December 20 - a date where the stars align

Holly Branson and her husband Freddie Andrewes smile with their three children
Image from Adam Slama
Holly Branson
Holly Branson's writing
Published on 20 December 2019

Many families have a significant date that brings back special memories and is a cause for celebration. For my family that date is always the 20th of December.

It was always going to be a special date, as it marks the moment that Dad hung from a helicopter, with Sam and I in white tuxedos, and my mum agreed to become Joan Branson. It wasn't exactly a traditional wedding but it was a whole lot of fun!

Richard Branson and his wife Joan on their wedding day with their children Holly and Sam
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The date has become even more significant, as it’s also marked by a fair share of family drama.

A couple of decades after Mum and Dad tied the knot, - Freddie and I decided to get married on the same day and in exactly the same spot.  However, a tropical storm in the summer of 2011 had different ideas! Necker was hit by a terrifying lightning storm that destroyed the main house. I’ll never forget the terror of waking up to my cousin Jack shouting: “Fire! Get out!”.

Thankfully, everyone made it out unharmed but the house was in ruins and suddenly our wedding venue wasn't looking quite so picturesque.

View from a distance of a fire burning through a house
Image from the Branson Family

 It didn’t stop us though and on the 20th of December we gathered on a platform in the ruins of the Great House at the top of Necker Island to celebrate our love and the love of everyone around us. The memory of the fire was still raw, but seeing the smiling faces of many who had been in the house that night, made our wedding all the more meaningful.

The Branson family celebrating at Holly's wedding
Image by Jack Brockway

A few years later, Freddie and I had planned to celebrate a quiet wedding anniversary at home. I was 33 weeks pregnant with twins so we had a quiet Christmas in store, before the busy year ahead.

However, Etta and Artie had another plan altogether. On the 19th of December, I had a routine check-up with my obstetrician. Over the few weeks before that I had started to feel more than a little strange. I had ballooned in size and was finding even the simplest of tasks increasingly difficult. I had put it down to being pregnant with twins, but after running a few tests, the doctor ended up sending me straight to hospital where I was diagnosed with severe pre-eclampsia. I ended up having an emergency C-section and on the 20th of December, we welcomed Etta and Artie to the world. They were tiny but healthy, thanks to a wonderful team of doctors and nurses. We couldn’t have asked for a better anniversary present. 

Holly Branson with children Artie and Etta kissing baby Lola on Holly's lap
Image from Adam Slama

Each year when this special date rolls around, it reminds me how fortunate we are to have such a close and loving family. There is no greater joy than to share your life - the highs and the lows - with people who love and care for you.