the big traditions: the present swap 

There’s just something about traditions. They usually involve meeting up with people you don’t see too often, or doing something you wouldn’t normally do, which is why I absolutely love them.

One of our main traditions around this time of year is with university friends of my parents. Our families have grown up together, but living in separate cities means we only get reunited for special occasions (or the occasional fundraiser!)

The annual pre-Christmas present swap takes place in York, and each family brings a different course. I love it because it’s possibly the only time we are all together and catching up. I’m the youngest ‘child’ at twenty one, and with the older ones in full time jobs (I’m too busy with my MA) we are rarely altogether.

After a couple of rounds of prosecco and some general chit chat, we make our way to the table (adorned with Christmas delights and crackers.) The most prized gift from the crackers is the fortune telling fish, which makes it’s way around the table between courses every year (one of the many traditions of the evening.) It usually assures me I’m independent and then by the time it gets to the end we’ve exhausted it. The poor thing no longer moves.

As well as amazing food (often vegan or vegetarian to cater for everyone) there is hilarious entertainment from the questionably talented Pete and Steve (my dad) who sing a rendition of their classic song ‘Christmas in the Clink’ (which is in its fourth year.) Pete strums guitar and Steve sings the lyrics he’s written to fit the events of the year. We’ve heard everything. We’re all primed to join in with the chorus and are sometimes even allowed to join in with percussion (although the latter not as much.) We joke every year that they should have made Christmas No’1 but it’s yet to actually happen.

This is followed by an orchestrated cacophony of music as we all receive a pitched whistle and become a whistle choir (each numbered so we know when it’s our turn.) Cue a lot of laughter, whistles flying across the room from excessive blowing, and several missed notes. It wouldn’t be Christmas without a ridiculous game of some sort, would it!

We’ll crack open the jokes from the crackers and wear our hats, and then one by one (we’re very diplomatic) we’ll take it in turns to say our joke. This year we even added some of our own.

After dessert, and several more drink top ups, we stay at the table and natter. It’s amazing how many random topics twelve people can talk about. Then out comes the tea and coffee along with a fine spread of chocolates to add to the food baby we’ve grown.

Before you know it it’s half eleven and the night has flown. We usually say our goodbyes over the course of half an hour (is this just us?) We’ll get up from the table and move to the kitchen. Talk. Put on our shoes. Talk. Find the coats. Talk. Collect up all our belongings for the food. Talk. And then remember to swap the presents, the main purpose of being there.

We’re in the car by midnight (on a good night) and then it’s back to Leeds we go, after a little more chatter whilst we load everything into the boot.

It’s the one night that always gets me feeling Christmassy, even if I wasn’t before, and I hope the tradition continues far into the future as it’s definitely one of my favourites.

Do you have any traditions you have at Christmas? Or generally throughout the year?

Let me know!

loce sophur

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