Anil on #whenxmasbegins – Birthdays and wish lists: here comes Christmas.

My family takes Christmas very seriously. Possibly too seriously. Years ago, all my mum’s huge extended family would get together and we’d sit 25-30 people for Christmas lunch (with a huge sack of potatoes, another of sprouts, enough stuffing to choke a moose, a turkey big enough to require its own postcode and so on).

But even now, with a much smaller gathering of immediate family only, it truly begins for us on or around 6th December – my brother and sister’s birthday (not twins, they just share a birthday). That’s when we traditionally picked a weekend and met up for lunch after a morning of Christmas shopping.

Shopping and food have been mainstays of the Haji household for decades, to the point where we have to circulate wish lists before the end of November so that we can all agree who’s getting what for whom.

Yet even with most of our shopping now done online, we still meet up at our parents’ house on that first weekend in December. We agree who’s buying what this year when it comes to crackers, chocolates etc. and we help them put up their absurdly enormous collection of decorations, including a tree covered in enough lights to be seen from orbit and a Charles Dickens-themed Christmas model village that my parents spent years slowly acquiring piece by piece. It now occupies more acreage than Disneyland.

The funny thing is, my English mum comes from a family with lots of Christmas traditions, but it’s my Indian dad who’s really picked up the baton. He loves Christmas and everything about it.

If it was down to just me, to be honest, I’d probably be a bit more ‘bah, humbug’ about the whole thing – but four decades of indoctrination are not shrugged off overnight. And who doesn’t like presents?