I've decided that all the usual posts which I write in some kind of series or theme - well, this month they're going festive. I love this time of year and make no apologies for it. The tree's up, the mince pies have been opened and I'm hoping to get some cards written by the end of the week.
Yesterday we went to Hebden Bridge and it was Christmassy in the extreme: a hard frost, bright skies and pretty window displays everywhere. So this post will be accompanied by a selection of the photos I took whilst there. No point trying for atmospheric shots indoors - the sun was short-lived and today we've got leaden skies and sleet showers.
Of course, this Christmas will be bittersweet. My mum won't be with us and there will be moments of sadness, of wishing she could see Joe enjoying it all. But this year he'll have a definite awareness for the first time: presents, treats and special things to eat. And that's something we're excited about.
So, rituals. A modern tradition for the three of us is the festive visit to Hebden Bridge. We set off early and look around the shops and galleries picking up little gifts as we go. We eat somewhere cosy and thaw out for a little before heading back out into the cold. And we drive home over the moors feeling like our Christmas has well and truly begun.
Another ritual (and one Jay isn't too keen on): Christmas music. I usually indulge whilst dressing the tree, baking and writing my cards. I'm more into the Bing Crosby/Frank Sinatra/Dean Martin type of stuff than Slade or Wham! Although they have their place - usually in shops if I have anything to do with it.
Each year I like to bake things like cinnamon biscuits or biscotti. Maybe this year I'll be a bit more adventurous. I'll be writing a whole post on Christmas food as part of my Food Memories series, probably next week.
Speaking of food: I've written a (long) list of what we'll be buying. That will be split down into supermarket staples and the posh stuff. And the latter will be purchased from Booths*. It's an indulgent time of year so why not?
*Kind of like Waitrose but for us Lancastrians.
The Baileys is on standby throughout December and I'll have a measure tipped into my coffee of an evening if I'm feeling that way inclined. It's also a time for cherry liqueur and prosecco and all that lovely stuff. Oh, and mulled wine of course.
I do like to indulge in a cheesy film or two on a cold afternoon. You know the type: American, straight-to-TV stuff. Fancy lawyer returns to their childhood town after a failed engagement and learns the true meaning of Christmas etc. I think it's known as Schmaltz. Best viewed whilst eating copious amounts of chocolate-covered marzipan.
More credible (to me, at least) favourites: The Box of Delights (the special effects are charmingly primitive) and National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. So silly but I just can't help myself.
Of course, it can't be the run-up to Christmas without plenty of walking and peeping into lit windows to see decorated trees. Gloves, hats and scarves and the hope of a snowfall. Almost as good: coming back home to warmth and something stodgy to eat. Creamy rice pudding would be my bowlful of choice.
It's not all smooth sailing. Each year there are the same little hiccups: posting things off at the last minute (having lost various addresses), panicking when parcels ordered online don't arrive promptly, agonising over those people who are difficult to buy for.
But they're all small things and more often than not these problems sort themselves out. And if they don't, so what? It's Christmas.
There was, however, one sad little ritual I carried out last week. My mum always, always bought me new socks at Christmas. Sounds silly but it was just one of those things. On Friday I went out and bought myself some and intend to wrap them just the same. You see, some traditions must be continued. Like opening one present on Christmas Eve 'It's a Polish tradition'. Of course, we all knew the truth: it was because she couldn't bear not knowing what lay under all that wrapping paper. The excitement was too much. We'll still be doing that.
Well, maybe one person won't. This year new traditions will begin too, like coming downstairs even earlier than usual (read: some ungodly hour) and laying out all Joe's presents, switching the fairy lights on and watching his face when he sees it all.
I'm hoping to attend a little carol service around the tree at the parish church - no, it's nothing to do with the mince pies and mulled wine - and to spend time relaxing with friends and family.
But mostly it will be us three. Family tradition for us is always a quiet Christmas. That doesn't mean sad or dull. It's just how we like things to be.