Monday 16 November 2015

Guest Post: Kate Lord Brown's Five Tips to Survive the Festive Season

Five Tips to Survive the Festive Season
by Kate Lord Brown

Thank you for inviting me to be a guest on 'Reviewed the Book', Sophie!

I love Christmas, and always have, ever since growing up in a beautiful, wild part of the UK near Exmoor. As a child, Christmas meant six foot snow drifts and power cuts, curling up with a good book by the fire in candlelight. Now, I have spent most of the last fifteen Christmases abroad with my family as an expat, and have celebrated in some incredible ways, from picking oranges from the trees around our house in Spain for clove-studded garlands, to barbecuing the turkey in Singapore and singing carols around a live Nativity in the desert (real camels, real baby, the works). Many people are far from home, or from where they grew up at Christmas time, so here are my top five simple tips to surviving the festive season and making it feel like Christmas wherever you are:

1) Fragrance is hugely evocative. It may smell like the desert outside (humid heat and dust), but at home I start burning cinnamon candles as soon as it's December the 1st, and helping the children to stud oranges with cloves is a tradition (if you tie the oranges with ribbon, the pomanders make great gifts, too). Mull some wine or steam some apple juice with star anise, cinnamon, cloves - your whole home smells wonderful.

2) Listen to carols and Christmas tunes which remind you of home, of good times, or being young and in love. Download a great playlist for your commute - this time of the year you will find me bumping along the desert in a 4x4 singing along (badly), to the Pogues, or Carols from Kings.

3) Watch favourite seasonal shows and films, or download ones you remember from your childhood. 'It's a Wonderful Life', 'The Box of Delights' and 'The Grinch' are all dusted off each year. One of my favourite things in the world is lighting a log fire and watching the flames, but we can't have one here. I discovered 'Fireplace Lounge' DVD which the children think is really lame, but it keeps me happy.

4) As an expat, food takes a bit of strategic planning for Christmas, stockpiling Paxo and cranberries if you see them in the months before December because you can be sure there won't be any if you start late. Passing down recipes through the generations is a lovely way to stay in touch if you're far from family - somehow cooking your grandmother's Christmas pudding or your Mum's foolproof gravy makes the miles feel shorter.

5) For some people, Christmas has always been celebrated in summer temperatures, but if you're used to snow and find yourself in the desert, it can be fun to crank up the air conditioning and indulge in soft, slouchy socks and flannel pyjamas. New PJs on Christmas Eve is another tradition which has evolved, and to be honest, I think the children get as excited about that as anything - it's a simple thing but it marks the start of Christmas, wherever we are. Like everything, it's about making the best of your home for now. No chimney? Don't worry, Santa can squeeze down the air con pipes. It's about carrying your sense of 'home' with you, and making new traditions, new memories to take with you.


The Christmas We Met was published October 22, 2015.

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