It's my pleasure to welcome Australian author Sophie Masson to Books for Little Hands.
We had really traditional Christmases. My parents are French but we lived in Australia most of the time (apart from going back to France every two or three years for a couple of months each time) and so we had a French Christmas but adapted to Australian conditions. For instance though we still had the 'Buche de Noel' or Christmas log cake, my mother made it not was a baked cake but as one made from crushed sponge finger biscuits mixed with melted butter and hot coffee, shaped into a log, decorated with chocolate and set in the fridge!
We often had the celebrations Christmas Eve and we would go to bed really early then get woken up about 11.30 pm. We were allowed a peek at the Christmas tree with all the presents piled around it then we went off to Midnight Mass which was really beautiful, the church all lit up, smelling gorgeous, a huge crib, Christmas carols and then home for Mum's gorgeous big Christmas meal, the opening of presents. We didn't go to bed till 3 in the morning, often! Later Mum and Dad got sick of waking us up, plus we got to be grumpy teenagers who didn't want to go to bed early on Christmas Eve, so the celebrations shifted to Christmas Day. But they were still just as great.
I have so many good memories of Christmas thanks to my parents so I really wanted to pass that on to my kids. My dad always made sure we had a totally magical Christmas. He's a bit of a kid himself and so there we had things like letters from Father Christmas, a whole ritual of dressing the tree, special outings just before Christmas where he took us to a department store and bought us a really nice outfit then took us to lunch, and the nativity scene too on our mantelpiece was really special because he didn't put it all out straight away but over time so first we had Mary and Joseph approaching the 'inn stable' which was made of stones, then they settled in, the shepherds were in the distance, then closer, Baby Jesus appeared only just before we went to midnight Mass, while the three kings took till Twelfth Night to arrive! I just loved it.
Do you have a family Christmas tradition? Tell us about it.
Because my parents had made things so special for me and my siblings as children, we all try to do that for our kids. None of that cynical disparaging of Christmas in our family! I love looking for presents and spend ages, months before, tracking down the perfect thing- something unusual and especially for the person. When the kids were little, I did the whole ritual, complete with Father Christmas letters, and always made a Buche de Noel the way Mum always made (still do). We made a real ritual of decorating the tree a few days before Christmas, and we kept it up till Twelfth Night. I was too much of a sleepyhead to keep up the Christmas Eve thing but Christmas Day was special, with a big meal, presents (early!) And Christmas carols at Mass!
My husband's English so we also do this combined traditional thing, English and French, which is symbolised by the two cakes that form the centrepiece of the Christmas dessert: my Buche de Noel, and David's luscious, fruit-heavy, Armagnac-laced Christmas cake! These days too with the kids grown up we tend to do a big family Christmas with our kids (including son in law!) plus my siblings and their families if they're around (we are still very much a travelling kind of family!) Last year it was all at our place, and totally magical. This year it'll be a big celebration at my nephew's, a kind of double celebration too as he and his wife have just had a new baby. To me, Christmas is all about family, fun, magic, joy.
Have you celebrated Christmas in another country?
Yes! In France, when we were back one year. It was absolutely gorgeous- just as wonderful as in Australia, but with added snow!
What will you be reading over Christmas?
A new French novel I asked for, which is apparently fabulous, by a young French-Swiss writer called Joel Dicker http://joeldicker.com/ called La vérité sur l'affaire Harry Quebert (the truth on the Harry Quebert case). Some people are calling him the 'Swiss Stieg Larsson'! It'll be translated soon enough I expect into English but I can't wait for that and as I read French as well as English, I asked my husband to order me a copy!
I'm also going to be egotistically re-reading my new book which will just be out in time for Christmas (The Romance Diaries: Ruby, written under the pen-name of Jenna Austen.) Its official release is New Year's Day, but it's going to be in the shops not long before Christmas.