Louise Minchin on quirky Christmas traditions

Louise Minchin

Louise Minchin - Credit: Archant

The BBC presenter’s family nickname is Mrs Elf, but it’s nothing to do with Santa’s little helpers. Louise, who lives with her family near Chester, recalls an unusual game from Christmases past.


I love Christmas, and I love that we all have different family traditions. (Ours include hot ham on Christmas Eve with creamy mashed potato and lashings of parsley sauce, champagne after church, the slightly tipsy cooking of lunch, and the inevitable collapsing for hours in front of the fire watching telly.)

After the over-indulgence of Christmas Day, one of my favourite family traditions growing up used to be a game of hockey on Boxing Day, which was hosted by my cousins. This was no normal game. For starters, whoever you were, whatever age you were, eighty or eight, you had to play. There were no side-lines, centre-lines, or circles, just a couple of goals set up in a field. Most crucially, no hockey sticks were allowed! Instead you had to play with an upside-down walking stick from their extensive collection. No stick was the same, and it was the shape of the handle that was key to your success. Everyone was both attacker and defender and there seemed to be no rules at all, with everyone wildly hacking at the ball, and each other. It was a health and safety nightmare, fiercely competitive, extremely dangerous, but brilliant fun, and despite being whacked on the head a couple of times I absolutely loved it.

My family always tease me for being risk averse, they call me Mrs Elf and Safety. I think it’s because, so often I am reporting on bad news that it’s made me very cautious. Alongside my wary nature though, there is no doubt that some of my best memories, seem to involve just a little bit of danger.

With that in mind, last year we decided to bring back a homage to the legendary game of hockey. Our version has morphed into what we call ‘Rugnet’, a mixture of rugby and netball, again without many rules. Last year we played it with a football, the goals were two huge water buckets, and the teams were a specially selected assortment of age groups. After some initial resistance, the game quickly became hilariously competitive. So much so, that I could hardly run for laughing at the on-pitch shenanigans: pushing, shoving and shouting. The winning goal was scored by a Dad who was so desperate to beat the competition he picked up a boy who was tightly gripping the ball, and upended both boy and ball into the bucket.


At the final whistle, we were out of breath, red-faced and and giggling from the absurdity of it. What fun it had been to put down our phones, tune out the social media and all play something silly together. This year, I have a feeling we might have to play again.

Looking forward to

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Catching the ferry from Holyhead to Dublin and going to explore the West Coast of Ireland.

Not looking forward to

Having to take down the Christmas tree and chase all the pine needles out from under the sofa.

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