My name is Natasha Hinde and I bloody love Christmas. There’s something completely and utterly magical about this time of year: the food, the drink, the get togethers, not to mention the German markets, twinkling lights and piling on all the warm winter woollies you can muster – it sends me into a state of pure and unadulterated bliss.
I’m probably one of the biggest Christmas fans in the HuffPost office. My first taste of a mince pie arrived in October, I’ve had an array of festive decorations on my desk since the start of November and when I received a mini Christmas tree in the post last week, I actually squealed out loud with delight.
When my editor set me the challenge of finding someone who loved Christmas more, I scoffed. After all, who could love it more than me?
Well, it turns out quite a few people, actually. In fact, I feel my love of Christmas pales into insignificance when pitted against these three jolly souls – particularly the guy who celebrates Christmas every single day.
Enter stage right: Andy.
‘I just want to do something that makes me feel happy’
Andy Park, otherwise known as Mr Christmas, has been celebrating the festive event every single day for the past 25 years now, which – I have to hand it to him – shows serious commitment.
The jolly chap from Melksham in Wiltshire said his family thinks he’s “a bit crackers” (pun 100 per cent intended, how we chortled), but he wouldn’t change his habit for the world.
“I see so many people around that look so fed up with life and I think: ‘Oh I would hate to be like that.’ I just want to do something that makes me feel happy,” he told me.
A typical day for 51-year-old Andy sounds dreamy to a lot of Christmas fans, but it could pretty swiftly turn into a ‘Groundhog Day’ nightmare.
He gets out of bed at 8am, rushes downstairs and has a cup of tea. He’ll then eat multiple mince pies for breakfast with a snifter of sherry (not the most nutritious start to the day), before sitting down and opening the Christmas present he has purchased and wrapped for himself the day before.
As an electrician, he’ll attend two or three jobs fixing household appliances in the morning, before heading home and preparing his Christmas dinner (which is more of a lunch, actually). Most days, he’ll cook turkey but sometimes he switches it up for chicken or roast pork – with all the trimmings, of course.
Andy is a huge fan of sprouts.
At 3pm he’ll watch a Queen’s Christmas Day speech (he’s got 25 recorded from previous years, so it’s a case of whichever takes his fancy) and he’ll devour his Christmas dinner while watching it. “Other than that I’ll just chill,” he said. “If I see anyone walking by I’ll invite them in for a mince pie or glass of sherry.”
Mr Christmas often nips to the shops in the afternoon to get himself a present for the following day which he’ll put under the tree (he has a few he keeps up all year round) and then he’ll settle down to a Christmas movie or some festive hits.
“I’ve loved Christmas for a long time, ever since I was a child,” he said.
Asked if actual Christmas Day is any different to the others, he pondered for a moment. “It’s not really. Only the fact there are more people out there celebrating Christmas alongside me.”
Remember that heatwave during the summer? Well, Andy continued his festive celebrations throughout. And no, he wasn’t even tempted to have a salad.
What is it that you love the most about Christmas? I like the lights, all lit up nicely, the trees glisten at you when you come in.
Tell me about the decorations up in your home right now? In the living room I’ve got really nice decorations. I’ve got lots of lovely, very classy bits of tinsel on the ceiling. I’ve got things hanging from the ceiling, like little Christmas men and snowmen. I’ve got an upside down Christmas tree and, in the conservatory, I’ve got a white Christmas tree which is always lit up nicely. I’ve got candles around, although they’re not real ones (they’re battery operated) for safety reasons. And I’ve got lights right around the border of the house.
Do you have a favourite Christmas film? I’ve got a couple actually: ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ and ‘Santa Clause The Movie’. They’ve always got ‘Mrs Doubtfire’ on at Christmas which makes me laugh.
“I tried to be subtle about it at first”
Alexa Cobbold was nominated as a Christmas-obsessed-contender by her long-suffering colleague James, who has been enduring her festive ways for months now. “I have been trying to dissuade her from playing Christmas music in the office since October,” he told me in an email. “There are currently Christmas lights around her monitors and the release of the Greggs Festive Bake was marked in her calendar for weeks in advance”.
This, combined with the long list of Christmas films Alexa has already got through and the fact she first broke out the mulled wine in early November, led James to suggest: “She’d give you a run for your money.”
Well, sir, I think you might be right.
Alexa, who has loved Christmas “since forever”, said she starts getting excited about it in September. “I have been know to watch ‘The Muppets Christmas Carol’ then,” the 29-year-old from York admitted.
“I’ve had twinkle lights on my computer since the start of November and I recently invested in a new Christmas mug for work (my yearly tradition),” the senior PR strategist said. She even implemented “Mariah Carey Mondays” at the start of November on her drive to work to help alleviate the Monday blues.
At work, she’s been stealthily sneaking Christmas songs on to the office playlist. “I tried to be subtle about it at first,” she said. “But actually they all seem to be on board with it now we’re past mid-November.”
She loves making advent calendars, too, it’s a bit of a hobby. By mid-November she had one ready for her colleagues, plus one each for her mum, brother and boyfriend.
What is it that you love the most about Christmas? Family and friends! I love that you get to catch up with people you may not have seen since last Christmas. I love the festive season too, everyone is so much kinder to each other and so much friendlier.
What’s your favourite Christmas food? And drink? My mum’s sausage meat stuffing has got to be in my top five for sure. Otherwise, pigs in blankets, cheese boards and gingerbread. Drinks-wise, mulled cider with a dram of whiskey in it has got to be a firm favourite.
What are you most excited for this Christmas specifically? Everything! The work Christmas party, secret Santa, Christmas with my family, baking Christmas cookies, Christmas Eve at the pub, buying gifts for my family and my boyfriend, a Boxing Day walk, 12 days off work and everything that comes in between. It’s going to be pure magic.
“I’m making up for lost years”
Unlike Andy and Alexa, food writer Jack Monroe has had a turbulent relationship with Christmas. “I loved it as a child, hated it as a single mum on the dole, and now absolutely love it,” Jack said. “I think I’m making up for some lost years.”
The excitement begins as early as July when they start attending Christmas press events (unavoidable for anyone working in the food industry). “I start on my own material in late summer,” said 31-year-old Jack, who is bringing out a new book, Tin Can Cook, in 2019. “So I guess half my year has some form of Christmas in it somewhere!”
Things begin to feel properly festive when Jack, who lives in Southend-on-Sea, catches a glimpse of the first Christmas trees on display in the shops. “It makes me want to run home and put my own up,” they said. Speaking of which, Jack’s trees went up in mid-November – and yes, there’s more than one of them.
“This year I have three trees in my lounge, and they are all different,” they said. “One is decorated with gold baubles, one is bare because I haven’t decided what to do with it yet, and one is entirely decorated with birds. That’s my favourite, but don’t tell the other two.
“I am toying with getting two more trees, but I’ll wait and see.”
While there are no set family rituals on Christmas Day, Jack always makes sure the following is on the cards: a trip to see the parents, watching ‘Love Actually’ and singing ‘Fairytale Of New York’ (“I’m always Shane”).
When Jack lived in poverty as a single mum, Christmas “represented an ideal life” which they didn’t have. “Now I have a job and a living wage and I’m finally feeling a bit settled, my Christmas love has dialled up. Not for the material aspect, but for finally being able to relax enough to enjoy it.”
Jack is excited to be able to buy their eight-year-old son presents that aren’t from second-hand stores, charity shops or Poundland. “Most still will be, because it’s so ingrained in me to not be wasteful now, but being able to get him some new things feels liberating,” Jack said. “Being able to give my son a fantastic Christmas after several very shitty ones, well, that’s going to be the greatest gift of all.”
How does the build up to Christmas make you feel? Nervous, excited, gleeful, impatient, hungry.
What is it that you love most about Christmas? Catching up with people I haven’t seen enough of over the year – I am a feeder and natural hostess, so I will invite many groups of friends and families to come and hang out with us in December for a good feed and to reconnect with people.
Describe your dream Christmas in three words: Warm. Safe. Full.