Christmas with the McAllister* family

After the year we’ve had, there’s a lot of talk about celebrating a ‘normal’ Christmas this year. But is there really such a thing?

Across the UK, many families will be celebrating in December with their favourite food, their preferred time to share gifts and their own traditions. The chances are that no two households will celebrate in exactly the same way.

As we recognise that sometimes Christmas, New Year and other holidays need to look a little different for the families of care-experienced children, we want to celebrate the beauty and the joy in the fact that there’s really no such thing as a ‘normal’ Christmas.

"My favourite part of Christmas is the food. Mince pies and mulled wine while wandering around a Christmas market, a cheeseboard to accompany a cheesy Christmas movie, those sugary drinks that are always on offer around Christmas time – we love those in our house. Then, of course, we have the big meal itself. Each member of my family has a different favourite element; I am all about the stuffing, my husband is a sucker for pigs in blankets, my youngest son could eat a mountain of mashed potatoes and my daughters usually end up fighting over the last Yorkshire pudding!

The thing about Christmas, though, is that it brings disruption to any kind of existing routine. School timetables go completely out of the window, there are Christmas parties and carol services and extra practices for those kinds of things, there are visits to family and from friends. My adopted children really rely on the stability of their routine, and so at this time of year they find themselves feeling absolutely exhausted. We’ve had to work out and be strong about what we say yes to, and what we decline. We have to focus on maintaining routine and structure wherever we can, and preparing our children for the change that might be inevitable.

One of the most significant things that we have to keep consistent for my older son – whose favourite part of Christmas dinner was notably missed from the list above – is food. It doesn’t matter if it’s Christmas Day or any other day of the year, he will have the same breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. So depending on whether we eat our Christmas dinner for lunch or for tea, he will either have chocolate spread sandwiches, a Pepperami and an apple, or chicken nuggets with Quavers. He probably won’t sit at the table because there will be a lot of strange smells, and if he does choose to be in the room with us then he’ll probably be on a bean bag near the table. He will always join us in enjoying the sugary Christmas drinks though – like I said, we love those in our house!

It’s not the picture-perfect dinner that you see on a Christmas card. We don’t do crackers, because of the loud noises – which to be honest, is a relief for me, having grown up in a home where you had to wear your paper hat for the whole of Christmas lunch! But it’s us; our beautiful, wonderful family, Yorkshire puddings, chocolate spread sandwiches and all."

*names changed for anonymity

Date published:
Christmas 2021


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