Tags: christmas

xmas beardie

Christmas Day

HandmadeI'm having a lovely Christmas this year. It's the first year since my mum died that I've been able to enjoy Christmas (almost) unreservedly. I nearly went away this year, because I'd been having such a hard time, feeling desperately lonely and bereft, forcing myself to enjoy something that only reminded me of lost childhood happiness. It's not that Christmasses with my mother - especially in the final years of her life - were so great; they were not. They were also characterized by a kind of forced gaiety and what I thought was over-indulgence in both food and gifts, and the burden of preparations fell entirely on me, and it was a strain without a lot of payback. My mother was happy, but I was not. But continuing the traditions was as important to me as it was to her.

Then, after my mum died, I tried to convince myself that I didn't care, that it was only another holiday. But that wasn't true, either. Christmas has always been special, magical. For me, I think Christmas is tied up with my Englishness. My ideal of Christmas is based on remembrances of my early childhood in England, of romanticized versions in books and stories, or Raymond Briggs' Father Christmas and The Snowman and The Jolly Postman and Rumer Godden's The Holly and the Ivy. Even Susan Cooper and Connie Willis have coloured my view of it. It was something I longed for, as I've longed almost all my life to be living in England. It was (English) robins, and little villages with warm lights in the windows and a little church with carol singers singing the old traditional carols. And I had it for much of my childhood, even here in Canada. In my heart, I know this probably doesn't exist even in England any more, and you who live there are probably laughing at my foolishness. But, you know, I read some of your blogs, and it all sounds very familiar, even down to the Queen's speech. And I thought I could continue some of those traditions on my own, but after my mum died, listening to the Queen's speech made me cry. And listening to the lessons and carols from King's College made me cry. And even reading Raymond Briggs made me cry.

But for some reason, this year, I've been able to bring some of those things back into my Christmas. Oh, not the Queen's Speech. Really, I can do without that. But the carols. And the robins. And I've managed (mostly) not to cry. In some ways, it was as if, this year, I gave myself permission not to grieve, or at least to accept that, yes, I was going to feel a little bit sad for a few minutes here and there but that was ok, and it was okay to feel happy the rest of the time. To enjoy those traditions for myself and not for some memory of childhood. And I've almost entirely ignored the hype: I haven't watched TV and have hardly been to the mall. And I cooked a luxurious meal because I wanted to, not because I felt I had to, and invited friends over and we had a lovely evening.

And it was a real, unaffected, unforced pleasure.

And now I have two whole weeks before I have to teach again, and my house is warm and bright and full of good things to eat. And I think I have my Happy Christmas back.
xmas beardie

Boxing Day

I slept late this morning, not because I was debauched yesterday, for I was not at all, but just because I could. It feels so good to have time off and nothing much to do in it.

Yesterday was a very quiet day, and I regretted somewhat having refused invitations, as I was rather too much by myself. It's so hard when the Christmas zeitgeist is all about family, and you haven't one. At least not within reach. I have to confess that the bit in the Queen's speech where she sent prayers to those who were alone and in mourning made me cry. Serves me right for listening to the Queen's speech. My mother would howl with laughter - she always listened faithfully but I used to try hard to miss it. We had a tradition that you couldn't open presents until after the Queen's speech, which is fine in Canada when it's played fairly early in the morning, but tough if you're in England :)

Anyway, my dinner on Christmas eve with my friend mkb was very successful. The food was great and we were quite jolly and replete afterwards. We went for a walk yesterday morning, and I actually took the dogs out again in the afternoon because I felt that I wanted to get out. Then I had leftovers and some good sparkling chardonnay and watched Ratatouille.

Today I met mkb downtown for lunch and did a little bit of shopping. I bought a lovely moss green fleece from Valhalla on sale, and some gorilla gloves for dog walking, and David Mitchell's Black Swan Green in hardcover for 6.99 off the sale table at Munro's (which is, as lidocafe has said, proof that God exists), and a calendar for my kitchen and one for my bathroom and one for my office at the college. Oh, and lidocafe - they have Blundstones ON SALE at The Cobbler! In our size!! Or at least more or less - I couldn't get them to fit, but you might be luckier if your feet are a slightly different shape.

Tonight there is an hour-long episode of Coronation St to make up for it not being on for two days, and I still have the second Pirates of the Caribbean from Zip and may watch that, or I might read - I have a great novel from lidocafe to read, and also want to finish the Haruki Murakami that I'm reading now (Norwegian Wood, in case you're interested). My tree is beautiful and the dogs are snoring at my feet now as I write. All is well.
xmas beardie

Christmas in China, 1985

For all the curious cultural disconnects that arose when living in Tianjin - for example, having Chinese as a kind of lingua franca between visiting scholars, students, or tourists from Japan, Russia, Algeria and elsewhere - I really didn't expect to hear midnight mass. Sung. In Latin. Collapse )
xmas beardie

Busy! But in a good way

I can now sit back and look at my (almost) clean house, with tree up, Christmas supplies and pressies bought, a little baking done, and dogs bathed.

My friend kp came over on the 21st for a Solstice dinner - I made yummy curried parsnip soup and we had salad and bread and Comox Camembert cheese and Howe Sound Winter Ale and then raspberries and blueberries from the summer that I unfroze and served with creme fraiche and coffee and some of my baking.

This morning I am going to groom the dogs and then lidocafe is dropping over this afternoon.

Tomorrow my friend mkb is coming, and I'm cooking the Turkey dinner in the evening. I've had several invites to Christmas dinner on The Day, but have refused all of them - think I will spend a quiet day with the dogs, listening to music and enjoying my tree.

And old school friend is supposed to be visiting either Boxing Day or the day after, and I'm having B&J over for dinner on the 28th.

What I'm quite liking about the way Christmas is changing for me is that it is no longer The Day, but has become a whole "Christmas time" and is in fact a lot more relaxing and pleasant.

Christmas Reading

Why do we read the things we do at Christmas? For some reason, I often find myself rereading Connie Willis' The Domesdaybook at Christmastime, which, seeing as it's mostly about the bubonic plague, seems like an odd choice. But then, it's not, because it's set at Christmas, and there's a kind of leitmotif of churchbells ringing through it and there are two parallel stories of a flu epidemic in Oxford enough in the future to enable time travel and then the plague story in the Oxford at the time when the plague broke out. And it's about the triumph of human love and kindness and hope in the face of horror, which I suppose is what Christmas should be about, too.