As a child, I never believed in Ded Moroz, or Father Christmas, or Santa Claus, or whatever other names this grumpy old elf with a freaky white beard is locally known as. But nevertheless, I could feel the magic of Christmas lingering in the air, the magic so tangible that I could almost touch it, and so subtle that it somehow wore completely off by the time I turned 15, leaving me weirdly perplexed and nostalgic.

It took me quite a while to recollect that distant feeling of winter bliss and learn to enjoy the winter holidays again. Here are some of the things that I, as a grown-up, still love about Christmas and New Year.

1. Christmas Gifts

I remember this wonderful feeling of being a little girl, lying in my bed, happy and sleepy after a busy day of New Year’s Eve festivities, watching the lights on the Christmas tree flickering gently, and wishing for the morning to come sooner so I could open my presents, which I knew were already there, hidden under the tree, waiting for me.

This part hasn’t changed much. I don’t want to sound overly materialistic, but giving and receiving gifts has always been my favorite part of all the Christmas hoopla. Though it’s implied that it’s never really about the presents but about showing people that you care for and appreciate them (nah, I don’t buy it either), I enjoy coming up with something special for the people I love. It can be tricky sometimes and you don’t always guess right, but when you do, it all pays off.

2. Handmade Christmas Cards

Credit: Annie Spratt (@anniespratt) on Unsplash

Credit: Annie Spratt (@anniespratt) on Unsplash

I don’t normally make handmade cards. Actually, I used to, but it took too much time and effort, while the cards I came up with did not even remotely resemble the fancy and professional ones you can find online or buy at a Christmas market. So, after a while, I gave up on this idea, with the only exception: Christmas.

3. Christmas Decorations

If you have ever been to St. Petersburg in winter, you know what I’m talking about. With all the illumination and sparkling Christmas trees on every corner, the city is simply gorgeous. I also like the way stores and cafes decorate their front windows, it just makes everything look so much prettier. Walk along the Nevsky Prospect, cross the Palace Bridge, visit the New Holland Island, and check out St. Petersburg’s numerous winter fairs to feel the Christmas vibe.

4. Christmas Movies

Among my personal favorites are Richard Curtis’s charming romantic comedy Love Actually, Sharon Maguire’s hit Bridget Jones’s Diary, Robert Zemeckis’ dark fantasy A Christmas Carol, and The Polar Express. I watch these films each and every year, starting in the middle of December, and they never fail to amaze me!

5. Christmas Goodies

Just think about spicy star-shaped ginger cookies, cinnamon roasted almonds, delicious fruitcakes, brightly-colored candy canes, exquisite yule logs, good old eggnog, steaming hot chocolate, and sweet, spicy mulled wine that tastes so Christmassy! See? Maybe the proverbial “magic of Christmas” isn’t exactly what you need after all?

6. Spending Time With Family

Credit: Dan DeAlmeida (@ddealmeida) on Unsplash

Credit: Dan DeAlmeida (@ddealmeida) on Unsplash

As they say, there’s no place like home for the holidays. Though I’m not a fan of huge family gatherings with scads of distant relatives you never knew you had, lots of noise, and dozens of children causing chaos and turning your place upside down, I really enjoy cozy family evenings with jokes, homemade food, good music, and traditional New Year’s movies.

Whether it’s because it was our parents who were responsible for all the wonders, or maybe it’s just easier to feel it when you’re a kid, I don’t know, but now it requires a little bit more effort to really enjoy the festivities. Yet at the same time, this makes you realize that there is actually no secret to doing it right, it’s just about attention to detail and your willingness to bring out the magic that’s already there.

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!