Relatives of ours live in a big old arts and crafts style house, with dark wood paneling, a large hall, a carved stairway balustrade and a big stone fireplace. It’s a bit dark inside for my taste, but when it is decorated up for Christmas each year it somehow becomes a magical place. They have a tall and heavily decorated Christmas tree in the hall, and lots of extra twinkling lights around the stairs and along the old-style picture rails and panels. With the fire going and the main lights dimmed, it is a scene right out of a one of those traditional Victorian Christmas cards.

Their home has become a focal point for Christmas celebrations for their family and close friends. Early on Christmas morning it has become a tradition that several families gather there and stack their Christmas gifts under the tree to make an impressive colorful pile. We all stay on for a Christmas morning brunch around the fire before thoughts turn to the preparations for Christmas dinner. The highlight of the morning, of course, is the opening of the presents.

A few years ago one of the granddads was persuaded to dress up as Santa in a Santa suit to hand out the Christmas presents from under the Christmas tree. He chose a traditional red velvet Santa outfit, with white trimmings, a large white beard, a broad black belt and black boots. It was bought ready made, and was excellent quality for a very affordable price. He has a little hand bell as well, to call everyone to attention. He kind of looked like a jovial Father Christmas even without a Santa costume, and carried the role off brilliantly to the great delight of all the kids. Having Santa Claus himself hand out the Christmas gifts added enormously to the pleasure to be seen on the faces of the children. A very realistic Father Christmas as the focus of attention made the Christmas morning gathering a very special annual event that everyone looked forward to for weeks ahead.

The Christmas costume idea was such a hit that everybody now at least wears a Christmas hat of some kind, mostly Santa hats in various styles, elf caps with big ears or reindeer antlers. There have been a few variations from these traditional themes, like the occasional Grinch from the Dr Seuss books and the movie, or Jack Skellington from the Nightmare Before Christmas movie. Even the family pet has his Santa dog hat.

Last year, one of the younger mothers who helps Santa sort through the gifts arrived in a very fetching sexy Christmas costume in red and white. There has been much speculation among the menfolk as to whether this new fashion will inspire the other Moms to join her this year.

The granddad has so enjoyed being a Santa he has also worn his Santa costume to help out with a children’s hospital visit and has a couple of other community Christmas activities scheduled before Christmas as well.