Christmas with the Anderson* family

After the year we’ve had, there’s a lot of talk about celebrating a ‘normal’ Christmas this year. But is there really such a thing?

Across the UK, many families will be celebrating in December with their favourite food, their preferred time to share gifts and their own traditions. The chances are that no two households will celebrate in exactly the same way.

As we recognise that sometimes Christmas, New Year and other holidays need to look a little different for the families of care-experienced children, we want to celebrate the beauty and the joy in the fact that there’s really no such thing as a ‘normal’ Christmas.


"In our family, the festivities start on Christmas Eve. Usually we gather at my mum’s house up North; there tend to be a lot of us – the siblings, the grandkids, everyone is there. The adults start on the mulled wine, the kids get stuck into the gingerbread, and that’s it; Christmas has begun!

We’re always up early the next day, because of the kids. For the past few years, “the kids” has referred to my foster daughter – classed as the ‘first grandchild’ in our family – and my nephew who was born just a few months after my foster daughter moved in. The two of them have grown up together, and they have a really strong bond. We have a beautiful photograph of the two of them from a few Christmases ago; she’s holding him in her arms with snow falling behind them. Until this year, Christmas has always been about those two.

Christmas Day starts with a traditional Jamaican breakfast. We have salt fish, fried dumplings, beans and plantain. But we also like to add a traditional English breakfast on top of that – so we’ll also have our bacon, eggs and sausages! As you can imagine, everyone is pretty stuffed for the rest of the day, so we don’t eat our Christmas dinner until four or five in the evening. Those hours in between meals are taken up with presents, playing with new toys and more cooking.

This year, I have two new foster children with me. Because they’re here, I’ve decided to host the whole family at my house this year. It means we can visit a contact centre if it’s decided that the girls will see their birth family around Christmas time. That would have been harder to navigate if we were spending the holiday a few hours away, and it’s really important to me that I help them remember their birth family – especially at Christmas. I’m careful to do that in a way that is sensitive, and in a way that recognises that for some children it can be a really hard thing. Sometimes it feels right to write a Christmas card, sometimes it doesn’t. I remember in the early days with my older foster daughter who has been with me a long time now, that felt like a tricky line to navigate. She didn’t know how I would feel about her birth family, and I didn’t know how she would feel about me asking. But we have regular conversations now. She has a brother who she’ll visit over New Year, after the Christmas chaos in our house has died down slightly.

Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day are the important days in our family, because those are the days that we’ll definitely be together. I hope the girls will enjoy it; I want it to feel as normal as possible for them, and not like a ‘foster Christmas’. Because they’re not just foster children. They’re family."

*names have been changed for anonymity

Date published:
Christmas 2021


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