It's not that I have anything against Christmas, mind you, and I certainly don't begrudge anyone their Christmas traditions, but I just ... don't feel it. I feel like I am on the outside, looking in through holly festooned windows at other people celebrating the day.
At the danger of sounding like a right old Scrooge, the thing I do not like about Christmas is the spend, spend, spend mentality which seems to take over even the most frugal of people.
It doesn't help that I'm working in the centre of Antwerp, near the city's main shopping street. At this time of year, it's a hazard venturing outside during lunch breaks, as there's a constant threat of being overrun by what I call the Christmas Zombies, who are on a mission to spend their hard earned money on the most useless of presents.
|Family heirloom from Jos's parents|
Still, in spite of all this, I put up a Christmas tree, even if only to display my vintage Christmas ornaments, consisting of family heirlooms as well as flea market and charity shop finds.
The ghost of Christmas past only shows me the odd snippet, which will have to make do as looking through the photo albums of my childhood, there don't seem to be any photographs taken at Christmas.
Having only a very small family (both my parents were only children), we always spent Christmas day at my parents' house, together with both sets of grandparents.
We had a tree, which my mum and I decorated at the start of the Christmas holidays. And we had a nativity scene, peopled by little plaster figurines which had been my mum's since she was a young girl and must therefore date back to the 1940s. The manger itself was made of plywood by my dad, its roof draped with cotton wool snow.
|My mum's 1940s nativity set|
On Christmas, my dad picked up both sets of grandparents for a family get together.
Presents were exchanged, but apart from one year when I got a much coveted Barbie outfit, I can only remember boxes of chocolates and monogrammed hankies.
The women generally had to make do with luxury soaps or cheap cologne, and there were always boxes of cigars for the men.
|A set of my parents' best glasses|
Some kind of sweet white wine, of which I was allowed a sip, and which tasted revolting, was poured in my parents' best glasses.
After I left home, I didn't go home for Christmas for years, spending it with friends instead, or with my ex boyfriends' families, although it wasn't always on the day itself. For many, many years I lived without a Christmas tree or indeed any Christmas decorations at all.
|Icicle decorations which belonged to Jos's parents|
Only after I met Jos, did a sort of Christmas routine enter my life.
We went around to my parents for dinner on Christmas Eve, and we spent Christmas itself, which we re-christened "Pyjama Day", lounging around the house, with just the two of us.
This tradition is still standing, and I wouldn't have it any other way.
After my mum died in 2001, we took over Christmas Eve dinner, first at our house, later at my dad's.
Now that my dad is no longer with us, there will be another shift in our traditions, which feels a little strange but liberating at the same time.
Whatever your Christmas traditions are, I am wishing you all a happy and stress-free one!