This year Christmas is going to be different.
It’s going to be new and full of traditions yet to be made.
You see, this year, I’m spending Christmas in Ipswich.
This year I’m spending Christmas with my own family, my Christopher and my Rudey and my Granger, rather than my family at home in Sussex.
It will be the first year in my 26 years that I won’t be spending the day with my dad and my younger brothers, and I’m as excited about feeling like I’ve reached another life milestone as I am slightly apprehensive.
We drove down to the South Coast on Saturday lunchtime. We had pitstop McDonald’s cheeseburgers and we listened to Christmas songs and we took turns in driving. I was marvelling in how little hangover I had after a cocktail-fuelled night out with old friends from university, and Chris was threatening to wee in a bottle if I didn’t make it my main priority to find a service station.
It was jolly.
And then we spent a short but sweet 26 hours in the area which I’ve spent most of my life. We shopped in the local Sainsbury’s whilst I darted my eyes round every aisle like omg is there anyone from school in here?
We ordered takeout and played Monopoly and drank Italian liqueur late into the evening.
We whipped up fancy quinoa and avocado salads and put together a cheese board with Brie-aplenty for the annual extended Gale family get together.
And we played games that have been in our family since the dawn of time, exchanged presents, ate our weight in trifle and then set about the long drive home as Sunday evening set in.
We pulled over about 15 minutes after we’d set off, to stock up on enough water to see us through a hefty 100 mile drive, and there was this moment, this fleeting moment, where I felt a wave of emotion wash over.
I felt sad that my festive time with my brothers and dad and step mum was over so quickly. That I’d not had enough time to breathe it in. That we hadn’t had long enough to irritate each other, to reminisce about Nintendo 64 and building dens and Nickleodeon or to compete over who had made the best sandwich with all the Christmas dinner leftovers.
And just as quickly as that truckload of emotion got dumped on my soul, it disappeared again.
And now? Now I am excited. I am really excited. It feels surreal to be in a place where I can make my own traditions with someone, to celebrate Christmas in our own home at our own pace, just as we like it.
We will be going to Chris’s mum’s on Christmas Day for lunch and games and wine, but the rest is up to us.
We’ve fancy plans for Christmas Eve that involve a drive through the countryside to our favourite bakery, dropping off presents to friends and family, and attempting to whip up some Polish pierogi, which are basically really bloomin’ delicious dumplings.
Dan loves them in Gossip Girl in case you need a snazzy little pop culture reference.
Because Christmas Eve, up until last year, was Polish Christmas – an evening that was spent drinking and eating and lol-ing with my grandparents, before jumping in a cab to the local village pub to catch up with people I havent seen sober since 2005.
So, us cooking pierogi together whilst making cocktails and cracking open a bottle of red, is our way of honouring that tradition.
Of passing down the Polish heritage and keeping it alive, in our own way.
So, although it feels sad to be breaking away from what I know and love, it feels liberating, exciting and grown-up in all the right places, to be doing it our way.
I’m basically sobbing into my train popcorn with excitement about mimosas and smoked salmon bagels in bed with Chris and the cat babies on Christmas morning.
Getting older is sometimes overwhelming and weird and unexpected, but it’s also full of firsts that make you want to raise a glass of something fizzy and expensive to yourself.
So yes, Christmas this year may be entirely different to anything I’ve ever known, but I’m excited to put my stamp on it, and celebrate with my little family at home.
(And mostly, to eat avo on toast in a little pink Suffolk bakery…).