The cost of Christmas can easily run away from you. The pressure to get the best of everything for everyone can be a temptation which is very difficult to resist. Interest free buying adds another dimension to the temptation. A few years ago after receiving a ridiculous number of presents, most of which we didn’t need, we decided things needed to change for us. We’d lost sight of what Christmas is really about.
My childhood memories about Christmas centre around time with my family. Other than the year I received a cot for my doll which I was desperate to get, I can’t remember any other present I received. What I do remember is the excitement, the anticipation, making memories and family traditions. We always had a stocking which had satsumas, chocolate and shiny new 1 and 2 pence pieces in it. I loved delving into the bottom of my crimson stocking and would have been quite happy with just that.
My parent’s weren’t particularly well off so we didn’t get big extravagant presents. I’m glad we didn’t as I loved opening lots of little things. I’d always make sure I took my time so I had presents left to open after my sister had opened hers. That drove her nuts but I managed it every year!
I wanted our adult Christmases to be more like that. Presents should show someone how much you care about them and that you’ve taken time to get something just for them. It doesn’t have to be big or expensive. I’ve always loved to bake and had been experimenting with making chocolates so I decided that rather than buying presents for our families, I’d make them a hamper. It’s been about 7 years now since I started making them and I know that the time and effort I put into them is appreciated much more than an expensive pile of presents ever was.
My sister and I made some things together in a pre-Christmas baking day. We’ve had some epic failures as well as some fabulous makes. We’ve damaged beyond repair several pans and tins trying in vain to make fudge. Our biggest fudge fail was when the mixture set like concrete in the pan. Needless to say, the pan and it’s contents went in the bin and we haven’t tried to make it since.
For quite a few years we made lemon curd which was completely divine. We’ve also tried our hand at jam and chutney as well as various cakes, cookies and chocolates. Unfortunately, we don’t have as much time as we used to so the repertoire has reduced somewhat, but I still love making them. This year has been the start of a new tradition because little Miss will be able to help. Baking with her is a lovely way for us to spend time together. She’ll happily chop her pear pieces with her spoon while I do things she can’t help with.
We’ve made a start this year with chocolate cornflake cakes as she’s going to give them and some peppermint creams to her nursery teachers for Christmas gifts. She loves the whole process from choosing and counting out the cupcake cases, to mixing the ingredients and cleaning the bowl out at the end. That is definitely her favourite part!
For a lot of years I made cinnamon and apple cupcakes, but a few years ago I discovered a delicious gingerbread recipe in a Sainsbury’s magazine and have been making those ever since. They are utterly delicious. It’s the only gingerbread recipe I’ve come across with apple sauce as an ingredient. It seems like an odd thing to add, but it keeps the sponge lovely and moist and light. With a creamy chocolate butter icing and mini gingerbread decorations, they have been a popular entrant in the hampers.
Little Miss and I are going to make peppermint creams and this Christmas rocky road from a Nigella recipe. She’ll love bashing the biscuits and then mixing everything together. I usually make cookies using one of Nigella’s chocolate or cranberry recipes, but this year we’re going to break with tradition and make gingerbread men so that little Miss can decorate them.
I’ve been making chocolates for quite a few years, not just for the hampers but as birthday gifts too. They take a bit of time but are well worth the effort. I’ve experimented and adapted lots recipes to make my own flavours. My favourites are lemon creams based on a limoncello truffle recipe by Hope and Greenwood. It took a lot of attempts to perfect them, but it was well worth it because they are delicious. My mum makes Christmas cake slices for the hampers which I ice and decorate so it truly is a family affair.
I’ve always loved the magic and sparkle of Christmas. Seeing how much people enjoy the hampers and appreciate the time and effort we’ve put into them is what Christmas is all about. You don’t need lots of money for expensive gifts. Simple and thoughtful is definitely best as is creating traditions that everyone will enjoy and cherish. Making memories with the ones you love is what it’s all about. Christmas really doesn’t have to be expensive and it is much more satisfying when isn’t.