I’m Russian Orthodox, so we celebrate Christmas on Jan 7 and Father Christmas visits my children that night. It’s terribly complicated in terms of Advent calendars – I have to work out when to start them to make it to Russian Christmas.
As part of my religion, we fast for the whole of Advent – which means eating vegan, although the children do have milk products and fish because they’re still growing. It’s a challenge, as there is so much commercial hoo-ha going on, but it makes Christmas so much more meaningful and we start the new year feeling fresh rather than in need of a detox.
As my mother is English, we also celebrate in the traditional way at my parents’ farmhouse in the country, where everything is beautiful and homespun. One of the only good things about being a single parent is that I can spend every Christmas like this. We have croissants for breakfast, and open presents at teatime and dress up for dinner, where we eat off pale green Georgian china that only comes out once a year.
As a child, I always made presents and my children do this, too – this year they’re into embroidery and my mother has made one of my son’s drawings into a card.
On Boxing Day we have a massive family reunion and play charades, and perform vignettes and songs. Nothing has changed at all since I was a child 40 years ago, which is very reassuring.
The children are at a French school, so they’ll go back a few days before Russian Christmas and then I’ll pull them out again. We’ll go to church in the middle of the night by candlelight and they’ll be excited all over again. Russian church is so spiritual and moving; I hope I’m creating memories.