Hard to believe that we are preparing for yet another California Christmas. After five years in Los Angeles, I still find it a shock to wake up to blue skies and palm trees on Christmas morning. Thousands of miles away from the familiar Burgundian countryside, we continue to celebrate Christmas in the spirit of France and Château du Fey. That means big family dinners, generous glasses of wine and lots and lots of presents.

The weeks leading up to Christmas are always very busy in the Willan/Cherniavsky household. There are year-old Christmas cakes to be fed, loaves of yule bread to be baked, parties to be planned and dozens of presents to be wrapped (with kind help from my assistant Nicole). This has become a longtime tradition and, after a lifetime spent around the world, my Christmas list of friends reads more like an atlas than a family tree. Friends stretch from Kansas City to Kiev, Paris to Perth.

To simplify things, each year has a theme gift, this year it is a dishtowel in the characteristic stripes of Catalonia, last year it was a colorful notebook, the year before, miniature painted boxes from Russia. Nicole and I have spent days deciding who gets what, wrapping, packing and sending them around the world. From Thanksgiving forward, our dining room table is transformed into Santa’s workshop.

I guess this is my way of saying that old friends are the best friends and that time and space must never come between us.