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Article  •  6 December 2022


A publisher shares her bookish Christmas traditions

Sophie Ambrose shares her Christmas traditions including the book she reads every year and her favourite Christmas album.

As a publisher of non-fiction, it won’t surprise you that on Christmas Eve I like to share with my children the true story of Father Christmas and his flying reindeer: The Night Before Christmas. It was first published long before publishers had legal teams that required authors to provide proof of events. Reading it instantly transports me back in time, to being a child in London and feeling ridiculously excited about the stocking at the end of my bed and the presents beneath the tree. I still love Christmas as much as I did back then and get the same thrill when I see my children’s stockings. I know: I’m insufferable.

Sophie's essential Christmas books


The Night Before Christmas book cover.

Clement C. Moore's The Night Before Christmas by Anita Lobel

Each year, I snuggle up in bed with my boys and we try to remember the names of the reindeer before we begin. Each year, without fail, I forget Cupid because it’s a stupid name for a reindeer. We then get down to business and I produce the fabric version of the book that my mother-in-law hand-stitched for us years ago. It gives the tradition a bit of a magical quality, to be honest, but you could just purchase a picture book version if your in-laws refuse to get out a needle and thread. I know for a fact that another staff member lights a candle when she reads her edition, but that’s overkill, if you ask me. The magic should all come from the book.

Nigella Christmas book cover.

Nigella Christmas by Nigella Lawson

The other tradition I have is baking the snowflake biscuits on p.194 of Nigella Christmas. Nigella is a kitchen goddess but I am not, so I have to get the children involved and they read aloud the recipe and remind me, at regular intervals, that I burnt the biscuits last year.

If the biscuits are cooked for the correct length of time, the house suddenly smells like Christmas – the scent of cloves and nutmeg fills the air – and it’s truly joyous in a Nigella-like way. But it’s the next stage when things generally go awry. Nigella does not mention in Nigella Christmas that icing the biscuits before you hang them on the tree will be immensely time-consuming and fiddly. She doesn’t tell you that one child will likely stomp off because their biscuit now looks like a giant blob, and the other child will sob because theirs broke. I generally pour myself a glass of wine at this point.

What I’m listening to

I always listen to Michael Bublé on Christmas Day and highly recommend his Christmas hits. A word of warning: if you’re middle-aged, like me, this is the only day you should listen to Bublé because it’s a slippery slope to Smooth FM.


What I’m watching

I watch every single dodgy Christmas film on Netflix in the lead-up to Christmas so that the whole family gets in the mood. My husband in particular gets in a mood, but I guess we all have our own traditions. At least he has my Christmas quiz to look forward to!


Still have some Christmas shopping to do? Check out the best books to gift this year. 

Featured Titles

Clement C. Moore's The Night Before Christmas
Discover the magic of Christmas Eve in this modern version of Clement C. Moore's classic Christmas poem.
Read more
Nigella Christmas
Glorious – and easy – meals, snacks and treats that put the joy back into Christmas cooking.
Read more

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