What Christmas Means to Me - Bridget MacKinnon

Tell us a little bit about yourself
Slightly over excitable American-born mother of some little people, Charlie 7, Eva 5, Georgie 2 and Maggie 54 (dog years). My husband, Peter and I live in beautiful Harrogate, North Yorkshire and Christmas is our most favourite time of the year!
As soon as the elves clapped eyes on your Instagram we sensed we’d met a Christmas kindred spirit… what is it that makes this time of year so special to you?
I love every single part of it! Growing up with my mum, dad, sister and little brother, having grandparents down the road, then aunts and uncles in for the holiday, it was always such a flurry of excitement! My mother and Grandma were always cooking something amazing, there was always (American) football on the tv and snow forts for my sister and I to build! For me, now being so far away from my family at Christmas can be a bit hard, so I like to stay busy and distracted!
I met Peter when I was just 19, living in the U.K. We had only been together for a few months when my family moved back to the US and I stayed here with him. We had visited at Thanksgiving so another trip at Christmas was just not feasible and I was gutted, but, actually, part of what made me fall even more in love with Peter was his family. His parents live in a little village 10 min drive from us and are amazingly kind and supportive. Sally, my mother in law, took me in as one of her own, included me in everything, spoilt me with kindness, roped me into kitchen duties and introduced me into the MacKinnon Mania that is their Christmas prep! They literally spend two whole days decorating the house, trees (normally three!) and outside illuminations. As extreme as it sounds- it is so wonderfully celebratory. After spending the first Christmas away from my family, with his, I realised ‘I’m going to marry this man!’ After all, they say you don’t just marry a man, you marry his whole family too!  So for me, a full house of family and friends, the kids running riot, all the dogs, makes it the most magical time of year.
Where do you normally spend Christmas Day?
We wake up here at our home in Harrogate, (way too early!) though we have a family rule that we all go downstairs together (as, rather selfishly, I want to see all their faces!) they get their main present from Santa and open their stockings. While they’re busy and distracted with those I nip into the kitchen and get breakfast going. A few hours later Peter’s parents and brothers and sisters and cousins turn up still in jammies and we have breakfast and more presents. I make a big breakfast strata, fruit platter with dip and we all drink coffee out of Starbucks’ Christmas paper cups! Then they go off home, get showered and ready. I love this little lull of the day, the kids happily play with their new toys and sometimes Peter and I even sneak in a little sofa nap before a quick tidy up! We then go to his parents house for the best Christmas Roast and more presents and all the Christmas television with an enormous cheese board! We tend to spend the night there on Christmas Day so we can put the kids to bed and have a little drink and relax with the family.
How has having children changed Christmas for you?
Like with most things, it’s made it better. We get so enthralled with all the Christmas activities, writing lists, baking cookies, decorating the tree... seeing the wonder and excitement through their eyes is intoxicating. The more kids you add to it, yes, the more chaotic, but also the more magical!
How do you generally decorate at Christmas?
I’d love to say, simply and elegantly with a few sprigs of eucalyptus and glass baubles... but the reality is I’m far too sentimental for any of that! Every year there is more and I adore pulling out the children’s ‘first Christmas’ baubles and the homemade hand reindeer decorations. When we travel we tend to pick up little bits and bobs, no matter the season, so fun ones from all over the world adorn the tree and make us recount those adventures. One of my favourites is a little wooden carved tree ornament from the breath-taking Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany, I visited 10 years ago with my dad and remember standing in awe and telling him ‘When I have children I’ll bring them back here!’ I can still see his proud smile. Homemade paper chains hang from picture rails, green garlands on the staircase, snuggly Christmas bedding, red tartan throws and candles everywhere! 
What traditions do you share with your three children?
So many! My family is Italian/Irish/American and Peter’s Scottish roots mixed with English upbringing means there are an abundance. One from my childhood that is a favourite is Christmas cookie decorating. We use the same recipe my Grandmother used that was passed down from her mother! The smell transports me back to her house, sat around a table with family decorating competitively and my Grandpa sneaking bites with a cheeky wink, while Grandma’s back was turned. I sometimes get a little emotional mixing the dough, thinking of all the generations baking and eating the same recipe. On Christmas Eve we leave these cookies with milk, as per my family tradition, and a mince pie and sherry, as per Peter’s!
One tradition we’ve created especially for our little family is the Christmas box! Santa sends us the most wonderful delivery, full of beautiful Christmas jammies and treats on on December 1st. Growing up I always got them on Christmas Eve, but I love it this way, then the kids get to wear their jammies for tree decorating, movie mornings and all the other festive activities! Last year our box got a much needed upgrade with the Polar Post hamper, and the most beautiful handwritten letter from Santa himself! This year will include the usuals: our old copy of ‘Twas the Night before Christmas', jars of marshmallows and hot chocolate as well as some new additions, like ornaments, cookie cutters and our new personalised Christmas books, like ‘Christmas on Exeter St.’
What one food (or drink!) means Christmas for you?
Oooh just one!? I love a mulled wine, particularly at Betty’s.... but Christmas Eve’s roast ham has got to be in there for a mention. And canapés! Tiny food is so festive!
Favourite Christmas book?
This is such a tricky one! We have upwards of 40 at last count. An old childhood copy of ‘Alfie’s Christmas’ from my husband is definitely one of the kid’s favourites... but can you beat the buzz in the air on Christmas Eve reading ‘Twas the Night before Christmas'?
Must-haves on you our Christmas play-list?
Sooo many... Frank Sinatra’s Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, Nat King Cole's The Christmas Song, I’m also a sucker for belting out a bit of Mariah! Peter learned how to play Fairytale of New York on the piano last year... listening to a few, shall we say ‘merry’ adults, try to recall the words to that is truly an experience not to be missed! O Holy Night on Christmas Eve Mass gets me misty too!
What do you tend to do on Christmas Eve?
Christmas Eve is always a pack-too-much-in kind a day! In the morning I’ll start making my glazed Christmas ham while still in my jammies. We go to Children’s Mass at our Catholic Church and Peter’s family clambers back here for ham, mac n cheese, and all the trimmings! Everyone leaves rosy cheeked from the fire and wine. Then I get Christmas breakfast prepped and in the fridge (an overnight breakfast strata that I just have to plonk in the oven the next morning). Then to try to get to sleep and wait for the big man to show up and perform his magic!
Favourite Christmas film?
Hands down, The Polar Express! We even have a yearly party to celebrate the first viewing! The first weekend in December we all get together at our house, buy all the M&S party food, the house and tree are decorated, Christmas jammies are on and you can feel the excitement as the loud train thunders into our living room, speakers shaking! It really is the official kick-off Christmas for us! A lazy pyjama morning with Elf is also an essential, as is a wrapping day with a binge on Christmas cookies and ‘Miracle on 34th Street’, ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ and a bit of ‘Love Actually’.
What would be the greatest present Santa could get you this Christmas?
As cheesy as it sounds, honestly, having all my family around me, happy and joyful really leaves me all warm inside! However, if Santa was reading this and wanted something to put a bow on... a heritage Bobbin Bike complete with market basket would render an enormous smile...
How would you sum up your Christmas in three words?
Family, Feasting and Love
You grew up in the States, what do you miss about your childhood Christmases?
SNOW!! I grew up in central NY and the cold snowy days really made waking up with frosty windows and crackling fires seem ever so Christmassy. Oh and of course my family!
Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without…?
What have you got on your eye this year from Polar Post?
Everything! Such an amazing selection! I already started a bit of early shopping and got a four leaf clover tree ornament for Peter, (we met on St Patrick’s Day!) which I’m so pleased with - I know it will be a favourite for years to come! Still on my list is the beautiful hard cover copy of ‘Peter Pan’, ‘A Christmas Wish’ and some cookie cutters... and of course some letters from Santa!
Charlotte Wood
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What Christmas Means to Me - Adele O’Shea

Christmas for many of us means snow, or at least the dream of snow (I think I've known one white Christmas in, well, quite a few...) so I've always been fascinated by the thought of what Christmas would feel like in a hot climate. Enter Adele O'Shea, who grew up in Tasmania and now lives in Melbourne with her husband and three children, Isaac, Melody and Eddie. 

I first stumbled across Adele's Instagram a couple of years ago and instantly felt I'd met a kindred spirit across those little squares. A passionate baker, Adele transports you into her kitchen where you can almost smell the delights she creates with her three little helpers in tow. Taking much of her inspiration in the kitchen from the changing of the seasons, I for one, would quite like to hop on a plane and end up in Adele's house for Christmas this year...



Adele, you are the most wonderful baker, what one food means Christmas for you?
My mother's Christmas cake recipe. She has made it every year for as long as I can remember. As a child, I loved to watch her decorate the top with almonds and glazed cherries, then wrap the tin in newspaper before popping it in the oven.

Where do you normally spend Christmas Day?

We alternate between my family and my husbands family each year, as well as where Christmas lunch will be held. My family live in Hobart, Tasmania where I grew up, it is a beautiful little town, it's always lovely to go home for Christmas!

How do you decorate your home at Christmas?

With an array of perfectly imperfect handmade decorations, foliage from the garden made into wreaths and centre pieces, candles, and the odd bell here and there.

You have three children, Isaac, Melody and Eddie, what Christmas traditions do you share with them?

I think the most prominent tradition is the making and baking leading up to the 25th. Every year we spend weekends baking biscuits, puddings, & sweets to give away as gifts. My children love to make all sorts of decorations, like paper chains, Christmas Stars, and cards, paint baubles, salt dough ornaments, and sew little draw string bags to put biscuits and lollies in for their friends and teachers.

Favourite Christmas book?

Merry Christmas Ernest and Celestine By Gabrielle Vincent.

What do you tend to do on Christmas Eve?

Christmas Eve for us usually involves a BBQ in the backyard with overly excited children running around in the warm summer air, slapping mosquitoes on their legs until dark.

How would you sum up Christmas in three words?

Giving, Family, Love

What would be the best present anyone could get you this Christmas?

I would really love an Elderflower plant, but if not, I'd be just as happy with cuddles from my kids!

Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without…?

Cherries. As a child I dreamed of having a white Christmas like in all the story books and Christmas movies, but as an adult, I have come to realise, that Christmas without snow comes with it's own perks. We might not be able to build a snowman, or warm ourselves by a beautiful log fire, but we can get outside and have a game of cricket in the backyard, go to the beach, or simply enjoy summers finest of fruits. Cherries are one of those seasonal treasures that take pride of place on our Christmas table every year.

Charlotte Wood
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"Stretch the moment of magic and playfulness" - Benedict Cumberbatch

Last year Letters Live asked several of its distinguished friends to write a letter to Father Christmas to help celebrate National Letter Writing Day (7th December 2015).

The result was a post bag full of letters that made us all both laugh and cry. One of the most touching letters was written by the actor Benedict Cumberbatch, who asked Santa for a Christmas wish:

"This is what I’d like to ask you to help with. A little more time for children to be children. Stretch the moment of magic and playfulness. Distract them from the realities of a world gone mad so that they can laugh with their breath rather than sob with their tears. Especially those caring for family members, or suffering illness, hunger or poverty. Especially those hiding in buildings as bombs rain down, or being handed shaking with fear or cold into a boat to escape environmental disaster or war. Please help to light up their worlds with a moment of joy and hope."

Well, it has taken him the best part of a year but spurred on by this week's National Letter Writing Day (1st September), Father Christmas has finally written back to Benedict. You can read the Sherlock star's full letter below, as well as Father Christmas's reply.

p.s. Clearly Santa is a bit of a fan of Benedict's leading role...

"Dear Father Christmas,

So my friend has asked me to write to you... I have to confess it’s been hard to know what to say. Mainly because like most adults I feel preposterous asking anything of you because our time with you is surely done. Now we get our own presents, control our own fates, take responsibility for our own actions, and live in the world we have created... so it’s not for us to turn around and plead for your help with the environment, the migrant crisis, the NHS, education, food banks, human rights, fundamentalism and wars. Though God knows we need all the help we can get with all these man-made problems and more.

And it’s not that you aren’t compassionate and full of joy. You’re great. In spite of you being changed into different colours for corporations and being bastardised to represent materialism gone mad – despite probably originating in some season based pagan druid ritual a million thought miles from requests for spontaneously combusting hoverboards... Kidadults cynically pointing this out after having their moment of belief in you are wasting everyone’s precious time. Because you are not for them. You are for the children. Children who need some magic in a world were the borders between innocence and responsibility, playful imagination and cold, adult obstacles are continually shrinking.

This is what I’d like to ask you to help with. A little more time for children to be children. Stretch the moment of magic and playfulness. Distract them from the realities of a world gone mad so that they can laugh with their breath rather than sob with their tears. Especially those caring for family members, or suffering illness, hunger or poverty.

Especially those hiding in buildings as bombs rain down, or being handed shaking with fear or cold into a boat to escape environmental disaster or war. Please help to light up their worlds with a moment of joy and hope.

When I think about it you’ve got it tough this year... And when I really think about it I’m not sure that asking you for a lightsaber and getting one (not that I ever did by the way) is equatable with controlling the space time continuum and making the good of childhood last a little longer.

But you do inspire wonder and awe amongst those that write you letters and go to sleep hoping there might be a new object in their possession come dawn. You inspire good behaviour and, at least in my memory, some desperate last minute attempts to redeem bad behaviour so as not to be overlooked. Spare a thought too for those millions who want to write to you but through illiteracy can’t. Hear their words and help to give them the time and chance to learn how to read and write so they can better their lives and escape their impoverished beginnings.

I feel a little sorry for you. And I guess I’ve done exactly what I said I wouldn’t... Asked you to help with adult problems and solve some of the greatest worries we have for our children. I promise to leave some extra port and mince pies for you!

Lots of love

Benedict x

P.S. Please could I have that lightsaber now?"




Charlotte Wood
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Writing Your Letter to Santa - Top Tips From Geoffrey The Elf

Geoffrey The Elf, Postmaster of the Polar Post Office shares his letter writing tips ahead of National Letter Writing Day on 1st September 2016…
Penning the perfect letter is no easy task. From politeness and etiquette to turning your letter into a work of art, the letter-writing experts at Polar Post are here to help with some handy hints…

1. The early bird catches the worm…

Do you have your heart set on a scooter for Christmas this year? The thing about scooters and indeed all presents is that they have to be made by the elves in Santa’s workshop. Granted the elves’ ability to craft a thousand scooters in under half an hour is legendary, but making toys takes time and here at the North Pole we never seem to have enough time. So my advice – get your thinking caps on nice and early and send us your letters as soon as you can. That way, we still get to have a tea break come mid-December.

2. Set the scene…

Make sure you are comfortable when you sit down to write your letter – get out of that scratchy school uniform and into some pyjamas, if they are Christmas pyjamas so much the better. Ask your parents to make you a delicious hot chocolate (with marshmallows), some gingerbread would be good too. Then pop on some Christmas carols and away you go.

3. Put pen to paper…

Make sure you have your special writing paper from Polar Post, including the envelope with Santa’s secret address on it.

4. Remember your Ps & Qs…

Santa is a big stickler for politeness – a simple, “thank you for my presents last year” will go a long way (think potentially more presents this year).

5. And on the subject of presents… 

Do have your list ready. Hopefully this is the easy bit.

 6. Get creative…

There’s nothing Santa loves more than to see your drawings, each is a little work of art as far as he’s concerned. So find your colouring crayons, get out the glitter and draw us a picture of Rudolph (he absolutely loves seeing drawings of himself).

7. And send…

Remember to sign your letter otherwise Father Christmas won’t know who it is from. Then pop it in your envelope and fix this year’s First Class stamp to the front of the envelope. When you go to bed leave your letter by your fireplace. Don’t panic if you don’t have a fireplace. A bedside table or windowsill will do nicely. No need to worry about your letter getting lost as the envelope is engraved with Father Christmas’s secret address (remember to keep this strictly hush hush).

8. Believe…

Sounds simple doesn’t it, but this is the magic ingredient in every letter.

In the morning, your letter will have vanished and will be winging its way to me and the elves here at the Polar Post Office. I will then personally deliver it into the hands of Father Christmas himself.

Happy Writing!


Charlotte Wood
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Letter to the Queen


Few people write as many letters as Father Christmas, but perhaps the one person who can rival his impressive output is The Queen, who turned 90 this week.

So it seemed only right and proper that Santa write a letter wishing Her Majesty a very happy birthday. It was dropped off at Buckingham Palace by a kind snowy owl who happened to be passing that way. You can read the letter for yourself below: 



Charlotte Wood
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A Good Luck Note to the Easter Bunny


The Easter Bunny and Father Christmas are firm friends. You heard it here first. In fact you could say they are pen pals. No Christmas at the North Pole is complete without a letter from the Easter Bunny finding its way onto Father Christmas's desk, wishing him good luck in the gigantic task awaiting him.

And we have heard that the Easter Bunny similarly looks forward to his letter ahead of the Easter celebrations. After all there's nothing quite like a reassuring word from someone who has been there, done that, got the t-shirt. 

So in time-honoured tradition, Father Christmas has put pen to paper and written his good luck note. Would you like to read it for yourselves? Of course you would. Here's a sneak peek:




Charlotte Wood
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Polar Bear Drama - Eyewitness Account

For Blimper the Elf it was just an ordinary day in the wrapping hall, until, that is a polar bear named Victor strolled in a started throwing all the presents around…

“I was just minding my own business,” said Blimper, “trying to decide whether to use a gold or silver bow on a rocking horse I was wrapping, when a blinking polar bear appeared outta nowhere and started causing mayhem. Throwing all the presents around he was and roaring his head off.”

The polar bear is believed to have been suffering from a bad case of snow blindness when he accidentally took a wrong turning, heading directly for Present Headquarters.

“Course I felt sorry for the chap,” continued Blimper, “but you should have seen the size of those claws of his. He was literally inches away from shaving off me beard!”

For all the North Pole antics, and to find out what happened next, read Father Christmas's 2015 letter...

With love from all the Elves at Polar Post x 


Charlotte Wood
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Can You Keep A Secret?


For centuries the world’s greatest explorers have tried to discover the secret address of Santa’s Grotto. Like all great secrets this one deserves to be kept, so read this address by all means, marvel at it even, but make sure you keep it to yourselves.

The elves are counting on you.

With love from all the elves at Polar Post xx

Charlotte Wood
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Elves at The Polar Post Office Launch 2015 Stamp!

Ninety-one days until Christmas Eve, and excitement is building at the Polar Post Office. The first flakes of snow are falling at the North Pole and there is a definite whiff of Christmas in the air. Store cupboards have been stocked and the elves at Polar Post are beginning to brace themselves for the flurry of letters that will soon be brought in from children all over the world.  

No wonder this is the date then that Geoffrey the Elf, Postmaster-in-Chief, has chosen to unveil the 2015 Christmas stamp. This year's design was presented to Father Christmas last night, and sources close to him have revealed that he is thrilled with the final result. 

And who can blame him? The First Class stamp features Sir Bastian, the North Pole's one and only penguin. Known to all at the North Pole as the most loveable of creatures, Sir Bastian said it was his great honour to have had his portrait taken by Drafts-Elf J. Russell Flint.

He did however, say that he wasn't in a hurry to wear a holly wreath again. Apparently it tickled his neck feathers something terrible... 

With much love from all of the elves at Polar Post xx

Charlotte Wood
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