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