Last month we published the National Trust: 2021 Nature Month-By-Month: A Children’s Almanac, written by nature-lover and wild swimmer Anna Wilson and beautifully illustrated by Elly Jahnz. This fantastic, fully illustrated guide to 2021 includes nature spotter guides, indoor and outdoor craft and activity ideas, seasonal recipes and celebrations of religious festivals and special events.
And today we’re very pleased to share a piece by Anna on some cosy Christmas activities featured in the book, which you can read below.
Christmas might be a bit different this year, depending on where you are living at the moment. You might not be able to see all the people you would usually get together with but hopefully we can all still have fun and enjoy the festivities. We certainly need something to cheer us all up after this tricky year!
One of the best things about Christmas is the preparation and the excitement in the build-up to the big day. I have always enjoyed making things for Christmas, whether it’s baking, or making decorations, or making jam and mincemeat to give away as presents. I usually put on some Christmas music while I am doing this, to get me in the mood.
This Santa table decoration activity is one that I did with my own children when they were small. They are both grown up now, but we still have to get the decorations out every year to avoid disappointment, otherwise I find I am in big trouble! The Santas and reindeer are a bit bashed about nowadays, but they are still as well-loved as they were when they were first made.
Remember to put the decorations away carefully once Christmas is over so that you can get them out again next year!
I love all the cooking before Christmas. I usually get all my ingredients ready for the Christmas pudding, mincemeat and cake at the end of November on a day traditionally called ‘Stir-up Sunday’. This year Stir-up Sunday is on November 22nd. This is the last Sunday before Advent, which is the period of time in which Christians prepare for Christmas. In the old days, it was a time for families to get together to mix and steam the pudding. Everyone would take a turn to stir the pudding and make a special wish for the year ahead. In some houses silver coins were added to the pudding mix as finding a coin on Christmas Day was supposed to bring good luck.
Here is a recipe for homemade mincemeat for your mince pies – make it on November 22nd and leave it for a few weeks so that it develops a lovely flavour for your pies! It also makes a great gift for the grown-ups in your family.
Another lovely homemade present is cranberry jam. This can be used to eat with the cold meat after Christmas and is also delicious on toast or crumpets for a Christmassy breakfast or teatime snack.
You will need:
Waxed paper discs
225 g fresh or frozen, defrosted, cranberries
225 g caster sugar
Zest of one orange
1. Heat the cranberries and sugar over a low heat for about 10–15 minutes until the sugar dissolves and the cranberries begin to pop.
2. Add the orange zest and stir in.
3. Turn up the heat and boil the mixture rapidly for about 7 minutes.
4. Do the ‘wrinkle test’ to check that the jam has set.
3. Take off the heat and put into sterilized jars.
Top tip: The ‘wrinkle test’ involves dropping a teaspoon of jam on to a plate that you have put in the freezer before starting to make the jam. The hot jam hits the freezing surface and if it has set, it will wrinkle when you push it gently with your finger.
Thank you, Anna! The National Trust: 2021 Nature Month-By-Month: A Children’s Almanac is available now, here. You can take a look inside the book below: