Today on CR’s we are lucky enough to be joined by the fabulous Zara Stoneley as part of the Happy Harper Xmas. Today Zara is sharing with us What makes Christmas Christmas? 

For me, what makes Christmas a special day are the traditions; not just any traditions but our own family ones which are in the main good old English country ones. I wouldn’t want to change a thing, no new-fangled ideas required. So here are my top six;

Mulled wine – this links in with another family tradition. My father used to play in a brass band, and every year, the Sunday before Christmas, they took part in a Christmas service at a village church near us. We still all attend, even though he no longer plays, and then everybody heads back to our house for homemade sausage rolls and good old mulled wine. It really is Christmas in a glass, and the smell of nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and fruit fills the whole house. That service, and the wine, marks the beginning of Christmas for me.

Log fire – one of the first things I did when I bought my cottage was to remove the gas fire so that we could have a proper one! We don’t light it that often, the central heating keeps us warm, but there is nothing better when it’s cold outside than sitting in front of a pile of burning logs, toasting marshmallows and cooking chestnuts. And it doesn’t matter how mild it is on Christmas Day – the fire will be lit!

Horse riding – I’ve always loved escaping with the horses for an hour. The turkey goes in the oven and I’m off before breakfast, sharing warm cuddles and hitting the traffic free roads. It’s a lovely time of day, very quiet and it’s great to share some quality time with the animals before the chaos of the day takes over. And if the roads are too slippery to ride on I’ll still be there doling out dates and carrots. The smell of sweet hay, and the sight of horses munching in a warm stable is magic!

Christmas dinner – for me it has to be traditional with a good dry-plucked turkey and old-fashioned homemade chestnut stuffing. Which is why I tasked Lottie, in ‘A Very Country Christmas’ with making the exact same stuffing! I do have to admit as well, that part of the inspiration for the story came from past disasters – like the time my oven stopped working when the turkey was only half-cooked and I was expecting eight for dinner! Oh, and there has to be cranberry sauce, roast parsnips, and sprouts.

Snowballs – no not the cold sort that get lobbed. One lasting memory from when I was young was helping Mum make the snowballs. We covered balloons with paper mache, and once it was set we stuck cotton wool all over, then the balloons were popped and balls cut into halves. Mum then put a small gift in each one, put the two halves together and tied them up with ribbon. The snowballs were put on the dinner table and we each had one to open at the end of dinner. Me and my sisters have all carried on the tradition with our own families.

Dog walking – an after dinner (well after the Queen’s speech) tradition. I love getting out in the cold crisp air (hopefully it is cold and not raining!) and stretching my legs. The dogs love it, especially if there is snow on the ground, and it’s also a lovely time to chat with whoever wants to come along. And by the time we get back we’ve made room for a mince pie and another drink…

And of course, the most important tradition of all is spending Christmas with family and friends, sitting around a table together and sharing time as well as food and drink.

What makes Christmas special for you?



ZaraStoneley authorpic

Zara Stoneley grew up in small village in Staffordshire. After completing a degree, working as an IT consultant, and then combining running a dog grooming business with family life Zara returned to her love of writing.

In 2012 she secured her first publishing contract with Xcite Books, the erotic imprint of Accent Press, and a year later signed a deal with HarperCollins.

Zara now writes fun, romantic romps set in the British countryside that she loves so much.

She splits her time between a country cottage in a Cheshire village, surrounded by family, friends and assorted animals, and an apartment in Barcelona.


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My book –

A Very Country Christmas

‘A Very Country Christmas’

A short Christmas story of three courses.

Love is in the air in Tippermere as Lottie dreams of a white Christmas with no trimmings – other than her hot and hunky eventer, Rory. But things are never quite that simple on the Tipping House Estate.

Festive fervour takes over and it isn’t all seasonal peace and goodwill as expectations rise and it soon escalates from cosy dinner for two, to all the trimmings for ten!

With missing turkeys, loose horses, troublesome terriers and randy huntsmen, Lottie is hard pushed to find time for a kiss under the mistletoe, let alone find the opportunity to woo Rory with her sexy Santa costume.

But there is only one thing Lottie really wants for Christmas, and only one man can deliver it…

Available FREE from – Amazon       Barnes & Noble      Kobo     
Sainsbury’s      Google Play  


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