Monthly Archives: December 2012

#328 ~ 7 Things About Christmas.7 – The End

The 25th of December is an arbitrary day.

So Christmas isn’t really about Santa. No, I have no shame stating that, because even the people who propagate that foolishness don’t even have the decency to tell their children who Santa really is. Stop being geographically ignorant, Russia isn’t the North Pole and neither is Greece or Turkey. Aha, you are now confused. Good. Let me instruct you on a lesson (kindly passed on from the greatest Academic this world has ever known, Wikipedia). Santa is an abbreviation of Santa Claus, which is a contraction (and most likely an Americanization) of Saint Nicholas. Saint Nicholas was a 4th Century Bishop from Greece who pastored part of modern day Turkey and, in the long and short of it, was compassionate. Amongst many of his great exploits, he was known for helping those in need. In one case he anonymously gave a man who couldn’t pay his daughters dowry the money necessary to prevent them falling into prostitution as they were able to have honourable marriages. Revered in Russia, he’s also known for giving presents to children, especially orphans and the needy. In medieval times nuns would deposit food and gifts on the doorsteps of the homeless or impoverished on his feast day, 6th December. That’s right. If you want celebrate Santa then do it on the 6th of December. If you want to be an orthodox and wait until the Wisemen actually got to Bethlehem to drop off their Gold, Myrrh and Frankincense, then do it on the 6th January, which is known as Epiphany. If you want to be a pagan and celebrate the darkest time of the year with a celebration of light, do it on the 25th. If you want to celebrate Christ, do it all year round. 

a true light has a constant supply.

24hours are only so long. You eat, you sleep, it’s Boxing day and half the world is at the Sales. Like I mentioned in Post 2, what we view as Christmas Day today is a celebration of Christ, the Messiah and Saviour of the World, who loves every individual whether it’s the people who believe in Santa or the people who just want to make money – they’re all precious in his sight. The 25th of December is an arbitrary day. What’s important it what it means for you. If you believe it’s a time to remember to be a light in the extremely dark world where warfare, rape, violence, depression, isolation and anger are clamouring for a space, then be that light in the best way you know how. Show love, be love, be joy, happiness, peace and patience. Show good will to all mankind. Be hopeful for something better to come along. Do. But don’t just acknowledge the street sweeper on Christmas. Acknowledge him always as a fellow human who deserves to be loved. Don’t just be gracious to your sister on Christmas. Be gracious to her always as she’s a beautiful woman/girl who deserves to be loved and treated with respect. Don’t just tolerate or be grateful to your parents on Christmas. Show it always. Because a true light never goes out, ever. It keeps burning. Why? Because a true light has a constant supply.

whether you’re a believer of my faith or your own, shine brightly.

There is so much I love about Christmas. I even love the fact that people of other faiths (and atheism my friends is a faith, it’s a faith that believes there is no higher power, it’s a religion of its own so there), i love that they take time out to show love to those they care about. As a Christian I do believe that Christ exits, and that in showing love, we reflect God’s character and his goodness. But I don’t believe we should confine that light to 24 hours. We use up so much electricity just watching that banal Christmas movie, i’m sure we could light many more bulbs instead. So do. Go, whether you’re a believer of my faith or your own, shine brightly. Burn with a passion to see Justice birthed in this world. Burn with a hunger to see Peace made manifest in this world. Burn with a desire to see Love take on a deeper meaning than the scrawl on the tag of a present. Shine Brightly. Shine like the Sun/Son. Shine and be light and life in this world that asks for death.

If I ruled the world i’d banish the 25th of December. Because in reality, Christmas should be every day.

So Shine. 

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#327 ~ 7 Things About Christmas.6 – The Pudding

*Must be read in a dramatic voice*.

Soaked in brandy. Stuffed with raisins. Shaped like an upside down mixing bowl. Too rich for peasants. Covered in cream. You take a ladle, fill it with Christmas brandy, rum, some kind of spirit and hold it, gently over a gas fire.

*Pause. Breathe in the scene, engage the senses, open your eyes and begin again like the true thespian you are who never made it to drama school.*

The heat sets the particles jumping, the lights go off in the kitchen, the living room and finally the dining room. Mother moves the ladle, and pours the contents over the upturned pudding.

*Hear the sound of alcohol slipping from the stainless steel culinary tool and splashing over the fruit cake that has matured for a year. Imagine the sound of the fruity pores opening themselves, inhaling the liquid like the addicts they are, still on the run from Alcoholics Anonymous.*

Quick, snatch a match, strike its head across the packet, place the flame against the pudding et…voila! A flaming blue bonanza. At the edges it flickers into a bright orange, but at its core is a burning ice-cold flame which sears the pudding, consumes the alcohol and adds spunk to the end of your dinner. Yes, the flaming Christmas Pudding. Every year my mum asks if we want it alight.

*Dramatic pause. Cast your eyes around the invisible audience you are performing to. Ignore the whispers that tell you only mad people speak to themselves. Only the mad are truly free!*

We have never said no.

*Now laugh maniacally*

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#326 ~ 7 Things About Christmas.5 – The Movie

The Christmas Movie used to be the entertainment section on Christmas Day. Unless you were watching the Greatest Story Ever Told, it was a chance for you to get ahead with the movie scene. The Blockbuster that you didn’t check out in the Cinema was finally being premiered, for free, in your living room. It was a chance when the family, at last as a unit, moved together from the now emptied dinner table to recline and recuperate on the sofa, snuggled into each other, the branches of the tree and the presents that hadn’t made it upstairs to the respective bedrooms. Often it was a Disney or Pixar film, some kind of animation, which had the parents laughing or peacefully sleeping and the kids engaged. As you got older, sometimes one exchanged the annual movie for a DVD present (last year we did Inception, so worth it), but unfortunately, it would seem to me, Christmas T.V. is now, officially, crap. We always manage to be eating when Queenie is speaking so perhaps we fail ourselves in that respect, yet the movie that was supposed to gently ease us into Christmas evening has lost all sense of self-respect. It no longer views itself as a prized contributor to the day, and has therefore faded into obscurity, with either inappropriate shows, as in things that belong waaay after the watershed, saying hello in a chipper voice, or just mundane banality prancing across our Technicolor screens. This year we didn’t even bother, but stepped back in time and returned to the family board game. Although Bezzerwizzer evaded us, Pictionary enabled us to create our own pictures and stories and laugh whilst doing it. So long Christmas Movie, Hello Board Games Galore.

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#325 ~ 7 Things ABout Christmas.4 – The Meal

We are pretty traditional in my house. Christmas might as well be synonymous to dry meat. Yes, turkey is a dry meat. That is why cranberry sauce was invented, because the meat is dry, dry, turkey meat is dry ( i think you get the picture). The few bits of dark meat, which means flavoursome, succulent meat, is confined to the scrawny legs and the flesh closest to the rib cage – and in our house if you aren’t quick you find yourself staring at a mournful tray of turkey breast, all the brown mean having been nyamed/munched/devoured whilst you were considering whether parsnips would redeem brussell sprouts. However, what makes the meal so exciting, bar the fact that in general we manage to have more people round the table than we have matching chairs, is that something is always forgotten. 

Last year it was said Cranberry sauce – I have never seen gravy poured so selfishly. The year before the parsnips faded into memory. This isn’t to say we neglect to purchase said items, far from it. There just seems to be a disjuncture between the fridge and the table. Things get swallowed up and forgotten in the hustle and bustle of arranging cutlery, folding napkins, saying grace and munching the food. It’s when that dry bit of turkey gets stuck in your air waves that you remember the jar of cranberry sitting all innocently in the fridge door. 

This year, we embraced the fact that something would be omitted from our menu. I went for stuffing, my sister said pigs in blankets. 

Bread sauce won. 

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#324 ~ 7 Things About Christmas.3 -Presents

So in my family we have a tradition. We return from Church, munch what has managed to stay out on the breakfast table, then, after hassling mum to leave the turkey and come and sit down, we all pile onto the sofa around the Christmas tree. My brother squats by the presents, my twin sits by Mum, i’m cuddled next to Dad, and he’s on the inside edge of the sofa. Dad generally shares something, a Christmas message which works to refocus our attention away from the gift wrapped surprises and up closer, if not to heaven, then to our fellow humans. We pray together as a family, and give thanks for what Christ did for us, then, then it begins. We have a routine – you don’t mess the routine up. Ever.

It goes like this:

Bro rustles under the Christmas tree and extracts a present. He then passes said present to Dad. Dad reads out the name, feels the present, and then attempts to tell you what it is, thus defeating the point of opening the present. Sometimes he actually knows what’s inside it, and who it’s from, it’ll be something like this:

Dad: Oh-ho. This is for [insert child’s name]. I think…this is the present your Mum got you? Is this the book yes?

To which my mother replies

Mum: Baba, you’re spoiling Christmas

To which my Dad upturns his mouth and slaps his hands together with a shrug, murmuring, Oohh…in his old man voice.

At first it was slightly frustrating. The surprise was taken out of the occasion. But then it became something we all looked forward to, it became part of our Christmas tradition.

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#323 ~ 7 Things about Christmas.2 – Church

The etymology of the word Christmas pretty much requires you to remember the reason for the season. Christ derivates from the Greek Christos meaning anointed, and was the title bestowed upon Jesus of Nazareth by his followers, as he was seen as the Anointed Son of God, the long-awaited Messiah of the Jews who would save them from oppression. Mass is another term for the holy sacrament Eucharist, the sharing of Christ’s body and blood (Holy Communion), as performed in both the Catholic, Protestant and any other church of the Christian Faith. Put them together and you get Christmas: The Holy Communion/Feast of the Anointed.

Whether Jesus was really born on the 25th of December or not isn’t really important (theologians claim it was more likely around March). It makes sense to celebrate his birth during the darkest time of the year, and most of the Church’s calendar and Feast Days has been superimposed over pagan festivals – when better to remember the light of life than during the depths of winter?

What’s really cool about going to Church on Christmas day, even if you aren’t religious, is that it manages to actually give a purpose to the mindless capitalism that has wrecked this holiday season. Christmas is a time of fellowship, a time of reflecting on life as being one that is full of light, of hope, of goodness. Sure sharing presents and breaking the bank are also enjoyable extras, but it’s a time, in the middle of what is generally a bleak midwinter, when we can reflect on what’s good in the world. When we can actually STOP, breathe, think and remember. When we are, in a way, forced to remind ourselves who and what we love and to show them. And for those that aren’t religious and don’t know the gift of grace and new life that Christ offers, it’s a time to wonder about the mystery of life, and the power of hope.

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#322 ~ 7 Things about Christmas. 1 – The Morning

Waking up in the morning. I never understood the children who were allowed to rip open presents before the sun had peeped over a dreary sky to groan good morning – again. I’ve happily learnt to consign and confine myself to the platoon of people known as night-workers. We slog through the night and catch a sunrise, never sleep through the night and wake to a sunrise. In my house, tardiness has become an accepted part of our genetics. When together we make each other late – we literally seem incapable to be punctual once we are re-assembled as a family unit, any punctuality attained in our private lives  flies swiftly out the skylight window of our room. Christmas morning is no different. Every year my mother prepares a beautiful breakfast of oat crunch, yogurt, muffins, brioche, juice and many other niceties. We never make it down in time. Her disappointment follows us to the car as we fly out the front door, still pulling on clothes, saying thank you for our stockings before we bundle into the car, maybe a satsuma in hand, for church. This year, mum just warmed some brioche and left them on the table –  she’s learning; we had just enough time to grab 2 each before stumbling to the car.

Yet the morning is one of the best parts. We don’t wake too early, but when you crack your eyes open and recoil from the daylight knocking on your window panes, you’re able, for a few seconds, to really give thanks for the day. You spy your stocking and the long tube of Toblerone sticking out (a family necessity on this particular day of the year), and you smell the turkey roasting, and you smile – food is coming, you’re home safe, life is good.

This year my mother squealed with delight as she received her first stocking since she was a little child, that made her morning.

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