Jane Lacey-Crane at Christmas time!

I love a mince pie. I eat far too many over the festive period and when Christmas is over, I look forward to the time when they appear in the shops again. This is now usually sometime around October, so I have less time to wait but still. So, imagine my dismay when this year, when my trusty favourites – Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Mince Pies – finally hit the shelves, they were sporting the dreaded ‘Brand New Recipe’ sticker! My heart sank. Why had they messed with my beloved pie? What was so wrong with the old recipe? I bought a box and sure enough, the magic was gone. Along with most of the alcohol by the taste of them. What was I going to do? A little voice in the back of my head whispered the most dangerous words a woman like me can ever hear - “Make your own”. I say these are dangerous words because they’ve gotten me into more trouble than you can imagine. Need some curtains for an oddly shaped window? – “Make your own”. Can’t find cushion covers in the colour you want? “Make your own”. Need a dining table that seats ten people but only for Christmas Day? And it has to be round, obviously. “Make your own”, whispers that treacherous little voice. See what I mean? Very dangerous. 

And so this is how you find me now, with too much to do and no time to do it. My ‘To Do’ list would make you weep; in fact, I can feel the tears forming now, even as I think about it. Mind you, that might be the onions I’m chopping for the special Spiced Winter Chutney I’m making because I couldn’t find exactly what I was looking for in the shops, and Nigella says that homemade chutney ‘makes the perfect present for the foodie in your life’. And, at this time of year, if Nigella, or Delia, or Mary, says it, then that’s all the encouragement I need. 

I’ve even foraged the local hedgerows for interesting foliage, ready to create my perfect table centre and evergreen door wreath. Why do I do it? Every year, Christmas Eve finds me exhausted, close to tears, wrestling with holly, rolling out marzipan (to ice the Christmas cake I made back in November and then promptly put away to ‘mature’ and forgot all about!) and boiling my beautiful antique silver cutlery in a pan with tin foil and salt to remove 12 months of tarnish. When other people are kicking back with a festive tipple on Christmas Eve, I will still be buffing my cutlery (that’s not a euphemism) and trying to get the candles in my handmade festive table arrangement to stay upright. 

Do I make life hard for myself? Probably. Would I have it any other way? Probably not. When Christmas Day comes and my (newly built) table looks beautiful, groaning under the weight of all the food, the flowers and the family silver, and it’s surrounded by the people I love most in the world – it will all be worth it. Organising Christmas is a bit like childbirth, I think. At the time, when you’re screaming in agony, you say ‘Never again!’ but then the pain fades and you forget. And twelve months later, you find yourself staring at another massive list of things to do and wondering how you’re ever going to manage.   

So, how ever you choose to celebrate this year, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy and Peaceful New Year!! Now, I’m off to grate some orange zest into shop bought shortcrust pastry so I can pass it off as homemade. I’m not totally mad after all. Much Love xxx