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The Financial Times news editor on working during the festive period, wearing his Christmas cracker hat and supporting local food banks

The festive season brings with it excitement, celebrations and busy preparations as well as being a time to reflect. We asked Matthew Garrahan – news editor of the Financial Times – about what this time of year means to him, and how he looks after his wellbeing at Christmastime.

What epitomises Christmas for you?

Family, good cheer, great grub and over indulgence. As a kid, Christmas always involved long car journeys to see relatives. Now I take my own kids on long car journeys to see relatives. Life comes full circle.

How do you usually celebrate Christmas? Are there any traditions, or rituals, that signify this time of year for you?

I am a solemn observer of the Wearing the Hats out of the Cracker ritual during Christmas dinner. I love that people around the country wear these things, forget they have them on, and then carry on having ostensibly serious conversations.

How will you be celebrating this year? Will you be doing anything different to usual?

It looks like Covid has put paid to a big family gathering so our get together will be limited to me, my wife and our three kids.

"A pandemic vaccine for older relatives would be the best Christmas gift, so they could see their grandkids again"

Matthew Garrahan

What has been your most memorable Christmas, and why?

Many years ago, I went to Brazil for Christmas with some friends. The idea was to celebrate on the beach outside Rio and then backpack around the country. Sadly, it rained solidly so Christmas Day was a bit of a damp squib. It got sunny after that though so the trip wasn’t a total washout. We had a brilliant time but there was a bit of drama when I bought a cheap pair of sunglasses, singed my corneas, went partially blind for 24 hours and had to spend New Year’s Day in a Rio eye hospital. A Christmas holiday to remember.

Cooking is often seen as a cathartic pastime, who does the festive cooking in your home?

My wife is a superb cook and leads the way if we’re at home. My skills are more in the eating of festive food, although I am an enthusiastic potato peeler, server of drinks and washer of dishes.

Does the festive period bring any challenges for you? If so, how do you approach/manage them?

Given that the news doesn’t exactly stop for holidays, we continue to publish the FT website over the festive period and the newspaper between Christmas and New Year. Filling rotas during the holiday is never straightforward but FT reporters are a diligent bunch and we always make sure we’re covered.

The festive season can be quite busy and stressful. What have you found helps you to relax, and stay calm and positive, during this time?

From a news perspective, this year will be more testing than most with the pandemic still raging and affecting people all over the world. I’ll miss this year’s carol concert at St Bride’s on Fleet Street, which is a magical evening. Running keeps me sane so I’ll be trying to squeeze some in among the present wrapping.

What do you think is the best way to give back and help others at this time of year?

Supporting local food banks is going to be more important than ever this year with unemployment rising so sharply. It’s also a good time to make annual charitable donations – the International Rescue Committee does excellent work supporting refugees and I would urge readers to check out the work they do.

"Running keeps me sane so I’ll be trying to squeeze some in amongst the present wrapping"

Matthew Garrahan

What is the most meaningful gift you could give to someone, and what’s your festive wrapping style?

That’s a tricky one. A pandemic vaccine for older relatives would be the best gift, so they could see their grandkids again, but probably isn’t going to arrive in time. I’d describe my wrapping style as ‘creative chaos’. My kids don’t seem to notice how bad it is, which is the main thing.

What would you most like to receive this year?

Some excellent socks or a fine single malt whiskey.

Do you have a favourite Christmas song?

Fairy Tale of New York by The Pogues.

Reflecting on the past year and all of its challenges, could you share with us a positive that you discovered amidst the adversity, or something you learned that you’ll be taking forward with you into 2021?

This is another tricky one. I loved the outpouring of support for the NHS and have been amazed at how resilient people have been with all the disruption to their lives, which I’m sure will continue into 2021.

Matthew Garrahan is news editor of the Financial Times. In a 20-year career with the FT he has been a corporate reporter, covered the business of sport and been the Global Media Editor and Los Angeles correspondent. He has been awarded the Business and Finance Journalist of the Year award twice, and also won the 2018 Arts & Entertainment Reporter of the Year at the British Journalism Awards. Follow him on Twitter @mattgarrahan

The Royal Exchange is partnering with Mind in the City, Hackney and Waltham Forest to encourage conversations about mental health, wellbeing and community spirit. For further information on Mind in the City, its support services and how you can get involved with fundraising or volunteering, please visit: mindchwf.org.uk