During this Christmass Season I have enjoyed watching “The Grumpy Guide to Christmass.” (You can find it on YouTube.) One of my favourite Tories, Anne Widdecome, made the observation, “In our house, the decorations go up on Christmass Eve and come down on Twelfth Night – just like they always did.” I do the same but sometimes thought that I had imagined it. Sad to see so many families taking down the decorations on Boxing Day!
What is happening to us? Do we live in a society that can’t wait? “It is my birthday on Tuesday so we are having a party on the previous Saturday. Nothing to get up for on a Sunday so the party can go on. (I rarely go to parties on a Saturday because of the Lord’s Day needing to be observed.) My reply is, “But you might die before your birthday – which would nullify the reason for the party.” I get a look!
The all-time favourite film was broadcast just before Christmass – The Holly and the Ivy. I watched it on DVD. Because it is set in the late 1940s, the house is being decorated with holly and mistletoe (wonderfully pagan, of course) and the paper decorations are paper and not tinsel, including a bell hanging from the “big light”. All this taking place on Christmass Eve. (Some of you may remember those decorations that folded to a flat shape with cardboard at either end. Chains pulled out to reveal shapes in various colours, usually fairly pale because of age. Bells and balls were opened in a circle and the cardboard ends secured together with little metal clips. Hard to explain but magical. No throwing away of decorations every year – that didn’t come until the 60s. In fact, so old were the streamers (We never used that term.) that rips were repaired with bits of ancient sellotape. Drawing pins, carefully placed into the ancient holes in the picture rail, held one end to a room corner, the other being in the middle of the room with the three other streamers and the aforementioned bell or ball. (Coming from a family of seafarers, I can remember my sister’s mother-in-law putting up decorations that had been used in a cruise ship. So big and long were they that they were fixed round and round the rather small sitting room. (We called it a kitchen – which wasn’t the kitchen, that was the back-kitchen!) Anyone taller than 5’6″ stood in an upside-down sea of coloured paper.
Then there were the tree lights. Usually 12 large, brightly-coloured – and a box of spares! The baubles were the same year by year too, not least because they were so strong that they bounced rather than smashed when dropped. (Why was it always the ugliest ones that refused to break?) We used to put our (real) tree on the sideboard (remember those?). This had a top middle drawer lined with green baize. This was the place for keeping the cutlery. Long after we had moved on to an artificial tree, I can remember finding the odd pine needle stuck to the fluffy surface, usually in a corner.
A final remembrance. Carefully washed glasses so the women could sip either a Cherry B or a Snowball. This was (and is) a cocktail consisting of Advocaat, lime juice, lemonade, and a glacế cherry. I can’t remember many of the women drinking alcohol at any other time of the year, apart from weddings. I recently watched 101 Dalmatians with Barry, Christine Cutty’s brother, Cruella deVille always makes me think of Auntie Megan in her leopard skin fake fur (or was it?) sipping the bright yellow drink. Oh the joys of a child’s 1950s Christmass.
Forgive the huge digression into nostalgia. This month’s magazine has a fair bit of Christmass stuff gleaned from Tunstall’s magazine. Don’t forget that Christmass only took up one week of December. We now have the second week leading up to Twelfth Night – and an additional week brings us to The Baptism of the Lord. This officially concludes the major celebration of Christmass. From the 13th we are back in the green of Ordinary Time before returning to the conclusion of Christmass, the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple, otherwise known as Candflemass. This year it falls on a Sunday and we will process from the porch into the church as Mary and Joseph entered the Temple in Jerusalem with the Christchild. As Simeon declared Jesus to be “the light to lighten the Gentiles” so we will carry lighted candles to celebrate that prophesy. The manger scene under the altar with remain until Candlemass is celebrated. Then we start looking towards the beginning of Lent!
Take care and enjoy this continuing holy season.
PS Pray for our new government and for our new MP – and for Ruth Smeeth, our former MP. May those who govern listen to the voices of the new “northern” MPs – and may they, in turn, listen to their constituents.