Sunday, 27 December 2015

A Hobbit Christmas

I love Christmas, a lot, and I promise to post my #christmasisntchristmaswithout posts even if I have to post them throughout the new year and back date them!

But today will not be the day that I do that; today I am prepping for Christmas At Home. We spent Christmas Day at my brothers house (27 for dinner) and, although I loved it, I get over-faced by that many, and I ate my dinner sitting back from the table due to NO arm space at all, so my Christmas Dinner was not at all restful (or even really enjoyable; turkey is not made to eat off one's knees) but the craic was really lovely, and the time spent with everybody was worth the pain.
Today my Mum and Dad are coming. We were going to have a turkey cooked by me.... but it smelled off. I mean really bleachy and not fresh, even though I only bought it on Christmas Eve and it was good until the 26th, so I won't risk anyone's health. Life is too short to eat bad turkey. That bird is binned and two small chickens bask in the glory of the oven, to be served with pigs in blankets, roasties, vegetables till they comes out of every oriface, bread sauce, stuffing and cranberry.
I'll not be posting again today, I have a clean up and a cooking to do, but I wanted to pop by (2 days late) and wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous 2016. I need to call by for a cuppa soon. I'm missing my friends!

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Christmas isn't Christmas without..... The Big Man

Today is St Nicholas' Day, and over Europe children will have left out their shoes and hoped to find them filled with sweets and goodies. That's what St Nicholas does.

Whether you take exception to the fact that Sinter Klass as we know him has been hijacked by the wheels of commercialism as a toy-pushing, over-eating exploiter of elf-kind, or think he's a jolly old St Nicholas, he is a big part of the season, especially when you're below a certain age. The magic of anticipation is brilliant, putting out a carrot and mince pie for the man, and waiting for the sound of bells and hoof prints because, hey, he really can fly and he really does get into the house and leave the gifts.....

I love The Polar Express for many reasons, but I think I really like how it deals with the whole Big Man problem; for years I could not watch it because I didn't want my children to ask, or to think too deeply. It's back on our watch list now, and we talk more in terms of tropes and caricatures, and of how an ancient folklore figure and a saint can be combined, altered to suit the purpose and need of the status quo and presented as fact. We talk Hogfather as well, since, God bless him (and wouldn't he be offended by that!) Terry Pratchett could use his invented universe to take apart our beliefs and behaviour. 

Would Christmas happen without Santa? I don't know, but I know he is a personification of the best spirit of the season; that giving is a blessing and that we need to care for the young and the old who can't take care of themselves.

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Christmas isn't Christmas without..... Hot Chocolate

It's the season to indulge, and nothing warms me up on a cold winter's day quite a beautifully as a thick, sweet hot chocolate with cream, marshmallows and chocolate dusting.

I have friends on Facebook whose recent posts have been full of Black Forest chocolate from Costa. I've had one; it was too sweet. I like peppermint hot chocolate, and I think that was the right blend of tooth-aching sweetness and sharp-cutting taste. I'd like ginger hot chocolate, I think, or a good chocolate orange. But in the end, I just like the occasional warm mug of happiness. Which reminds me, I must go and change out the mugs from our red and blue everyday ones to our special Christmas mugs.

Friday, 4 December 2015

Christmas isn't Christmas without..... cards

It is still beautiful that at this time of the year snail mail runs amok and delivers little envelopes full of sweet wishes. And I have such a load of conflicting feelings about them; they cost a lot of money and are only sent out of obligation (perhaps) but then again they are a valuable link with relatives and friends far away, and add to the feel of the house.
I hate tacky cards. I don't do anything rude, nor comedy cartoonish. I dislike the cheap and nasty slightly heavier than paper photo cards that were so common when I was a teenager, and I don't like ostentatious cards that are designed to scream out about the worth of the sender (and I mean monetary worth, not self-value) and most of all I hate cards that are ready printed and sometimes never even get a name signed.
If I'm sending a card, I will send a good one. I've cut back a lot on obligation cards; you know, things like the second cousin seven times removed whom you never see from one year to the next despite sharing a home town, or the group cards to every member of a society simply because we are in the same society. I keep my cards for my family whom I cannot see, my family who I love to see often, my friends and the people with whom I would play even if we weren't at work/WI/church together. I make sure my old aunty gets a card (or two; she LOVES Christmas!) and try to match style to person. And I will send the vicar a non-religious card. Always. They are human, and they don't always need a house full of nativity scenes.

As for how to write my cards, I pick a quiet evening, light all my candles, put on a happy Christmas movie and make a decent pot of chai or mulled wine instant tea, and settle down to a few hours at a time adding a personal comment (usually 'and a Happy 2016!') and signing the whole family names.


Thursday, 3 December 2015

Christmas isn't Christmas without.... Christmas music

From the first of November (yes, you read that right!) my car becomes a centre of everything kitsch if only musically; that's the day I get out my Christmas CD collection and begin to hum along to the old and new favourites I have found. I wrote about my favourite Christmas music as part of Blogmas last year, and the records I listed there are still very much on my playlist.
But this year was a classic year for albums. Kylie had a new album out!! Kylie Christmas [CD+DVD] Now usually Pop Princesses don't get much listening to in my car, but I LOVE this album; it is kitsch, old fashioned, modern pop, pure Kylie, duets with the weirdest people and all wrapped up with a picture of a lady old enough to be me (she's 5 days younger, I think) but a LOT smaller! I love the opening song, 'It's the most wonderful time of the Year', and the song written by Chris Martin, 'Every Day's Like Christmas', but I really love her duet of 'Only You' with James Corden.

I've pretty much had her on a loop with Kim Wilde whose Wilde Winter Songbook (Deluxe) has a lovely selection of old and new. Her duet partners aren't perhaps as classy as Kylie's, but being able to call on her family to sing 'White Winter Hymnal' a capello is a nice  touch!

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Christmas isn't Christmas without...... the advent wreath

Circles stand for eternity; candles stand for light in the depths of the darkest winter; evergreen decorations stand for life in the middle of the sere and grey dead of winter and the four candles each stand in a corner of the world as a symbol of the unity of the world under God's care. The wreath stretches back to pagan times; it's another one of those great traditions from the past that Christianity appropriated and made its own.

I bought our wreath when I was first employed at a school that held a traditional Prizegiving in Liverpool Cathedral, and we have had it on our dining table every December since. Sometimes I am traditional enough to have purple candles for three Sundays and a pink one for the third Sunday (Gaudete Sunday; the week of joy) with a plain white one for Christmas Day itself.

Other years I have red candles for the Sundays and white for Christmas.

This year my daughter has worked her magic again, and brought a beautiful blue candle from Cologne. Just one, just beautiful for Christmas Day. It's lovely to have something traditional with a twist. After all, that's what Christmas should be, isn't it? A heavy dose of tradition lightened with the adjustments that are needed to suit others, or the mood, or wellness, or -like here- a gift kindly given and very much appreciated.


Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Christmas isn't Christmas without.... An advent calendar

I'm going to try to post everyday in December (again) and to record my Christmas through the things that make Christmas special to me. I'll do my best! I'll tag them #christmasisn'tchristmaswithout and put the photos on Instagram as well (you can find me on there as angeljem5)

Today; well, for the 1st of December it must be advent calendars. I love them, I have loads, but every year I like to try out a different one. This year I treated myself to the Yankee Candle advent from Dobbies, every day a new tealight!
Yankee Candle Advent Calendar 2015 Snowglobe
And today was the first of the 24; a lovely cinnamon heavy scent that is even now burning brightly in my present off my daughter, who spent last weekend in Germany on a school trip, haunting the markets and feasting on gingerbread.
She bought me a porcelain dome, with a small saucer beneath to hold the candle. When you light the flame it shines through the thinnest parts of the dome, giving a beautiful effect of light and shade.

Advent calendars weren't big when I was young, but I love them and appreciate the simple action of anticipation that they add to every day. When that first door (or sweet or candle or whatever...) is opened, then you know that Christmas is really coming; that the excitement can build and the season is properly starting. I hope you all have a happy advent and that the preparation for the feast itself goes well. May we all feel peace and calm as the month passes by.