I used to have wonderful Christmases when I still lived in Italy. My brother and I use to spend Christmas eve at my mum’s. She always put up the smallest and ugliest tree ever, with decorations bought the same year I was born. She cooked for us all our favourite dishes and the most delicious of the cakes. We would stay up eating, chatting, and playing Monopoly in our PJs waiting for midnight. That was when we exchanged presents, with a glass of mulled wine that no one ever liked but we all drunk anyway.

Then I moved to the UK with my husband Diego, and Christmas lost some of its magic. It was only the two of us, and we often just went out for a classy dinner somewhere romantic. In time, we stopped giving presents to each other, and we opted for a homemade meal instead of going out. Most of the Christmas day was spent on the phone to Italy, first me and then Diego in turns, wishing well to parents and extended family.

And finally, three Christmases ago, our son Ben came along. Year one, Ben didn’t understand what was going on, year two he started noticing that something was different on Christmas day, but all he cared about was opening presents. And it wasn’t even for the presents, but just so that he could play with the wrapping paper.

But this year everything is different, and Christmas is a very big deal again. In Ben’s eyes, Christmas is a special time, a time for fun and joy, a time that means something important although he still doesn’t understand what.

I feel like this year is a good time for us to start creating some family traditions and rituals, to make this time of the year our special time together. Traditions offer a sense of family identity, certainty, warmth and trust, and a safe base where to retreat when school and normal routine are on break for a couple of weeks.

This festive season, we probably went a bit over the top with the decorations: inside the house, outside, in the kitchen and even a couple in the bathroom for good measure. We bought Ben his first Advent Calendar, and a funny outfit to wear on the 25th. We put presents under the tree and explained Ben that all the gifts come from us, except for one that Santa will bring during the night at Christmas Eve.

We are planning to watch a Christmas movie snuggling up on the sofa with a hot chocolate and marshmallows, distracted only by the odd Skype call from families in Italy. We’ll have a big homemade pizza for our traditional Christmas dinner, because that’s what Ben asked for, and profiteroles for dessert.

This is how I envision our Christmases from this year on, this is how I image our tradition to take roots, but I’m sure it won’t go as smoothly as planned. Ben will have a meltdown or two, the pizza will burn in the oven, and the movie we decide to watch won’t be suitable for adopted children. And then the phone will ring, and social services will ask to pop around for an emergency placement.

Our festive traditions will become a mix of our traditions, and the ones of the children who will be placed with us, and I certainly wouldn’t want it any other way.

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