Paul de Zwart, the supremely tasteful creative director of furniture and homewares brand Another Country – and one of the original founders of Wallpaper* magazine – recounts his Christmases past and present.
“We were a family that moved around a lot. My father worked for a multinational company so we celebrated Christmas in tropical and snowy climates, mainly as a family of four (there was rarely family nearby that we could visit or who could visit us). What didn’t change was the ritual and the affection in which I hold the Christmas festivities to this day (despite not being a church goer!). In keeping with Dutch traditions, where Christmas isn’t as important as in other countries due to the Dutch celebrating St Nicholas on Dec 5th, we always opened presents on Christmas Eve and enjoyed a Christmas Day lunch cooked by my mother.
Since we don’t reside in the Netherlands we don’t have competition from St Nicholas so Christmas has taken on a more Anglo Saxon relevance. Having played up the Father Christmas story to our daughter when she was young (including reading the Night Before Christmas and leaving food out for the reindeer on Christmas Eve), presents and stocking fillers are now opened on Christmas Day (first thing-ish) accompanied by Dutch Christmas cake followed by a seafood and champagne lunch.
Rather than travelling each year to see our American or Dutch relatives, we have acquired the enjoyable habit of celebrating Christmas at our cottage in Dorset. Family is always welcome and take turns to join us. This year it is the Dutch relatives who are coming over.
We don’t over-decorate the house, but it is unmistakably Christmas – a wreath on the door and a tree in the house.
Wild Christmas wreath by One Flew Over
For many years now our Christmas dinner (eaten on Christmas Day evening) consists of Middle Eastern-inspired dishes which manage to cover all the traditional food groups but with a wonderful and different array of flavours and colours. I happen to do most of the cooking for the Christmas Dinner. We have an open-plan kitchen-dining-living room so there is always a lot of chatting, albeit in phases.
We have a Rosenthal dining set (Suomi), which we pair with antique Tiffany silverware and linen napkins. We dine at an Another Country Series Two dining table with we don’t cover with a cloth. We only use placemats instead. Candle lights tend to be low, red Ittalla votives since a Moooi lamp hangs perilously close to the table, too low for tall candles. Sometimes there are crackers.
Series Two dining table by Another Country
What’s on my wish list this year? Not a lot. I don’t need or want anything. A new pair of Punched Cap Oxford Shoes by New & Lingwood might come in handy though. I’ve been wearing mine since our wedding 13 years ago.”