Reminiscing under the mistletoe

During chaotic times, nostalgia and traditions can be a salve — and we could all do with some soothing energy right now!

So we’re indulging in a bit of comforting sentimentality on the blog today. Here are five stories from Tito team members, sharing a family tradition or happy memory we have from the festive season.

Bill on pudding duty

When I was in my early twenties I went to spend Christmas with my three older sisters. Being the youngest and somewhat useless, I was given a free-ride on any organisational chores. My only task was to bring the Christmas pudding for around six people.

As a joke, I bought two puddings. A proper one that was big enough for us all (that I kept hidden) and a tiny one that I proudly presented on Christmas Eve, just at the point where it was too late to go and get another one. It was so small it sat comfortably in the palm of my hand. It looked ridiculous. I looked stupid. They teased me all evening. Even the next morning they were still laughing at me.  

I looked suitably remorseful and foolish. They even started to feel sorry for me. Then, the glorious victory, when I produced the real one. The tables had turned! Now, they were the stupid ones and I was the clever one who had pulled off a memorable prank. 

Revenge is a dish best served with brandy butter and cream.

Illustration of a hand holding a tiny Christmas pudding

Maria’s magical reunion

My family and I have never really been “Christmas people”. In the Keenan household, we like to eat, watch movies, and take naps in shifts on Christmas day, but I never thought anything in that made Christmas day particularly special. 

Enter 2020. 

I haven’t seen my parents since June, and haven’t seen my sister in person since this time last year. 

One thing I’ve taken stock of is that my mum, dad and sister have always lived in the same country for Christmas. Seeing how many folks aren’t as fortunate to be near their loved ones this year puts the privilege of that into perspective. 

Now, being together is, in itself, going to be something magical. 

Come December next year, I’m going to be married, and that puts even more importance on this year’s celebration. Though my partner and I are still to decide on what Christmas will look like when we’re officially each other’s family, it’s more than likely it won’t be the same as what we’ve done in the past. 

While I’m excited by looking forward to that future, of course, it’s put a lot of importance on this year’s quiet family Christmas among just the four of us. Though it’s really six of us if you count the two dogs as family members, which our human family definitely does. 

In short, I’ve gotten used to wearing my pyjamas long into the day in 2020, but getting to do just that which some of the people I love the most will be the best gift I’ll get this festive season, and the one that I’ll be thinking back on the most in years to come.

Illustration of the back of a family sitting on a couch watching Elf on TV.

Paul and the missing gifts

My favourite and longest-standing Christmas memory is mine and my siblings’ descent downstairs. With five kids, Christmas morning was super exciting. My sister and I were the youngest, so we were always up first. Last was always my eldest sister, who was a miserable but good sport for the little ones.

We’d all line up on the stairs and creep down to see what Santa brought. Every year, my dad would open the door, peek in, and say “nothing here, back to bed” before we barged past him and the festivities began.

The one year our parents trolled us further was the year we converted our garage into a second living room. Dad led us to the main living room, peeked in, and said there was nothing there. We all barged in and, well, other than a letter each, there was nothing.

My younger sister was beside herself, and if Santa was watching he would have taken all the gifts back. Of course it turned out that everyone’s pile of gifts was in the new room. I’d say dad is still delighted with himself to this day.

Illustration of a girl looking under a Christmas tree to see no gifts, and some question marks above her head.

Vicky finds a stocking on her foot

Santa liked to make things difficult for himself in our household. My sister and I would hang our empty stockings on the doorknob to our shared room before we went to sleep, and Saint Nick would collect them, fill them up with goodies, and then return to our room and gently place them on our feet. All silently and without waking us up. 

As we’d come to in the early hours, we’d hold our breaths in nervous excitement and gingerly kick our legs around the foot of the bed without daring to look. Only when we felt the familiar heavy feeling and heard the rustling of gifts and sweet wrappers, would we allow ourselves to exhale in relief. It was now officially the best day of the year. It wasn’t an elaborate joke after all (somehow even though Christmas came reliably every 25th December, I continued to believe my luck would one day run out and the holiday would be called off).

Mine and my sister’s loud, frantic whispers to each other would bring our mum into the room instantaneously; she must have been standing sentry ever since Santa’s shift ended, because she always looked exhausted. We’d pull each thing out of our stocking and exclaim over it in wonder, and she would express just as much surprise and delight, as though she didn’t already know the details of the contents. It was truly magical.

Even after we no longer believed in Santa (for me, it was when I heard him go to the bathroom straight after delivering my stocking — I found it hard to believe he would have time for toilet breaks), my sister and I still got a stocking each year from our mum until we were in our twenties. I’m in my thirties and married now, and I’m looking forward to making Christmas magical for my kids one day. Though you can be sure I’ll find a less exhausting way of doing it!

Illustration of a stocking on the foot of the bed, and a door slightly ajar with Santa's shadow in it.

Murray’s symbolic snow globe

I think all families have some odd Christmas traditions, but most people remember how a tradition was started. Unfortunately, I don’t, but to me that doesn’t matter.

Every year since I can remember my Mum takes out two snow globes — one is my brother’s and one is mine. I don’t remember who bought them or when. My snow globe is a sculpture of a mouse wearing a traditional British guard uniform. The sort of uniform you see when you visit Buckingham palace. Of course I think my snow globe is the nicer of the two. Perhaps it’s my favourite because of sibling rivalry, or perhaps because it reminds me of one of my favourite childhood films, Basil the Great Mouse Detective.

Every year I always pick up the snow globe and give it a gentle shake before sitting watching the artificial snow gently fall. As time has passed, the amount of water in the globe has gone down. For years this really bothered me but as I have gotten older I actually like that the water has gone down. For me it is a reminder to love what you have and to accept and embrace change as much as possible.

Unfortunately, this Christmas I won’t see family or gently shake that snow globe. But it’s alright because it doesn’t matter how a tradition was started but the fact that you create your own traditions and embrace them for what they are.

So in these unusual times, go out and do something different. Make your own traditions — whether that be running into the sea naked or drinking champagne in the shower. This year has been anything but traditional so your traditions don’t need to be traditional either.