TV & showbiz
A merry Madonna Christmas - macrobiotic lunch, no TV and slim pickings under the treeLast updated at 22:14pm on 14th December 2007
There will hardly be any presents, and most traditional and fairly innocent-seeming festive fare, such as chipolata sausages, have been banned.
Indeed, a rather restricted version of Yuletide spirit will be in evidence in the £5million London townhouse where Madonna, Guy Ritchie, 11-year-old Lourdes, Rocco, seven, and David Banda, two, are set to spend Christmas Day.
As Guy recently revealed, the family "cancelled Christmas" two years ago - which means that no gifts will be exchanged by the adults.
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Non traditional: Madonna with Lourdes and David
Guy and Madonna, who are devotees of Kabbalah (a form of Judaism), will give each other wedding anniversary presents on December 22, and leave it at that.
This is not - as many assume - because Madonna is anti-Christian.
Somewhat confusingly, she claims still to believe in Jesus.
She does, though, follow the Kabbalah and raises her family within that quasi-religion.
"The deal is that the family has not converted to Judaism, but they do celebrate Jewish festivals," says a friend in New York.
It's all bracingly pick'n'mix for the Ritchies.
Somewhat breathtakingly, the main reason for not exchanging gifts is that Madonna is very greatly against the commercialism of Christmas.
This seems rather a cheek given the way that she has unblushingly flogged her image and her sexuality in the most commercial way possible for three decades.
She is quite sincere about it, though.
Her children will get just three presents each - a modest tally given that their mother's fortune stands at around £240 million.
Guy Ritchie has said that this is enough, though: "As long as the kids get three presents at Christmas, everyone's happy."
The highlight of the day will be a low-fat macrobiotic feast prepared by their chef.
(Neither Ritchie nor Madonna cook.)
It is highly unlikely to feature turkey, as Madonna has issues with the rearing and slaughtering of poultry.
Instead of a festive bird, the "feast" will be mostly based around grains - such as quinoa - and vegetables.
Associates indicate that there will be a small amount of unsalted meat for the children and for Guy; but salty, fatty treats such as chipolatas and stuffing are completely out.
Indeed, the festive season is seen by Madonna as no excuse to stint on her punishing health regime.
She has even hired a nutritionist to advise on her children's food.
As a result, except for the very occasional ice cream as a treat, they have controlled amounts of dairy food, no cheese, no cream, no salt, no preservatives and no sugar.
Although Madonna tries to send out the message that she is not too controlled to have fun ("We will be drinking copious amounts of beer for the holidays," she trills, unconvincingly), she is far too self-disciplined to deviate from her strict diet.
She works out daily, no matter where in the world she is, for somewhere between two and three hours.
Even in that landmark week when adopted son David Banda first came home with her from Malawi, Madonna was not willing to vary her exercise routine.
There's no reason to believe that she won't sneak in a workout on Christmas Day.
It's not what most of us are looking forward to, but a friend who visited their home for a Kabbalah meeting recently said that the family seem to lead a very unconventional, if luxurious, home life.
Among their circle are the very rich and very well-connected, like the 7th Earl of Cawdor (a Scottish noble married to a former fashion editor for Vogue), Elisabeth Murdoch (media tycoon Rupert's daughter), PR boss Matthew Freud and restaurant owner Piers Adam.
The friend said: "They entertain very beautifully, but it is not what you would call conventional.
"A housekeeper will set out a great big table covered in stuff, all macrobiotic, which no one dares eat unless Madonna tucks in.
"They're all terrified of her. A uniformed butler serves the most incredible wines, which Guy loves but, again, Madonna barely touches."
Television is all but banned for the children.
If they use the computer, they are thoroughly policed and their time on it limited.
Nannies who applied recently for the job of helping to care for Madonna's brood were told that they could not have TVs or telephones in their rooms, as the mistress of the house felt it was an unhealthy distraction from family life.
The children are certainly given plenty of educational stimulation.
Lourdes (known as Lola) is a bit of a star at the Lycee School in London and is fluent in French.
She is said often to speak to David Banda, on whom all they dote, in French, and he is now picking up a smattering of the language, too.
Rocco, meanwhile, despite having always lived in the UK, has acquired an American accent - of which Guy's thoroughly English parents despair.
Recently, as a mark of their seriousness about integrating baby David into the family, all of them have been having classes in the Malawian language, Chichewa.
Madonna and Guy can now manage some basic words and phrases, such as "mummy", "daddy", 'hello' and "my love".
Madonna has also learned a lullaby, called Gona Mana, which she plays to David.
The singer believes that adopting David is the greatest thing she has done, and was overjoyed to hear this week that the troubled process is now drawing to a close, with an official stamp of approval.
She is seriously pursuing the adoption of another orphan, and is due to travel to Malawi after Christmas in the hope of finding the perfect little girl to add to her brood.
Madonna had wanted to take a 20-month-old Malawian baby named Mercy James home with her, but this was blocked after objections by the child's uncle.
Madonna, who had got to the stage of carrying around a picture of Mercy with her, was heartbroken.
Another girl, called Grace, was also picked out by the singer as a potential to adopt, but again these plans collapsed when her family objected.
Aides of Madonna have now gone to Salima, 100 miles east of the Malawian capital, Lilongwe. They have been asked to draw up a list of children who would be eligible for adoption and - most importantly - would not have extended families who might object.
It is quite something that after the furore over David's adoption, the Ritchies are willing to put themselves through it all again.
But Guy, it seems, has learned to compromise when it comes to his wife's yearning for another baby.
It took Madonna nearly two years to persuade him that they should adopt, but having David in the family seems to have quickly convinced him that another Malawian orphan will make their very privileged and unusual lives complete.
"Well, my wife and I both like children," Ritchie says goodnaturedly.
Indeed, it is actually wannabe hardman Guy who takes on the full weight of the parenting.
"Guy does most of the childcare," says a well-placed source.
"He was not sure about adopting David, and felt that it had been handled impulsively, exposing all of them to a lot of stress and pressure.
"But he is utterly in love with David, who is simply the sweetest little boy.
"Madonna really appreciates him as a dad, and the children are very much the chief thing which they have in common.
"That is what they talk about every night - the kids.
"He takes Rocco to judo every week, and helps Lola with her homework. He is very much a hands-on father."
Given Madonna's schedule for 2008 - which includes a studio album released in the spring, a Greatest Hits album, possibly a tour, and also the release of a new children's book (written for David), with a short film chucked in for good measure - it is just as well that Guy Ritchie is there to take on the responsibilities.
"Being married and having kids is not exactly simple, no matter who you are," she said earlier this year.
"In fact, trying to make those things work is quite a challenge. Sometimes you drop the ball.
"When I was on tour, my focus was doing my show every night. And on my days off, they're not really days off - I have to be mom and wife.
"There are times when I should have hung out with my kids, and I just said: No, I need a massage. I'm gonna do that instead. You know? I'm gonna be selfish."
But while Guy might occupy the "female" role in the household, the couple seem to have discovered that the marriage only works when he gets to wear the trousers, or at least he gets to say that he does.
"What intrigues me is that Guy puts her down in public," says a transatlantic friend.
"He kind of treats her badly in front of people,"
"He makes jokes at Madonna's expense quite a lot, but she seems to just love it. Guy plays the naughty child.
"When there are Kabbalah meetings, he sometimes gets the giggles or wanders off and she becomes furious with him."
Indeed, their marriage seems to thrive on a rather misogynistic dynamic, where he pretends to treat her badly and plays the role of dominant male to the hilt.
One of their London crowd says Guy delights in nothing more than going shooting - which Madonna detests - and that he enjoys revolting her with the details of what he has killed.
"She will say: 'Oh Guy, I'm so cold, can we go home?' and he will simply pretend that he cannot hear her," a source says.
Then he is prone to announcing that he's "off to the pub", and always makes a point of not saying when he will be back.
Another London friend tells me she cannot help but notice the way that Guy never, ever refers to her as Madonna - which, after all, is the name of an international icon - but can only bring himself to call her "Mrs Ritchie" or "The Missus".
"It is as if he is pretending not to notice that she is so famous," the friend said.
"They have a really demanding marriage, and Guy does a lot of the hobbies he does as a sort of anger management.
"He insists that she respects him as the man of the house, and they have some very fiery times."
Despite this, their marriage is, to the surprise of some, quite harmoniously approaching its seventh anniversary next weekend.
Last year, there was a very public crisis when Guy failed to support her following the adoption of David Banda.
There was talk that the union was on the rocks, and might not be saved.
Guy was spending most of his time with his friends from judo, as well as copious hours with his hardcore drinking and shooting buddies.
What did the couple have in common?
But today, here is Madonna toeing the line, sporting a newly feminine image, and utterly besotted with Guy once more - despite the absence of turkey, chipolatas and smoked salmon this Christmas.
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