The sixth of December is the Feast of St. Nicholas, the original Santa Claus. With the pressure building from Hallowe’en onwards to get Christmassy, I always think that this day best marks the beginning of the Christmas season, the day to bow to the inevitable and start decorating the house, beginning with early Christmas cards from friends.
Gradually over the next three weeks we will add everything else: candles in silvered glass holders on top of the piano; paper chains made by the children to string from the ceiling; a little Christmas tree in the playroom, decorated by the boys; old glass baubles hung from the antlers in the front hall; wreaths made of garden greenery and berries on the front doors; armfuls of holly and fir strewn around the house; and finally a huge tree, cut from the estate, in the drawing room. The big tree is decorated by the grown-ups after the boys are in bed, just a few days before Christmas. When it is done, we turn off all the lights except for the ones on the tree and bring in the children in their pyjamas to see it. I must say that the look on their faces as they gaze up at the starry tree is one of my favourite sights of the year.