In many ways today is my favourite part of the Christmas season, because I’m all about the anticipation. Looking back and sifting through memories to try and understand the way this day has been constructed for me and how I am then constructing it now with my partner and for our children I realise it has always had three distinct parts and characters as a day that moves into an Eve.
The morning is about preparation from shopping, to cooking, to cleaning. The afternoon moves into some sort of social occassion or activity a walk, a party or calling with friends. The evening becomes evocative, singing, praying, candles, ritual.
Over the years Christms Eve was about granny arriving, bringing stacks of presents, her giant double duvet for the spare room and cheese triangles and twiglets in those giant tubes. It’s been for cleaning the house from top to bottom, putting peanuts in dishes and heating chilli in a pot on the cooker, moving all the regular coats upstairs to make space for the visitor’s coats. A sea of faces and clouds of perfume as hugs and high spirits and gifts entered our home reminding us of our parents friendships and community. It’s been about dad hammering out some carols on the piano, about jolly descant efforts, about an informal midnight service that served as a reunion with old friends as well as a quiet moment to listen to and discover the sacred running through this whole engorged season of ours.
I like Christmas but I know it’s awful for others. I know there are problems with consumerism, debt, domestic violence, loneliness and sickness. I know that we live through and remember loss and separation when the current of our popular cultures is doing our best to push us through this jolly time. I know that around the world, there’s a shed load of suffering and Christmas doesn’t mean a thing to millions and certainly doesn’t appear to extend any of its good will to them. However, I also know a lot of people who don’t really experience excess but spend time developing and cultivating ritual, relationships and time with themselves and each other at this time of year. I know people who have dragged advent back from a dusty tradition and breathed life into it as a season. I know that because of Christmas in some places people are prompted to look a little wider and think a little deeper about poverty, absence and justice elsewhere.
I’m in the early years of forging new traditions and rituals for myself and my family. I’m missing the crowd of my parents, siblings and wider family who are all together this year without us, but also looking forward to the comfort and care and peace of home here. Each Christms Eve so far has looked a little different to the last but there are things that we do that are starting to stick and that are startting to stand out to create the blend of meaning that has evolved for us and Christmas here in the UK/Irish West.
I couldn’t write my advent series this year for a few different reasons. But I’ve been grateful today for these two pieces and if you’ve time, I’d encourage you to draw upon them to help you think about your own place and space this year.
Christmas Has Multiple-Personality Disorder – The Ruthless Monk
Christmas, In Four Movies – D.L Mayfield
Wishing for Peace and Hope – December 2013