Midday sun - 20th December 2016
Friends - this post was originally titled 'Ten Gifts Money Can't buy for Christmas' - but that would not be strictly true. Some of these ten gifts that I can give to myself or share with you *can* be bought with money - but they don't have to be. It's a pleasure to see how little you need to spend to light up your life... read on - you will see what I mean.
- 'A Child's Christmas in Wales' by Dylan Thomas
Two or three pages into this short story and I am transported back to Wales of the 1950's, with Welsh Mams and Dads and Anties (sic) and Uncles and Nanas and Grampies all over the place doing so many of the things that embroider the pages. You *can* buy the book - but you can also listen to the whole thing (read by the author himself) here
- The Ornaments on the Christmas tree.
Ever since my eldest son was born - 32 years ago - I have bought one or two 'special' ornaments every year for the tree. But even more special than those are the ornaments made by the two boys themselves when they were young, (often entailing the inner cardboard tube from a loo paper roll!) which are wrapped so carefully and packed away each year and will no doubt be still adorning some other tree in some long off future time! Here is a selection of those precious items which are all on the tree already..
Stitched by H when he was ten years old
There's T's 'Loo Roll' Santa - made at nursery when he was two, and the silver acorns from Hampton Court.
The mini Carnival mask from Venice, Red Santa from Norland days...
The 'Versace ball' - acquired at the V&A museum when I visited the V exhibition with a dear American friend....and many, many more on the tree
- The Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols from King's College, Cambridge
(Image from BBC.co.uk)
Broadcast on the radio at 3 pm on Christmas Eve, this service is the signal for the proper start to Christmas here at Autumn Cottage. I will be in the kitchen, preparing vegetables or 'Pigs in Blankets' for the Christmas day feast - but I will still stop, as the treble voice of the solo chorister peals through the candle-lit silence of King's College Chapel with the first line of 'Once in Royal David's City'.
I will raise my glass of Croft sherry to the memory of my own eldest son, (himself a future choral scholar), leading in the choir as soloist in his last year at prep school, and also to the memory of my beloved Mother. She who always sat with me, in the kitchen, with her own glass of Christmas Cheer and a mince pie to listen to the carols. Through the ups and downs of life - precious memories light - with glorious and everlasting light - the dark days of Winter.
- Advent Calendars
Each year since they were small, my sons each received an Advent Calendar from their Granny. The earliest ones arrived in the days of the 'Hawkins Bazaar' novelty toy mail order catalogue, long before ordering on the Internet was a reality. So I created a little combination of the two, acquiring mini-treats to open with each calendar door (no chocs inside from Granny!), all collected together in an empty cereal box, which was covered in festive paper, with the calendar stuck on the front. In the process, I created a family tradition which has become much loved (though as my youngest reaches 30 next June, we thought it probable that this tradition will go 'on ice' after this year!)
The items inside can be trivial - it’s the fun of opening mini parcels as much as anything, and can be collected over the course of the year - a really cheap way to give a lot of pleasure.
- A Walk in the Woods
The perfect way to both escape the hassle of the Christmas rushing about - and also a way to connect with the reality of the season; Solstice, here in the Northern Hemisphere is the dark time, but also a monochrome time, a time of stillness and of restorative silence, in which we wait for the tilting of the world and the return of the sun.
If you don't have a woodland near you, can you seek out a park or a garden to just spend some time with, and be restored by the Silence?
- A Snowball.
No - not the frozen water variety, but the cocktail drink made with Advocaat, lime juice and lemonade; it was my Mother's great delight to have 'A Snowball' for Christmas, ceremonially made (complete with the essential cherry-on-a-stick) by my husband and flamboyantly delivered to her as she sat beside the fire on Christmas Eve. You can find the recipe (from which the image above is borrowed) here
Christmas is made precious by such memories of loved ones - why not spend a few minutes and a quiet moment, capturing yours? Write them down on a simple card or wooden (heart?) shape (cut your own or they can easily found at many large decorative stationers) and hang them on the tree. What unique and precious ornaments you can make to keep in your own treasure box.
- Sheep safely grazing.
We sometimes have a flock of sheep put to graze in the field next door; it's a great and blessed treat if they turn up - as they have done - a day or two before Christmas. Here they are, last time they put in an appearance at Solstice.
- A Game of 'Triv'!
Christmas is a time for silly games and none get sillier than the Cawley family playing Trivial Pursuit after Christmas lunch. Tissue paper party hats are required to be worn, I will have at least one fit of the giggles which will put me on the floor, eyes will be rolled (mostly at me) and ridiculous answers will be given to questions to which the sensible answers are already known.
All this is as it should be - no deviation will be allowed!
Though expensive if you buy it new, this - and many other board games - can be picked up for a song in charity shops throughout the year. Keep an eye open for this perfect antidote to terrible telly on Christmas afternoon (with the exception of Her Majesty's Christmas Message, of course!)
- A Walk Around the Garden
See also 5 above - but a walk around my own garden is a particular pleasure at this so called 'dead time' of the year. It is anything but - pink Viburnum flowers already smother the shrub on which they grow, Hellebores are flowering, snowdrop, crocus and daffodils are pushing though. All keep hope of new Springtime life to come - and not too long to wait!
- A Candle.
The ultimate symbol of hope - for Christians, the hope of the Light of Christ entering the world. For those, like myself, who reverence the natural world, a symbol on this Solstice Eve of the return of the light of the sun. Either way, an illumination of the darkness, in which - if we look - we can behold and befriend the face of The Other.
May you all find light and feel and share the warmth of both human and creature kind in the darkness of the year.
Warm Seasons Greetings, my friends!