A family Christmas with Cristina Balducci

Cristina Balducci comes from an Italian-Finnish family. Now settled in Belgium, this mother of four and founder of the Bonjour Georges blog tells AMV Journal how she plans to celebrate Christmas. As we love her simple style and moving, sensitive photos, we decided to visit her at her home in Brussels.

Italy, Finland, Belgium… How did you prepare for Christmas when you were little?

Christmas was the event that I looked forward to all year when I was little… until I grew up! Now that I have kids, I try to make this period magical but without getting stressed about it. I like last-minute parties. When I was young, I often spent Christmas in Finland, where the real Father Christmas came to visit us on Christmas Eve. We had him all to ourselves for one hour, because he would sit down in our living room and give us our gifts one by one. Over there, the snow plays a big part in the drama of Christmas. In Finland, you could almost always count on the snow. But we combined this with Italian traditions from my father: a Pandoro (a sort of yeast-leavened cake, like a kougelhopf) and aragosta (lobster), which we washed down with glögi (a Finnish spiced mulled wine). It was a cosmopolitan Christmas…

How do you adapt these traditions to your family?

We couldn’t manage to choose! In Belgium, there’s also Saint Nicolas on 6 December. The children love this. Saint Nicolas doesn’t wrap up the presents like Father Christmas. If it’s a construction set, for example, it might already be unboxed and assembled. We always leave a glass of milk (for him) and a carrot (for his donkey) in front of the fireplace, inside the children’s slippers. From Italy, we continue the tradition of Befana (on Epiphany Eve), an old woman who puts little gifts in stockings hung on the chimney.

Do you spend Christmas in Belgium?

No, in Finland, where my mother is from! I’m lucky, because she prepares everything. I’m very excited. We’re going to eat a lot (too much!), but it will all be perfect. My grandmother will be there as well. I’m so happy that she can spend Christmas with her great-grandchildren, whom she is very proud of. We’ll spend a week there, taking long walks outside and watching Christmas films together by the fire.

What will you wear on Christmas Day?

Probably my new Cosawood dress from American Vintage. It’s loose and flowing and just colourful enough to go with this special celebration.

Have your children already written to Father Christmas? What about you?

Colette is convinced that she’s a princess, so she asked for an outfit worthy of her position. The boys want tickets to the Finland-Belgium game during the Euro 2020, which will take place on 22 June in Saint Petersburg. As for me, for the past five years, I’ve asked for pots and pans to complete my Iittala set. All my girlfriends make fun of me!

AMV Journal is a space dedicated to encounters, discovery and travel. Every week, explore the musts, portraits and inspirations of American Vintage and its creation studio.