Busytown by Jolisa Gracewood

Turn it on!

It's Christmas Eve in New York as I post this, and pouring with rain outside, but the outlook for Thursday is promising: seasonal flurries of snow. Even a teensy icing-sugar dusting of flakes would do the trick. This year is a special one for us, as every other Christmas we've managed to be out of town, and next Christmas we won't be living here any more. So this is our first and last celebration of the day itself in NYC, and we're going to town.

I must say, Christmas with a two-year-old is crazily good fun. Last year Busytot was largely oblivious to the fuss, but this year he's Santa's little helper, especially now that he knows the drill in our online-shopping, far-from-relatives, postie-dependent household. Greet the delivery man or postie-lady at the door, grab the parcel, shove it under the tree, then run in circles round the lounge caroling "Big Surprise! We got a Big Surprise!"

The sacred tree in question is a small, perfectly formed spruce, which cost a bloody fortune and which Busytot worships like the good little pagan that he is. O Tannenbaum, indeed. Every morning he greets it reverently, offers it a drink of water, and ceremoniously switches on the lights: "Shall we shall we shall we shall we turn it ON?" It's lovely. The highlight of our evening walks is tree-spotting and admiring the coloured lights wound around the fire escapes and in the windows -- last night Busytot serenaded a star made of fairy-lights with a piping rendition of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star -- and then we get to come home to our own little twinkling tree.

Christmas dinner this year will be a highly ecumenical affair, a Kiwi-American-Jewish-Pakistani spectacular, with a roast lamb at the centre of it all -- that's something everyone agrees on, or at least everyone of a carnivorous persuasion -- and for afters, the diplomatic triumph of both a pumpkin pie and a passionfruit trifle. We may be on orange alert (actually, the city never went off it, so what are we now, neon orange?) but we can still enjoy ourselves, dammit.

And now a present for you, dear readers: some gorgeous seasonal writing to mull over with that cup of mulled wine or glass of chilled beer. Set aside time to read Chris Cole Catley's moving and astonishingly vivid reminiscence, fifty years on, about the sober Christmas of the Tangiwai Disaster -- be sure to have tissues at the ready. And Zadie Smith pulls a magical riff out of a crumpled, stained old black and white photo of Christmas past (since it's in the NY Times, free registration required). Over in the Guardian, Helen Simpson whips together a contemporary Christmas Carol, and Michael Morpurgo has penned a bit of a weepie, supposedly for kids but I enjoyed it.

Happy holidays all round. May you spend them with the ones you love, and love the ones you spend them with.