Author Guest Posts

Holiday Author Takeover - Ellen Oh, author of Prophecy, shares her story on Epic Reads!

Our holiday author takeover continues! Today we welcome guest author Sangu Mandanna, author of The Lost Girl!


The 12 Days of Yummy Things, Terrible Singing and Chaos by Sangu
(Okay, it’s not really twelve days. And did I say chaos? I mean Christmas…)

Who doesn’t love the holidays? They’re all about food, family, new books, presents (presents!) and giving in to all the warm fuzzies. For some of us the holidays inevitably mean snow and snowmen, for others it’s just about getting a little time off work and who cares about anything else?

I love this time of year. I am a child. Seriously. Tempt me with prezzies and I’m there. And it’s everything else too – the Christmas ‘spirit’, the yummy stuff – that gets me so excited when November rolls around. It’s not just now, either, it’s always been a part of my life. Growing up we weren’t religious or anything, and I’m not now, so it was always just about having fun and spending time together. We always picked and chosen the traditions we wanted to adopt and these days I’m not shy about adding a few new ones if it suits me (*cough* presents on Christmas Eve too *cough*)

So, from ancient traditions to not-even-remotely-traditional-but-let’s-do-it-anyway, here’s what the Christmas season would look like if you came and spent it with me.

This is probably where it all begins. TVs and radios start playing holiday music in, like, October and as absurdly early as that is it does get me all excited for the season to come (and with these cold, dreary English winters being what they are, I take any excuse for excitement I can get). My favourite Christmassy song is ‘Fairytale of New York’ and when I start hearing that on the radio (it was September this year. September, for crying out loud!) I know it’s time…

The Tree
THE TREE! Oh, how I love, love, love this part. So this one comes next. Sometime around the beginning or middle of December my husband and I put the tree up and we sit and decorate it however weirdly we fancy (You know that scene in Friends where Monica lets everyone decorate her tree, and it’s a big mess, and then she turns it around and her side is perfect? That’s kind of how our tree looks. Mine being the perfect half, obviously, and Steve’s being the giant explosion of tinsel…)

Brandy Cream
I kind of go a little crazy on brandy cream this time of year. We buy it whenever we do our normal food shopping, and usually buy some brandy snaps too. Then I scoop a dollop of extra-thick brandy cream into the middle of a brandy snap and spend the next half hour licking at it like someone who ought to be committed. December is just not the same without a lot of brandy cream.

Given that my husband and I are, you know, adults and our only child is one and couldn’t care less about fat jolly men in red suits, Santa is kind of a tradition that’s (tragically) no longer in practice, but will come back into style as soon as the baby is old enough to give two hoots. But I still wanted to mention him because he was a constant of my childhood. One of my favourite Christmas memories of all time is of my father pressing a sooty shoe to the inside of our ancient chimney and, later, gently engineering a means for me to ‘discover’ it. It was magic, I tell you. SANTA HAD COME TO VISIT.

The week surrounding Christmas Day is always chaos. The kind of chaos that makes me think ‘why the heck do I do this Christmas lark’? It’s inevitably a mess of trying to figure out which days my husband has off work, which of our friends and family we’re going to go see and on which days, who we’re going to cook for (even if it’s only for ourselves) and who we’re guiltily going to saddle with the task of cooking for us when we turn up, and, most importantly of all, how we’re going to fit in and factor in the baby’s routine… last year he was two weeks old and could, just about, be carted off anywhere because he slept so much. This year he’s an active, boisterous, loving one-year-old who expects to be fed at certain times and to be allowed to sleep at certain times and certainly to have his usual bedtime, which is not so easy to achieve when you’ve agreed to spend the day at a friend or relative’s home and it’s almost always an hour away and you know you probably won’t be able to leave before, like, six…

…all of which runs through my mind constantly. And the planning, and chaos of trying to remember everything and factor everyone in so that no one feels left out or is offended, almost makes me forget about the joy of

Christmas Eve
(or, as it’s better known, presents! Stockings! Food!)
When I was little my mother and I spent Christmas Eve singing carols (badly) while we all ate some kind of roasted bird, cheese and biscuits. But my husband doesn’t really know many carols so, instead, he and I have our own traditions. We put all the presents under the tree, we consume Christmassy things like cheese and wine (or Baileys Irish cream. Mmm…) and chocolate, and, late in the evening, we allow each other to open exactly one of our presents. I admit, without shame, that this tradition was my idea because I just COULD NOT WAIT ANOTHER DAY FOR PREZZIES.

Christmas Day
(or, as it’s better known, presents! Stockings! Food!)
WE OPEN PRESENTS! We eat. I eye my new possessions longingly, especially the new books, but resist the urge to read them all immediately. We open more presents. I fling myself facedown into piles of torn, shiny wrapping paper and flail in excitement (this year the baby will probably do the same and try to eat some of that wrapping paper too).

And that’s it. That’s December (and sometimes November, October and September) in my world. You know you want to come visit.

Sangu’s Gift of Choice: Runnin’ Rhino T-Shirt
Comment on this post for a chance to win this t-shirt hand-picked by Sangu! Giveaway open to US & Canada members only.

Do you have any special holiday traditions?