I have never written a book about Christmas but I have included Christmas scenes simply because I love this time of year. As a child, raised in England, there was nothing to touch the joy of Christmas…the build up was beyond magical and it was so much less commercial during the 60s and 70s. For us it was that moment when all the Christmas paraphernalia came down from the loft and watching Dad test the fairy lights was also fraught with tension. Would they work this year? When they twinkled into life we’d cheer and I’d know Christmas for our family had begun. In England it was appropriately cold, often snowy, so that added to the lustre and the fires were always burning brightly. Feasting was always on our family’s agenda and our gatherings were never intimate – lots of aunts, uncles, cousins, plenty of advocaat action or warming brandies, ridiculous amounts of food and music, dancing, laughter.
Chocolate, one of the big drivers in my life, was a big player at Christmastime in our lives. Mum would buy the obligatory huge tin of Quality Street that would only get opened on Christmas Eve, which I’d climb into and never want to leave, searching for all green triangles and purple hazelnut oozy toffees. She’d also buy the delicious chocolate ornaments that we would hang from the tree…dozens of them…and I would eye off for the 12 days leading up to Christmas Day. We were only permitted to take them off the tree on Christmas morning and only after Church. As I grew older, I loved that I was allowed to attend what we called Midnight Mass, which for me was always a more touching, intimate service than the super cheerful morning service. I loved coming out of Church into the night and we’d cut the Christmas cake, our parents would have a nip of something warming to drink, we’d get to feel up our few presents around the tree for opening the next day. It was always a time of such happiness. It still is but I realise now that Christmas celebrations are best enjoyed as a child. When you’re an adult you’ve got to think about the cooking, the entertaining, have we enough chairs, will it be a hot day…can we sit outside or do we need full blast air-conditioning? etc. There are logistics as an adult that no child has to even consider. I miss that childist wonder surrounding Christmas but I always did my utmost to ensure our sons enjoyed the same and was known to leave black olives around the house that I claimed – and they believed – were reindeer droppings!
Ooh, which of my characters would I have over for Christmas? Saxon Vickery I think from The Tea Gardens – I found his roguish, almost melancholy personality irresistible; I think I’d have to have Katerina Kassowicz from The Pearl Thief because she is so intriguing. Rafe from The Last Dance is an enigma and perhaps Lisette from The Lavender Keeper who went through so much and I feel I owe her … only readers of The French Promise will know why I say that J
One of the aspects, as an adult, that I personally enjoy about Christmas is the passing of the baton. My mother for the past 50 years, since my granny passed away, has been making the family Christmas pud but Mum who is now 91, has this year suggested that the role is now mine. What an honour. I truly love creating this special dish for the family because it’s made only with love and it has so much family history wrapped around it, starting with its recipe but especially that the special women down the decades from our family are somehow imbued within it.
About the Author
Fiona McIntosh is an internationally bestselling author of novels for adults and children. She co-founded an award-winning travel magazine with her husband, which they ran for fifteen years while raising their twin sons before she became a full-time author. Fiona roams the world researching and drawing inspiration for her novels, and runs a series of highly respected fiction masterclasses. She calls South Australia home.