my sister - who does no baking at all. I make "honey crackles" for the children to eat one cornflake at a time.
I am hopeless at icing cakes or decorating biscuits.
The biscuits get done up in cellophane bags printed with holly and tied with curling ribbon. I get pleasure in gradually giving away these to people who have helped us during the year.
And, every year since my mother died, we get a Christmas cake given to us. Our friend Polly arrives with "the friendship cake". It is delicious. It is iced to perfection. She is an artist. She also makes her own cards. This year's card was navy blue with silver stars and greeting. It is a work of art, as is the cake.
We will not cut it before the New Year. For my father part of the pleasure is to look at it, snow white icing, red writing. It is much more than the physical cake that gives him pleasure. It is the unspoken message "you matter to me".
I feel the same way about the biscuits. I could go out and buy shortbread or chocolates or some other item. I could go off to lunches and drinks. It would not be the same. I want to make things and, in doing so, tell people they matter.