22nd December: Tradition vs habit

Christmas, like many celebrations, brings with it numerous traditions. Some widespread. Some personal to families. There is something warm and familiar about a tradition, which is why most of us return to them year on year. Whether you have a family outing to the panto, have a big Christmas party with your friends, go to midnight mass or take a long walk in the fresh air on Boxing Day, they are all special traditions that can mean so much to people.

I traditionally make a lot of the Christmas food each year. I enjoy doing it, it makes me feel festive in the build-up to the big day but it's also a special way for me to show my appreciation to my family and friends. However, on the flip side I absolutely hate habit and routine for routine's sake. I cannot have the same thing for breakfast more than a couple of days in a row without feeling rather uncomfortable and lacking in creativity. That said, since having the children routine has become my friend in some ways. They flourish in the routine and where I see the benefit of it, I am happy to accept that it is not always my enemy.

So to strike a balance between my love of Christmas traditions and my fear of becoming stuck in an uncreative repetitive cycle I change the types of things I make each year. For instance, last year I made a fig and cranberry Christmas pudding. This year I have made our pudding again but I have gone for a dark Guinness version. For the last couple of years I have made Nigella's chocolate Christmas cake. It was so good that I did actually make it two years on the trot. However, to do it again this year is a step too far for me so I have gone all continental and made Delia's Italian chocolate and nut cake. It didn't rise quite as much as I would have liked but it smells delicious and I love the idea that it can be served with whipped cream or icecream as well as traditionally on its own with a cuppa or a glass of port.

The cake stores in the fridge for up to 2 weeks so I only made this yesterday so it will last for the length of the Christmas holiday, should it not be snaffled-up in the first couple of days!

Door 22 of the Woman Next Door's advent calendar. 

Door 22 of the Woman Next Door's advent calendar. 

This year's Christmas cake is an Italian chocolate and nut cake. 

This year's Christmas cake is an Italian chocolate and nut cake.