I feel incredibly lucky to be able to say that my childhood Christmases are some of my fondest memories.

But this year, it will be my first ever Christmas away from my family (after 27 years) and it’s something I have been dreading all year.

I know this will sound pathetic to some, as every year between the last Christmas and the next, people experience loved ones passing away through illness or tragedy and they know their Christmases will never be the same again.

In the past, I have been in this position as I have lost grandparents who made my Christmases everything I could have dreamed of and more.

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I’ve been by the side of my closest and best friend of 24 years who has grieved throughout the festive period after losing their significant other in a fatal car crash.

This is why I will always think about those whose lives will never be the same again throughout every December when grief is at its strongest.

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I grew up in a small northern village surrounded by my entire family, including grandparents, aunties, uncles and cousins (now over 20 of them), and over the years we created our own special traditions, just like many families.

The memories of sleeping on my brother’s bedroom floor as a child on Christmas Eve and being kept awake all night from a mix of worrying that Father Christmas won’t come and if I will ever hear those sleigh bells ring, to being insanely excited for what I would find under the tree feels like yesterday.

Darlington and Stockton Times: I will always be thankful to my family for giving me so many Christmases to rememberI will always be thankful to my family for giving me so many Christmases to remember (Image: Newsquest)

Christmas Day morning always started with myself and my brother diving into our Cadbury selection boxes, waiting to ring our grandparents so we could scream down the phone to tell them about our new Nintendo DS or Just Dance mat.

After ripping open every toy and gadget, we would hover around mum as she put every ounce of care into making the ultimate Christmas dinner.

We would then nip across the field to my grandma’s house as we continued listing every single present that the big man in red had left before nipping down the road to my nan and grandad's.

For me, this was what Christmas was all about growing up as my dad’s side of the family would gather in their dozens for the evening.

Between my nan, aunties and uncles they always put on the finest buffet which ended in family arguments over who was getting the biggest portion of trifle or the last scoop of prawns.

My nan would fill little Father Christmases holding baskets with tubs of Celebrations or Roses chocolates and I loved rummaging to find all the Dairy Milks or Snickers before anyone else.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Both my grandma and grandad passed away recentlyBoth my grandma and grandad passed away recently (Image: Newsquest)

I will always remember her choosing personal gifts for each grandchild to hang on the tree and announcing “he’s been!” as she pointed to the presents, each of our names on (it used to baffle me how Father Christmas knew I was coming here but I was assured he knew everything).

Together, we would spend hours sharing gifts, playing games, eating all the food and embracing family banter that would last years to come.

Every year I felt such warmth and adoration, and I would leave late at night thinking there really is no place like home.

But over the years, some family members are no longer with us, yet at the same time new ones have joined us, from partners to second cousins.

On both sides of my family, it never fails to impress me how big we have grown, but equally it gets harder and harder to be together all at once (other than funerals and weddings).

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When I met my boyfriend seven years ago, I always swore to my mum I would never leave her on Christmas Day and up until this year, it’s how it’s always been.

For 27 years (and counting) my mum and dad have made every Christmas beyond magical and I will never have the words to describe how much their efforts have truly meant to me and my brother.

After all, they are why I consider myself a secret elf throughout December and insist my house turns into a grotto.

Over the last few years, my boyfriend has opted to spend Christmas with my family so we could finally be together on December 25, but this year it will be the last in his family home after 30 years due to a long-awaited house move in early 2024.

Knowing this is where he needs to be, I couldn’t help but feel a huge sense of guilt when it came to leaving him and my new puppy for the big day, as this year we have created a little family of our own.

This, combined with work commitments, travel difficulties, other personal circumstances, plus trying to get back home with a four-hour journey in between has made it difficult to spend Christmas at home this year.

So I’ve decided to stay put and embrace my circumstances – it’s time to make some new traditions of my own (including making a Christmas Eve box for my dog).

I’ve accepted change is okay, no matter how much you don’t want it sometimes.

It’s always important to embrace any situation you are dealt with because how many more Christmases are we guaranteed?