I have been thinking about Christmas.
I know, I know… it’s only just August and I don’t suggest we get the decorations out. Neither am I in the habit of doing the whole Christmas in July shebang. It’s just that as part of my dayjob I run a website celebrating English history and traditional English food. Once August rolls around I have to ignore the fact that it’s warm out and I have the scent of roses in my nose the moment I step from my backdoor into the garden, and concentrate on all things Christmas. Google isn’t instantaneous. So if I want to provide holiday cheer, tasty recipes and gift ideas in good time, I have to start when Christmas is really the last thing on my mind.
The first warning comes when someone orders Christmas stocking kits. Those things don’t make themselves. And there are people who are much more organised when it comes to Christmas than I will every be. Once I had my early warning, I get started with the boring jobs: analysing data, looking what was popular a year ago, which gifts and tasty treats are still around and which have been replaced.
While I was buried in that, I realised that none of the Power of Zero books are set in the summer. Job Hunt covers September and October. Ghosts stretches from Christmas to Valentine’s Day. And while House Hunt, starts in April and ends in October and so technically covers the summers months, those months are dealt with in a time slip while Jack is undercover.
Ghosts and Jack and Gareth’s first Christmas together stick in my mind right now since I’m coming up to their second year. Jack’s aversion to the holiday and the way Gareth loves to surround himself with all the people who mean something to him are such opposites, they made for a great bah humbug moment or two while I was writing it.
I can’t quite make up my mind whether I like Christmas or not. The food is great, especially recipes I only get to make once or twice a year. I enjoy experimenting with new ingredients. I like the music, the more medieval sounding the better. And I love dotting lights around everywhere and sitting somewhere quiet in the evenings with just music, candlelight and a glass of something hot, red, and spicy.
If the mix of peace, music, candlelight, baking orange rind and cinnamon represents Christmas, then I’m a firm fan. If it includes battling crowds in the shops, fighting over the last of this year’s fashionable must-haves, family arguments and buying socks…. then I’m not just on the fence. I’m firmly on the other side of it.
But that’s me and for you Christmas may well be something very different. Fortunately, Christmas can be what we want it to be, whether that’s a beach barbecue, a big family party with a heap of presents, a quiet contemplation or an adventure. We spent last year’s Christmas Day on an empty beach in Norfolk with seals and clouds for company, sand underfoot, and a picnic of Christmas pies, apples and beer. It was perfect.
Whatever is going to happen in the next Power of Zero books, I don’t think that Jack will ever love Christmas the way Gareth does, that he’ll ever immerse himself in the festivities for the sheer fun of it. Jack has associated Christmas with loss for too long to embrace it wholeheartedly as something cheerful. He did listen, when Gareth talked about endings being new beginnings and he’s making an effort to change the way he sees the holiday, along with a lot of other things. No doubt, Nico and Daniel will help and there’s one thing I’m pretty sure of: there will be no drama and no big family arguments when Jack, Gareth, Nico and Daniel celebrate Christmas. There will, however, be mountains and mountains of delicious food.
And since there’s still time, I’ll better go on a diet before I sit down to write that!