I HAVE a confession to make: I’m 62 and have never cooked a Christmas dinner.

I’ve rustled up a few Sunday dinners with chicken pieces and two veg, shop-bought Yorkshire puddings and Bisto gravy, but never a full-works festive affair.

Given that my mum spent her life cooking fabulous Christmas dinners, I am ashamed, but the idea of it terrifies me. If, like her, I was faced with a house full of relatives to cater for, I’d have a nervous breakdown.

When I was a child Mum used to get up at an unearthly hour to put the Christmas turkey in the oven. It was already cooking when we kids rose at a not-much-later unearthly hour to open our presents.

As the morning unfurled Mum would prepare ‘all the trimmings’, and there were lots of them: roast and mashed potato plus a vast array of vegetables: sprouts, carrots, cauliflower, peas, swede - which in our corner of Yorkshire was known as turnip - parsnips and broccoli.

There were pigs in blankets, a delicious stuffing concoction called season pudding, and, of course, Mum’s amazing Yorkshire puddings - tall, crisp and golden brown.

In those days our family of five were joined on Christmas Day by one set of grandparents and an uncle and aunt, so there were nine mouths to feed. What fascinated me then continues to intrigue me into adulthood - how did Mum manage to get it all ready to serve at the same time?

I honestly don’t know how she achieved it.

York Press: Cooking for a house full is highly pressurised. Picture: PixabayCooking for a house full is highly pressurised. Picture: Pixabay

I find some comfort in that I am not alone in my fear of having to cook a Christmas dinner. Research by home appliance company Samsung UK found that almost half (47 per cent) of people in Britain are stressing over the annual meal.

And when in charge of the cooking, more than a third (33 per cent) feel like they miss out on spending quality time with family or friends due to kitchen pressures.

My mum certainly missed out on Christmas socialising, but she wouldn’t have had it any other way. We kids would help with odd jobs, as would Dad - he always mashed the potato - but Mum controlled the kitchen like a military operation and if she didn't want you in there, she would say so.

Preparing Christmas dinner is a challenge. You need to be something of a magician. All morning our kitchen would be full of food at different stages of cooking, some in the oven, some in pans, some in dishes on heated warming trays, some on funny little warmers heated by candles…as a child I found it all overwhelming and, like climbing Mount Everest, I knew even then that it was something I’d never, ever be able to tackle.

Preparing and cooking Christmas dinner is a huge responsibility. Some families duck out of it altogether and head for a Toby Carvery, and I can’t say I blame them. Nowadays, some may stick it all in the air fryer.

My mum died in 2021, and I am sad to say that, while she enjoyed many help-yourself-style lunches and afternoon teas at my house, I never cooked her a Christmas dinner. Having said that, I don’t think she minded. She loved cooking and enjoyed being at home at Christmas, in her beloved kitchen, making a meal that she knew would delight all comers.

I’m not a good cook - which maybe explains my terror at the thought of preparing Christmas dinner - but luckily I married a man who is. My husband and youngest daughter cooked Christmas dinner last year and - while not up my mum’s ridiculously high standards - it was lovely.

They will, I believe, be cooking it again on Monday, possibly assisted by my eldest daughter. I'm not complaining - it gets me off the hook for one more year.