What I really like about Christmas is listening to other people talking about their traditions. I find it so amazing that just one week or so can result in so many different ways of doing things. From when people put their trees up, to their rituals on Christmas Eve, everyone has just a slightly different way of doing things, meaning that their Christmas is special to them.
After my Dad left when I was 16, Mum and I have only spent 2 Christmases at home. We've always ended up going to my sister's or brother's houses. Whilst this has been lovely, it has more than it's fair share of stresses and means that although it's lovely to be with family, it's never felt like my Christmas because when you're in someone else's house you're living their Christmas instead of your own.
The past 6 years or so have seen Mum and I travelling on Christmas Day down the motorways to wherever we were spending the holiday period, after years of the stress of travelling of Christmas Eve made Mum too nervy to drive when the roads were so busy. Nothing quite takes the shine out of Christmas to have to get up ridiculously early, not to open presents, but to load up the car and shoot off down the motorway (and let's not talk about Christmas 2010 when the weather was so horrific we had to stop because we couldn't see and I had a stress nosebleed all over my new Christmas oufit).
After last year's Christmas at my brother's which saw us being starved by my sister-in-law (Christmas Day is surely the one day of the year where you're not allowed to be hungry?!) Mum and I decided enough was enough - Christmas 2012 would be spent at Mum's house, just the two of us - not because we hate everyone, but because there's no room for everyone at Mum's shoebox.
There was huffing and puffing from both sister and brother but we stuck to our guns and this Christmas saw me genuinely excited for the first time in a long time for the big day. There would be no having to go to church, we would be able to open our presents when we wanted, we could get dressed or not get dressed, watch whatever we liked and eat as much as we could, when we wanted.
Christmas Eve saw me perform my own Christmas ritual - a Lush bath (Dragon's Egg - I can recommend, although it should come with a glitter warning) before slipping into new pyjamas and having a cup of tea with a mince pie.
Christmas Day passed wonderfully - presents were opened, new outfits were put on, some TV was watched, there was no stressing over the cooking of the dinner and most importantly everything was done at our own pace.
Don't get me wrong, it is nice at times to spend the day with family, especially with the wee ones, but this was one of my best Christmases in a long time. Life in general is stressful and it seems to me that at this time of year you should take some time out and really do what you want to do.
To be honest I needed it this year - as much as I look forward to Christmas, the fact that my life is going to be thrown up in the air again so soon has been looming on my horizon and has made it difficult to concentrate lately. I needed just this one day to enjoy and not have to think and worry about the rather uncertain period that's coming for me. I needed to just savour the certainty that Christmas with just Mum and me would be lovely.
And the best news? A bottle of champagne goes much further when there's only 2 of you sharing it...