Is it the presents? Is it the grub? Is it the booze? Is it – well it SHOULD be – a celebration of our Lord, Jesus Christ? Well, of course, it's all of the above, but we are all individuals and Christmas means different things to different people. So here's what makes Christmas, Christmas for me.
I'm sure my wife has an inkling of what I've got her, and I could hazard a guess about what she's got me, because I've dropped enough unsubtle hints by sending her links to online stores, but we still keep the pretence going right until the big morning. I've got my eye on that bottle-shaped parcel under the tree. I wonder what it can be? I hope it's a guitar.
A FULL FRIDGE
'Tis the season to keep spending and spending and spending. As if World War Three is going to start next week. Stock up, lock up, scoff. I've developed some fantastic recipes and tips for Christmas leftovers so NOTHING goes to waste. Fancy turkey korma? Or Thai sprout curry? Tune in next week.
THREE WISE KIDS
Christmas really wouldn't be Christmas without the three stars of my life. And, thankfully, that means Christmas will be extra special this year – because my stepdaughter will be here on the Big Day. My wife and my stepdaughter's real dad alternate 'sharing' the Christmas chick each year, and in 2012 it's our turn to have the pleasure of her company.
From the day of advent on December 1st to the kids' first day back at school some time in January, the whole of the festive period feels like a tornado of travel and hassle – and I love it.
Highlights this year have been buying a tree too big for the living room (so I had to take a hacksaw to the top) and hardly ever being in when the postman calls with the packages from Santa, which has involved spending more time that I care to think about in the local sorting office.
My five-year-old did an Egyptian dance at his Christmas play (don't ask) and - of course - it was the cutest thing I, or any other parent in the history of parenting had ever seen. At the end, the head teacher said the school could have made a fortune by charging mums and dads a fiver to watch the year's most tear-jerking spectacle, until I pointed out that one school in Sheffield had already tried to charge and was met with moral outrage.
POPPING THE FIZZ... AT 10 IN THE MORNING!
Champagne for breakfast! What could be more ostentatious than that? Calm down, Booze Police, it's only once a year. Hic!
PARTY OF FIVE
In seasons past, we have traipsed around the country, visiting relatives and spending the Christmas Day being waited on hand-and-foot. But after our youngest was born, we decided Christmas Day would always be spent at home
When I was growing up, we had pork for Christmas lunch. And since I left home, I've dabbled with gammon and beef, but never turkey. I've never heard a good word about the monstrous bird.
Five years ago, I decided to give goose a go – and haven't looked back. It is a magnificent piece of natural engineering. Juicy breast, crisp skin, meaty legs – and the most glorious fat for roast potatoes. It is now our once-a-year traditional treat.
If you fancy giving it a go, here's my recipe.
THE CRACKER HAT COMPETITION
We're a competitive family (and quite pathetic, granted) and so every year, once the crackers have been cracked, we each don a paper hat and see who can keep it on the longest. The reigning champ is my wife, who slept in her last Christmas.
WATCHING THE CHRISTMAS DAY FILM ALL CUDDLED UP TOGETHER ON THE SOFA
Can't beat it. Draw the curtains. Dim the lights. Huddle up together and settle down for a dollop of Shrek or Tangled.
But the very, VERY best part of Christmas is seeing my children's eyes light up when they tear off the wrapping from their presents and see that their letters to Santa written a few weeks earlier have been read and acted upon.
Just a shame it takes me four hours to assemble whatever they've been sent, by which time they've moved on to other things.