I don’t know why we started doing it. I think I had a sudden hankering for Christmas decadence, the year I moved to London after university. December had been awash with early twenty-something festive cheer – Christmas jumper parties at flats in Kennington shared by six housemates; evenings spent wearing something scratchy and sequinned and acrylic bought at a charity shop for 99p in a rush that afternoon. “Mulled wine” made from a box of unidentified chalky red liquid and an out-of-date packet of cinnamon.
“Let’s go to The Savoy tonight,” I texted my friend Sabrina. “There’s a piano there. There will be a man in a dickie-bow tinkling White Christmas on the ivories.” We got dressed up, we checked our Natwest online banking to check there was enough money for a cocktail and then we sat in The American Bar, sipping and savouring one so slowly, we managed to hold our table for two of the pianist’s sets.
And so, the first of many Christmas traditions was set. Over the years, there would also be Pretendmas – a big pretend Christmas day celebration in early December, where only (Aldi) champagne would be drunk, charades would be played and far too many roast potatoes would be consumed. A frosty walk on Hampstead Heath before we all go home to our respective families for Christmas. Last year we went tree and garland shopping on Columbia Road one Sunday, ending with a bowl of pasta and a bottle of red wine at Campania and Jones – we enjoyed it so much, we declared it another tradition.
Although seemingly repeated small moments in a twenty-something social calendar, these rituals mean something much more to me – they mean we’re building a mythology together, something that we’ll nurture, something with room for partners and children and new friends to move into as life grows and changes. Something that will keep us feeling safe and loved and known when our childhoods one day feel three galaxies away. The commitment to these traditions show there’s intention to have lots and lots more Decembers together, me and my urban family.
We’ve already got a date in for The Savoy this year – the evening of the 21st. We’re all 29 and 30 now, so we could probably stretch to two cocktails. But we’ll probably just stick with one and make it last two hours – it is, after all, tradition.