The 24th saw us up bright and early (OK, cloudy and early-ish) and off to the gym to get ourselves warmed up for the season's fun and festivities.
We worked pretty hard and thoroughly enjoyed it, then went for a large, satisfying cuppa at our lovely, welcoming local greasy spoon cafe to wish them a Happy Christmas before going home to bacon and eggs for breakfast which set us up nicely for the day.
The afternoon was relatively relaxed and quiet as we had made plans for the evening. These plans were a little unusual for us, as they included meeting up with a bunch of strangers and concentrating single-mindedly upon food. Yep, you read that quite right. We planned to devote our festiveness (is that a word?) to all things edible. When I said 'stuff Christmas', had we gone Christmas crackers?
Well no, not exactly.
What we actually did was meet up at a church hall with a group of willing volunteers from all walks of life and started peeling and chopping megatons of carrots, also rather significant quantities of parsnips, butternut squash and swede to roast. Together we prepared a gazillion Brussels sprouts, made humongous quantities of piggies in blankets and stuffing balls, boiled up a gigantic cauldron of creamed sprout, leek and potato soup, and cut up two lovely bits of prime beef and veg for massive pots of beef stew to slow cook overnight. We generally got ready for Christmas Day, when dinner was to be cooked and served to up to a hundred and fifty people at two venues.
When I say dinner, I'm not just talking turkey. This was to be a serious dinner - there was the soup (with croutons and crispy bacon lardons too) and an array of lovely appetisers, both veggie and carnivore friendly, and then the full nine yards of roast turkey dinner with all the trimmings.
There would be roast gammon or the beef stew (and Yorkshire puds) for those who didn't want the traditional roast bird, fresh salmon or bass for those who didn't eat meat, and a variety of veggie options too. And that's before we even get as far as puddings. Not only was there to be the obligatory Christmas pud and mince pies, but loads of other delights, including lovely fresh fruit to dip into a chocolate fountain!
While we chopped and stirred and seasoned on Christmas Eve, outside the kitchen the church hall was being transformed into a Christmas wonderland, with a tree, tinsel, crackers, pretty lights and beautifully decorated place settings. Similar decorative arrangements were going on at the other venue, but since there isn't as big and well equipped a kitchen at that one we were preparing the food for both sites. Busy, busy, busy, and we got home around ten o'clock with interestingly orange hands from all those carrots!
Then, before we knew it, we were right back to the kitchen around nine thirty on Christmas morning. From then on we cooked, and carved, and served, and cleaned up and thoroughly enjoyed being a small part of this very special event. It was full on and we didn't sit down for a moment, but didn't even think about it until it was all over and we finally left to go home just after seven in the evening. It was great and the other volunteers were wonderful people. Every one of them worked as hard as possible to make the day as happy and successful as it could be... and a success it was!
This was all done, in the true spirit of giving, for everyone - people of different ages and faiths, for single parent families, for couples, for single men and women, for the homeless, for the elderly - for anyone who would otherwise have been alone, lonely, or needy at Christmas. What's more, this plethora of goodies was provided free of charge by an amazingly caring and generous woman, Mo Fayose. You can read more about her HERE.
Yep, we 'stuffed' our Christmas with joy, and friendship, and hard work and had fun doing whatever needed doing. In part, our gift was a sense of satisfaction in a job well done. Other gifts came from seeing the faces of the people who came to the dinner, and from those who popped their heads into the kitchen to thank us sweaty volunteers for sharing Christmas with them.
If I'm honest, I find Christmas a wee bit difficult these days - not least because I miss my darling Mum a lot. But this year I know she would have been so proud of the pair of us. That in itself was the greatest gift of all, and something that made this fat lass very, very happy.