Our Christmas world tour begins with a stopover in Great Britain to meet Katharine DeFrance. This English mother, married to a Frenchman, shares with us the Christmas traditions which she is delighted to pass on to her children.
My name is Katharine and I 40 years old. I have three children 7, 5 and 2 years old. I live in a small medieval market town in the south-west England. My husband runs a cafe.
What is the meaning of Christmas for you? And as a mother, what do you want to transmit to your children?
Christmas is a time for family. As environmentalism is a key part of our family philosophy we try to do activities that are about experiences and not acquisition in the run-up to Christmas. We have built up family traditions with friends and family. So we go to the theatre and this year we have also been to a Christmas cabaret and circus skills workshop.
There is lots of making. A wreath is made and hung on the front door. We send Christmas biscuits to friends and family that the children make and post them with a note in place of the more traditional Christmas card. We have an advent calendar marking down the days til Christmas. Various foodstuffs are prepared. I make a Christmas pickle with dried fruits. And of course the obligatory mince pies. My mum makes Christmas cake, which is a fruit cake which is iced. She also makes Christmas pudding another fruit cake but which is the round and decorated with a sprig of holly. At the Christmas meal cognac or brandy is poured on it and then set alight to be carried to the table flaming. It is served with brandy butter. Both cakes need to be made well in advance. The tradition is that a coin is hidden in the pudding to be found by some lucky person. We have a Christmas tree we hold off decorating it to a few days before Christmas.
We are a Quaker family so certain ideas are really important to us, notably peace, equality, justice. I try to encourage our children to be reflective and think of others. I encourage this throughout the year but certainly at Christmas time the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ are accentuated whilst I think it is important for the kids to be aware of this I don’t want them weighed down by it. Focusing on gratitude for our great fortune; the community around us, our friends and our family is one way of doing this.
I also want them to feel joyful and have fun. On Christmas Eve I string up some hidden bells that I jingle which send the children running round the house looking for Father Christmas’ sleigh.
What is your Christmas tradition ? What do you cook specially on Christmas Eve?
In Britain we have our main Christmas meal on Christmas day. It will be a roast of some sort, traditionally turnkey. Due to this Christmas Eve is often a fish dish such as salmon or a honey roast gammon. We will put out something for Father Christmas, such as a whiskey and biscuits and for his reindeer, carrots. The children will hang their stockings. The adults will probably watch a film and wait indefinitely til excited children fall asleep.
In the morning stocking will be opened. And some of the presents. We will then go to Quaker meeting and come back about midday and have our Christmas dinner with of course Christmas crackers. This is an obligatory Christmas tradition. We will have have party games such as charades. The children might want to play with their new toys. My mother if she is staying with us will want to watch the Queen’s Christmas Speech. In the afternoon watch a film or stretch our legs for a brief walk before a light supper.