'T is the night before Christmas and Mariah Carey and her family are literally dashing through the snow on a two-horse open sleigh. With blankets. And real reindeer. Yes, Mariah Carey loves Christmas and her festive rituals are just as delightfully extra as you'd imagine. But more of that later...
This month marks the 25th anniversary of her iconic anthem All I Want For Christmas Is You and, as she cuddles up on the sofa with her beloved Jack Russell Cha Cha for our chat in her 10,000-square-foot, peach-coloured Beverly Hills mansion, Mariah is feeling nostalgic. "I'm sitting here and thinking about it I've been looking for pictures from that original photoshoot, which was like me in the snow in that little Santa suit. It became the first song that I wrote for that album."
So how do you write one of the classic Christmas songs? "I just sat down, decorated a little tree and put on It's A Wonderful Life and tried to get into that mood. Then I sat in this small room with a keyboard and started doing little melodies and stuff. I was going over all the things I think about at Christmas time that make me happy and how to turn it around and make it into a love song."
The song brought with it an equally iconic video which, of course, sees Mariah cavorting around in the snow and tossing around presents with glee. "See me in the snow in that little Santa suit? That wasn't a studio, that was a real moment," she says proudly. "I was freezing cold, my hair was frozen, it was outside in a snowy field [in New Jersey], and I'll just never forget it because there were real reindeer." But if you're wondering if MC still dons that Mrs Claus outfit every holiday season, prepare to be disappointed. "I don't know where it is! That was one of the first things I had done in my career, so I didn't realise, 'Oh, save these things because one day it might be something you want.' But we're going to have another one made, I think."
One of the best-selling tracks of all time at 16 million copies, the song has contributed an estimated £48 million to Mariah's merry multimillion-dollar Christmas empire, with a reported £400,000 rolling in in royalties every year. So popular is it still that it was played 10.8 million times on Spotify last Christmas Eve, setting a new one-day streaming record, and has been covered by everyone from Ariana Grande to My Chemical Romance, Justin Bieber to K-Pop girl band Cosmic Girls.
When it comes to reflecting on the song's anniversary, Mariah is, of course, as wise as ever. "I don't acknowledge time," she declares. "The more I hear [that it's turning 25], the more I freak out. I'd rather just say it feels like it's going to be a great anniversary for the album. We'll call it a birthday. It's not that it scares me, it's just if you don't acknowledge time, you don't have to deal with it."
In the 25 years since All I Want For Christmas... first warmed hearts, Mariah has morphed like a butterfly into a kitschy beacon of yuletide joy for her devoted fans, AKA her "Lambily".
But her rise to Undisputed Queen of Christmas hasn't been easy and the superstar is excitable and often emotional as she opens up about her holiday-season experiences as a child.
"Growing up I had a very dysfunctional family," recalls Mariah, who was raised in Long Island, New York, with divorced parents, siblings she no longer speaks to, and financial challenges."I always wanted to have a really good time at Christmas and they would ruin it, so I vowed in my own life I would make sure every Christmas was great.
"I want to make it magical for my kids. You know, I think it's this kind of childlike love of Christmas that saved me. I go through so much all year long just to have a great Christmas."
As we say our goodbyes Mariah's eight-year-old twins Moroccan and Monroe are due home from hip-hop dance class at any moment she pauses. "I enjoyed that so much, thank you. I think everybody should spend Christmas with me because it's a great experience."
While we consider our RSVP for a minute (*Googles cheapest flights to Aspen*), here's a step-by-step guide from Mariah herself, revealing for the first time exactly what goes on in the Carey household.
Pre-game: get Zen
"I will only allow a harmonious day in my house you have to comply or you can get out. That's how you avoid the arguments. You're not invited if you're going to cause any drama. There are no fights on Christmas."
Book a flight to Aspen
"Christmas officially starts on the 23rd with my extended family. We're not together, but Nick [Cannon, Mariah's ex-husband and father to her twins] will usually come by. And usually we're in Aspen. When I get off the plane, our drivers have All I Want For Christmas... playing, we have hot cocoa and some butterscotch schnapps. Then we'll go through the woods on a two-horse open sleigh with blankets and real reindeer. It's freezing cold but it's beautiful and you're looking at the stars. It's an incredible moment I love every year."
"While the kids go skiing and snowboarding, I usually go shopping because I never get a chance to shop during the year. At home, usually there'll be a stylist that does that, so I don't necessarily just get to walk around the shops, but at Christmas in that environment it's really nice. It's very glamorous in Aspen but that's not why I go there. I go there for the activities that aren't paparazzi moments."
Christmas Eve invite Santa
"This is the one time I will usually be in the kitchen. Often there's a sous chef, I'm not going to lie. I cook a couple of different things secret family recipes from my dad. Then Santa comes and hangs out with us. We take pictures by the tree. Then I'll encourage everybody to sleep in a little bit later because I'm not an early riser."
Christmas morning present time!
"Everybody waits for me to get it together. I put on something I feel is Christmassy, some kind of fun little pyjamas or a onesie, something cute, and have some eggnog while we're opening the presents. Sometimes I'll open my presents at night because I want to take care of everybody else first. All the kids care about is their iPads at the moment they just want different apps and games. I told them this year if we're going to do that then I don't need to buy all these other presents you don't really care about, so we're going to figure out how Santa deals with that. For me, just the kids' love is all I really need. They make me things and I save everything. But that doesn't mean I don't want things bought from the shop. I love that, too."
Get two trees
"We do a tree in the bedroom, then I do a big tree in the living room with decorations I've had for years and years. Gold lights with off-white light, angels wearing white, and butterflies. At the top, we either have a star or an angel. We also do another tree in the family room area and call that the Charlie Brown tree. It's a sad little tree we decorate with Polaroid pictures of ourselves and draw funny stuff on it. That one has the colourful lights that are old school. Me and the kids do the little tree downstairs together, but decorating the big tree is really hard it's 19ft."
Cook up a storm
"I work with the sous chef on the whole American traditional Christmas dinner turkey, mashed potatoes, we'll do a cherry pie, apple pie. There's lots of vegetables and goodies, cranberry sauce and stuffing. Sometimes we may do sprouts. It's not like number one on my list of must-haves I don't need them. It's not like stuffing stuffing is a thing. Christmas Day should be whatever you feel like doing food-wise."
And to drink?
"Hot cocoa and butterscotch schnapps."
The party games
"Taboo every year. Now sometimes, just to get the kids involved in writing and stuff, we'll do Head's Up, which is pretty much like Taboo. I'm pretty competitive."
Binge on festive films
"I watch only Christmas movies and I listen to only Christmas music that's the only thing that's allowed to happen in my house. I used to bring DVDs but now it's usually between Netflix and Amazon Prime they have categories for Christmas movies. I love It's A Wonderful Life, Elf, Four Christmases and [of course] Love Actually my song is in that, I had to approve it."
Make the ultimate holiday playlist (repeat on loop)
"I really like listening to the classics Nat King Cole, Judy Garland. I could do a Christmas playlist on Spotify, but I like it to be playing all day and all night so I have these iPods with a really extensive Christmas playlist that just plays the whole time. If I wake up and there's no Christmas music playing I get very annoyed and have to handle it."
Dear Mariah. My family buy me the most dreadful Christmas presents every year. Have you ever received something crap and how do you react?
"Somebody once wrapped up something they already had I'd seen it in their bathroom! And they wrapped it up and gave it to me. I thought it was the worst thing I'd ever seen, but I just pretended [I liked it]."
Dear Mariah. My ex-boyfriend bought me a necklace for Christmas and broke up with me a few weeks later and left me heartbroken. Now he keeps asking for it back. What do I do?
"Don't give it back. I can't believe he's even asking for it back. No way, honey."
Dear Mariah. I don't earn a lot of money and I spent a fortune on my boyfriend for Christmas and have since found out he's cheated on me. What do I do?
"Steal the gifts back without asking."