I love Christmas, most of it anyway. I would love to see more goodwill being shown by the Christmas shopping crowds as we all try to buy presents and so on but that’s another story.
Being a Christian, the Christmas story and services have special resonance of course, though I know all would welcome the idea of goodwill to all men being practised by ourselves at all times of year (despite mankind failing on this count miserably so often, just look at the news for the proof, but the goodwill idea is a sound one and we shouldn’t give up on it. I don’t think it’s been given a long enough trial period!).
I like the sense of relief I experience when the present shopping is done and while I don’t like the crowds, I do relish picking out gifts I know the people I’ve chosen them for will appreciate. (I also do a lot of online shopping so I get around the problem of the crowds as much as I can that way. I also park up at Chandler’s Ford railway station and go by train into Eastleigh to save trying to park up. It all helps!).
I like wrapping the presents listening to something special or having a favourite film on in the background. One of my favourite moments here was a few years ago when my husband and I were watching a Johnny Cash special (presented by Jools Holland) and the song Hurt came on. It proved to be Johnny Cash’s swan song, he died mere weeks later, and it is just an amazing performance. The emotion in his voice is incredible. My husband and I just stopped the present wrapping and just watched, almost hypnotised by the song and Cash’s rendition of it.
I adore watching Carols from King’s College as well as going to my church’s Carols by Candlelight events and services. (Note to self: never wear the big “angel sleeve” top, I don’t want to knock the candles over with it! Is it just me, incidentally, who thinks candles are lovely to look at but just doesn’t want to get too close to them? I suppose my practical side can see the fire hazard only too clearly. Still, in my church, the candles do only come out for Christmas.).
I like the holiday time, being able to visit family and friends and having a break from daily life. My family and I usually take a day trip out to the West Country coastline during the post Christmas period and go for an invigorating walk with the dog. This will be particularly nice this year as Mabel has recently been very ill and, thankfully, is recovering well.
Yes, I like the Christmas food (though it won’t just be the turkey roasting. As ever I emerge from the kitchen feeling rather warm, though fortunately, I am at that age when it merely looks as if I’m having a hot flush, so I don’t look out of place. It is true – look hard enough and you will find there is a silver lining to most things!).
You’ll know from my previous posts on this theme about my love of Morecambe and Wise, Cliff’s version of Mistletoe and Wine (I heard a tinny version of this played over the loudspeakers at the Swan Centre. Don’t know who was singing it, it wasn’t Cliff, but it sounded awful and whatever you think of Cliff’s music, the man can hold a tune, unlike whoever was “performing” at the Swan Centre.
Note to Swan Centre Management
If you are going to play Christmas classics, get a copy of Now That’s What I Call Christmas and put that on. It has a wide range of songs, including carols, and all are sung by the original artists who put them in the charts. There is something on it to appeal to all. You can’t go wrong. You must’ve got performing rights clearance to play what you did have on the loudspeakers the other day so at least get said clearance and put on something decent. Thank you.
This year I’ve been listening to some wonderful piano arrangements of classic carols on Classic FM and some great choral performances. I heard a lovely version of Silent Night played on the piano as opposed to the guitar and it was spellbinding.
And then there are the other Christmas stories. My favourite many moons ago is about a Nativity play put on by a school on a remote Scottish island renowned for its hospitality. Sorry the story didn’t say which island it was, though, from experience of wonderful Scottish hospitality every summer holiday, it could be any and all of them!
Anyway, the lad playing the innkeeper was clearly not happy having to tell Mary and Joseph there was no room at the inn. It was also clear the lad had been told he had to stick to the script. Manfully, he did so, but then stage-whispered to Mary to “come back later and I’ll see what I can do”! Always makes me laugh.
I love The Night Before Christmas by Clement Moore
And so many of the carols were poems first, In the Bleak Midwinter being the obvious example.
Sales of books
As a keen writer and reader, I relish in general terms the sales of books (electronic and print) that happen at this time of year. We do need to keep our bookshops and libraries going (we’d be much poorer in spirit without them) and all book sales help here. (Richard, given the post last week about where to buy your books in Winchester, I’m sure will be only too glad to confirm that one! I hope to do so myself in 2017 after my flash fiction collection comes out!).
The lovely thing about having a writer in your life is there is no shortage of presents to get for them. There will be books of course but then there are stationery items, subscriptions, gift vouchers for writing conferences and so on. I’m not giving my better half a list here though if it helps give last minute ideas for others out there, good!
I do like those, who not wanting to give cards, donate to charity instead. I love cards (writing and receiving them, they can be a tangible sign someone cares and in a world which is so full of violence, I think small things like this are especially important). But I do understand the wish to combine not doing cards yet still wanting to do something nice. So this is a great idea and I hope many charities benefit from those who take this approach.
I don’t like the rush (especially since I am reasonably well organised. I tell myself I should be able to beat that rush but it never quite works out for all sorts of legitimate reasons).
Support for the homeless and other unfortunate people
I don’t like the kind of charity that pops up at this time of year and then vanishes the moment Christmas is over. I would stress Crisis and The Salvation Army, to name but two, work with the homeless and other unfortunates all year and need our support, as often as we can give it, during the whole of those twelve months, not just for the twelve days of the festive season.
I suppose it’s the emphasis on being charitable now that gets to me a bit. We should be charitable at all times. Yes, Christmas could and should encourage that charity but the Christmas spirit is meant to last all year.
It is the point of A Christmas Carol (which is another of my favourite things about this time of year. Favourite versions are the Muppet one and the Patrick Stewart portrayal though I can’t help but feel he found it easier to play the liberally minded Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation than the hard-hearted Scrooge before the ghosts turn up. I refuse to believe that is a plot spoiler incidentally – not after all this time surely?!).
Whatever you like and dislike about Christmas, I won’t say “Bah, humbug” but hope you have a very happy one. I also hope you have a very happy 2017.
This year has been an odd one in terms of the numbers of deaths (especially celebrity ones, I was so sorry to hear of the passing of Victoria Wood in particular) and the Brexit / US Presidential election votes.
I do hope 2017 is a better year for us all.
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