Making, baking and hanging Christmas trees from the ceiling. We ask John Sims-Hilditch, Cathy Emmott and Cathryn Fawcett about their Christmas at home. Sharon Dale reports
John Sims-Hilditch is co-founder of homeware store Neptune. He is married to Emma, a well-known interior designer, and they have three children, Daisy, 23, Betty, 22, and Billy, 18.
John says: “This year we’ll be spending Christmas in the Dolomites, which is something we have never done before as we usually spend it at home. I am looking forward to it because the Italians have a lovely sense of family.
“We have still decorated our house for Christmas. We like to decorate in a country, homely way and we always have a 10ft tree. It’s a very realistic- looking artificial one because I just feel a bit sad about chopping down real trees for Christmas.
“Billy helps me construct the tree and then we tie the top of it to one of the beams on the ceiling so that it doesn’t fall over.
“It sounds mad but it really works. We always put the bottom of the tree in a basket, so the base is hidden.
“As our own children are grown-up we invite some of our friends’ younger children round to put the decorations on it and that’s great fun. They love the fact it’s so big and we enjoy having them round to lend a hand.
“The lights are always white and the decorations are ones we have collected over the years, although we always add some new ones as Neptune has a new range each Christmas. They tend to be quite natural looking.
“We also have a lot of festive greenery around so we still have that Christmassy smell in the house even though our tree is not real. We put a few branches from a real tree on top of the fireplace and furniture and we staple our Christmas cards onto ribbon and hang those around the house.
“Our usual Christmas routine includes going to church on Christmas Eve. We have friends and family round on Christmas Day and we tend to open our presents slowly through the day rather than in one big rush. For dinner it is goose or turkey and we always have Christmas cake, my favourite cake of the year.”
■ Neptune has a 7,200 sq ft homeware showroom on the outskirts of York, www.neptune.com
Cathryn Fawcett runs Field & Fawcett, an independent wine merchants and delicatessen in York, with her husband, Peter. They have two children, Annabel, 18, and Benedict, 17.
“We always have a real tree from York Christmas Trees. I get out our old box of baubles each year but I also try to add to it so I’ll go to Barnitts in York to buy a few new decorations. I’ll add some lights and I use Christmas greenery around the house but I keep it all quite simple but hopefully effective.
“On Christmas Eve we are full on at work and it’s all hands on deck. We start work at 5am but we finish at 3pm and take the staff for a drink at the pub.
“When I get home I’ll do some last-minute wrapping and I’ll probably make a salmon en croute then just chill and watch a movie.
“On Christmas Day, the children open their stockings and the presents under the tree and we’ll open a bottle of Joseph Perrier champagne. I am a keen cook, so I make Christmas dinner and I’ll have frozen as much as I can beforehand, including vegetables from our kitchen garden, stuffing and the red cabbage. We always have Christmas pudding and there’ll be cake. I start making Christmas cakes in August and I’ll do in excess of 200 for the deli.
“I’m very chilled about making the dinner as I think you should enjoy Christmas Day and not get too stressed. If something doesn’t work out quite right it doesn’t matter.
“My parents come round and, although I see them every day, it’s nice to relax, have a proper chat and just spend time with them. I’m really looking forward to a few days off work and relaxing with family and friends.”
Cathy Emmott is a textile designer best known for her Dear-Emma range of products. She is married to Jamie and they have two children, Sam, 12, and Beth, 10, and live near Settle.
“One of our Christmas traditions is making things and Beth in particular is really enthusiastic. We make our own wrapping paper by printing on rolls of brown paper. We cut out holly and tree shapes from potatoes and dip them in poster paint.
“Another thing we love to do is make little bags of shortbread as presents. We decorate the shortbread with cranberries and edible glitter.
“Our other main project is making ‘stained glass’ decorations out of card and Quality Street wrappers. You just need some card, a scalpel and a felt-tip pen.
“It doesn’t feel like Christmas unless I decorate the mantelpiece because my mum always use to do it when I was young. I use a lot of greenery and I soak the stems for half a day before putting them into a wet oasis stood on a tray. It makes it last longer and you can be really creative by adding berries, holly, oranges and cinnamon to fill any gaps.
“On Christmas Day we go down and light the fire and put some Christmas music on so it’s really festive for when the children come down to open their presents. Then it’s a traditional Christmas with family. I take the view that the dinner is ready when it’s ready. There is a lot of pressure for everything to be perfect but I don’t think that is possible.”