How to feel festive

Monday, November 25, 2013

It's exactly one month until Christmas and I'm trying to resist the temptation to marvel at the passage of time. I usually prefer to wait until December before I really go completely bonkers, but there's no harm in laying the groundwork a bit early. The 25th of November is a perfectly respectable date to start planning ahead for some festive cheer.

When it comes to heralding the coming of Christmas, I'm a traditionalist. Don't even talk to me about Starbucks red cups. It's a miracle of modern marketing that drinking an overpriced coffee from a disposable cup sold by a tax-avoiding mega-corporation has somehow come to embody the season for a worryingly large segment of the population.

(Top tip: if you want a wintery hot drink that actually tastes nice, forget the pumpkin spice crap and try the Scots pine and smoked salt hot chocolate that Urban Angel are serving up at the St Andrew Square Scottish market, or have a hot toddy from the Royal Dick instead. Delicioso.)

If it takes more than a Christmas-themed beverage to get you in the mood, here are three things you can plan right now that will have you feeling more festive than a dog in a Santa hat come December, according to this fool-proof formula: doing something fun + helping other people = warm fuzzy Christmas glow.

1. Buy a tree + help the homeless

We've been buying our Christmas tree from Caring Christmas Trees for years and would never buy it from anywhere else. The quality is lovely, you can pick it up at a time that suits you, and the profits go to a wonderful cause.

The trees aren't cheap, but guess what? CHRISTMAS TREES ARE EXPENSIVE. One year, we thought it would be cheaper to buy our tree from one of the slightly dodgy-looking roadside sellers, which sold trees by the foot. It ended up costing exactly the same, the quality was rubbish, and the money went straight into someone's pocket instead of going towards helping Edinburgh's homeless. Where's the Christmas cheer in that?

If you live in Aberdeen, Dumfries, Dundee, Perth, Edinburgh, East Lothian, Fife, Glasgow or South East London, I can't recommend Caring Christmas Trees enough. We've volunteered as tree distributors with them for several years, so here's a little inside info: most of the trees are a good 6-10 inches taller than they say they will be. If you're torn between two sizes, go for the smaller one. You'll get extra height for your buck (except with the 4 foot trees, but what they lack in height they make up for in girth, being practically spherical). You have to order in advance, so buy your tree now.

2. Learn a new skill + support independent businesses

Two of my favourite florists are running festive floral workshops this year and I couldn't be more excited, not least because all of the classes also involve cake.

For the Glaswegians, the very talented and lovely Sophie of I Heart Flowers is running a Christmas wreath workshop THIS THURSDAY at the Hidden Lane Tearoom (which sounds like it should be in a Harry Potter novel, but is in fact on Argyle Street). For more information and to book your spot, click here (and to see more of Sophie's amazing skills, check out this shoot that we did together).

Those of you on the East coast can join in the fun with Pyrus, run by creative geniuses Fiona and Natalya. They have classes on various dates in December, held in gorgeous venues in Edinburgh and East Lothian, where you can learn to make wreaths and garlands and even go out and pick your own foliage. Full details and booking information here.

3. Sing carols + help people with breast cancer

I love carols. Love love love them. The one sad thing about getting married in July was that we couldn't have 'Hark! The Herald Angels Sing' and 'O Come All Ye Faithful' as our wedding hymns. Apparently it's a bit weird to want Christmas carols at your summer wedding. Whatevs.

To compensate for this tragedy I try to sing carols at every possible opportunity, so obviously I had to buy tickets for Carols by Candlelight at St John's Cathedral in support of Breast Cancer Care. If there's one thing I love nearly as much as carols, it's candles, and if there's one thing I love more than either of those things, it's supporting people affected by breast cancer. Done deal.

Londoners, fret not - there's a carol concert for you, too. Breast Cancer Care are also holding a carol concert at St Paul's Cathedral, and they've only gone and got Simon bloody Callow to do a reading. I'm totally not jealous, though. Not even a little bit.

So, there you go. Three easy ways to get into the Christmas spirit. I'm interested, what is it that triggers that festive feeling for you?  The John Lewis Christmas advert? Your first glass of mulled wine? The compulsory appearance of sparkly dresses in every shop window? Please don't say the red cups.


Image: Ling Design charity Christmas cards, £2.99 for 6 from John Lewis (bonus points if you noticed the Christmas tree, the wreath, the carol singers and the dog in a Santa hat).

12 boats moored

  1. My dirty little secret is that I kind of love Christmas. As a singer I get to sing some really beautiful music this time of year (wanting carols at your wedding isn't weird at all, I promise) and I love picking which charity to support with a little donation. I'm starting my Christmas shopping tonight.

    Your plans all sound wonderful and that drink sounds fabulous. Our Christmases are usually either sunny and hot or muggy and rainy, so I am rather jealous of mulled wine and hot toddies and other white Christmassy traditions.

    I hope this time of year comes with some serious measures of peace and joy to you and your family, I know it's been a rough year.

    (I think I'm often the first commenter here because your post goes up around my dinner time. Freak of time zones.)

  2. Your Christmas things are the perfect summation of it all for me. Though this year we are moving house so I have no idea what is making me feel festive, or going to make me feel festive apart from when I re-install all the Christmas tunes on my MP3 player and hopefully head to church with my in-laws on Christmas day. But next year I am doing all of the above please.

  3. Thanks Kirsty, you've convinced me to buy a Caring Christmas Tree. No traipsing to a B&Q for the sad ones left at the back of the garden centre area for me this year!
    I was quite excited because the christmas tree was already up in the church for our wedding. Never thought of having carols. Wedding number 2 maybe??

    1. Yay! Trust me, once you've had a Caring Christmas Tree you'll never go back.

  4. You do make me want to move to Scotland! I mean not just today but frequently.

    We buy our tree from a farming family in Suffolk (we spend most weekends in Suffolk) - the family are all so nice and they have everyone out involved. We usually end up with the pre-pubescent son who blushes furiously if anyone speaks to him or looks at him. Bless.

    I sing in a choir so I usually love it most at Christmas - this year we seem to be singing a lot of duff carols. Yes, there is such a thing. If you doubt me, try and find a recording of 'Rustling in the Straw' which is somehow very sinister and always reminds me of Cold Comfort Farm. Although I doubt any other choir would sing it. I'll record it and you can have us singing it with the sound of me sighing as we begin and snickering a bit throughout.

    I do love Christmas - I do not have a religious bone in my body but I love what I guess is the pagan ritual of it all. The smell of mulled booze and Christmas trees (PLEASE tell me that I'm not the only person who sniffs all trees before selecting one), twinkly lights, advent calendars (I have a picture one AND a chocolate one) and the general hedonism of food and drink. I love buying presents and wrapping them beautifully and I quite like getting stuff too! I'd happily embrace the pleasure of cake and flowers but alas, it's too far to come.

    Ho ho ho.

  5. I'n not letting myself get festive until after my birthday on the 30th! That gives me a whole 25 days of getting in the Christmas spirit and I can't wait to crack out the Christmas CD! Definitely don't care about the red cups either though ;') xx

  6. hey chick your link to caring christmas trees isn't working. i want a real tree this year :)


    1. Thanks for letting me know - I think it was something weird with their site, as it's now working for me.

      You should get a real tree, can't beat it! It's a myth that plastic trees are better for the environment, and they definitely don't smell as good.

  7. Great post. I've always wanted to go to a carol concert, it's now on my list of things to do this year.
    Love the idea of Caring Christmas trees - will be trying to find something similar in Suffolk.
    Totally agree on the red cups - when did that become such a thing?

  8. Fantastic post. Absolutely - Christmas cheer is much more than a red cup or a droopy tree. It is our opportunity to love and be loved.

  9. I can't lie, carols were one of our main motivations for having a Christmas wedding. Nothing but Joy to the World could really sum up how we felt walking back down the aisle as a married couple. Yes, I'm a smooshy romantic, what of it?!

    Christmas is my absolute favourite! You've reminded me to investigate a carol service near work, thank you! Also, I'm so going for one of those hot chocolates, it sounds heavenly!


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