As We Understand Him – A Blog about Christmas
This won’t be a detailed blog about what I did this Christmas because I try to keep these blogs impersonal. I don’t photograph or name people. (I always try not to show addresses, telephone numbers or car registration numbers in pictures.)
It will be partly about Christmas in general but will also show some things that I did over Christmas in a vague way – a sort of random, rambling blog.
I was a tiny bit surprised, only a tiny bit, when I started doing this blog on the first of November to find that shops were already preparing for Christmas with trees and decorations. So I had to include a picture. This was in Marks & Spencer – taken 1 November. (I did check on the Internet and it seems that they now call themselves M&S but I still think of them as Marks.)
With low profile coverage of Fireworks Night it had been Halloween that dominated October but through November and December Christmas totally took over. The shops filled with potential ideas for presents and even the supermarkets filled with luxury and exotic foods. But I won’t give you lots of shopping pictures.
Signs and Decorations
Here are a few more signs of Christmas, just some things I caught on camera.
Holly and Ivy
Traditionally we have holly and ivy as Christmas decorations. We even have carols about them. They both make pretty decorations as leaves but holly is also known for its berries. I pass holly bushes and lots of ivy every day.
The ivy leaf above is covered in drops from recently thawed frost.
Ivy does have tiny berries that we don’t normally notice. They start green and turn to a dark purple colour.
[You may be starting to think that I’m just making up a pastiche of odd pictures to make up a blog. If so you would be completely right. That’s what blogs are for!]
I have been wondering what to do in my blogs with Mistletoe, the obligate hemi-parasitic plant. It could fit in somewhere under Plant Life but it’s not a typical flowering plant. Traditionally we have tiny sprigs of mistletoe at Christmas following pre-Christian mythology. So it’s going into my Christmas post.
I have spent all of my adult life in Cheltenham, which is the mistletoe capital of Europe. (I won’t go into its detailed ecology but Cheltenham has just the right arrangement of trees.) We have many streets where the pavements are lined with large trees covered in mistletoe. It comes into its glory over winter when the leaves of the trees are gone. We take it for granted. I don’t think any other town has so much freely visible mistletoe.
They produce many white berries but the tiny sprigs may only have two or three.
Trees and Decorations
I won’t bore you with pictures of decorations but here is my attempt at a decorated tree for this year. Our trees always have a fairy on the top.
And here are some others from this Christmas.
We did of course have the traditional Christmas Dinner, excellently cooked and presented. But I didn’t interrupt the proceedings to take pictures for you. You know what turkey and its accompaniments look like.
I am going to mention my traditional contribution to the meal because it’s almost the only thing I ever cook. I do a Bakewell Tart using an old family recipe. I’ve done it every year for a few years.
I make it at home and take it with us and it’s one of several options that come at the dessert stage after Christmas Dinner. This year the dinner started about 5 pm and the Bakewell Tart stage was about 6:30.
[Ok, I’m going to be honest. The recipe came from the Internet a few years ago. It was the winner in a television competition and it’s actually a Frangipane Tart. The original recipe included how to make the pastry, the jam in the filling and the custard. I use frozen pastry and buy the jam – and we have squirty cream instead of custard. It’s near enough.]
This delightful village has been my location over Christmas for many years. We stay with relatives.
We leave home at 3:00 pm on the dot on Christmas Eve so we can listen to the Nine Lessons and Carols from the choir at King’s College, Cambridge and we stay for three nights.
It’s a real little village with a church, a school, a village shop, two pubs and even its own village pond.
It still has a working public telephone box.
We used to do 2000 piece puzzles every year but now it’s just me and normally 1000. This year I failed dismally to complete 750.
But it’s fun trying. (We were busy elsewhere as you will see in a minute.)
A Walk in the Forest
Christmas is a time for family traditions (like the jigsaw) and for us there is tradition of a walk up the hill behind Aldbury on Boxing Day morning.
It starts with quite a steep climb and then becomes flatter but muddy.
It’s very much a walk in a forest with leaves on the ground and not on the trees.
At the top there were lots of signs, a café (unfortunately closed this year,) and a monument.
We do the walk every year so we know that the monument is for the Duke of Bridgewater, ‘Father of Inland Navigation.’
I have put the last two pictures from the walk here because I like them. Both show the sky well in a sort of silhouette.
So Boxing Day was a bit similar to our usual Boxing Day. After the walk we had lunch with the traditional bubble-and-squeak. Those who know me will appreciate that I am not a fan of this Christmas delicacy but I managed to survive with a bit of turkey and other goodies. The afternoon and evening were not as usual …
We were delighted to be heavily involved in a wedding of a close relative on Boxing Day. Lunch for eighteen, earlier than usual, had included the groom and lots of relatives and we all had our allotted tasks in the great spreadsheet of wedding preparations.
Suitably dressed in our formal attire we went to the local church just before dusk.
I won’t give details of the service, which more or less went as planned – apart from the vicar dropping both rings. It was a perfect ceremony for a lovely couple – two of the nicest people I know.
It was just about dark when we came outside.
A very short walk took us to the school next door for the reception.
(The picture was taken earlier with a bit more light.)
It was an informal sort of reception and much of the preparation had been done by the bride helped by friends and relatives.
The ‘wedding cake’ was an artistic masterpiece lovingly crafted from individual chocolate brownie and rocky road pieces.
I suppose it was a mixture of traditional with family. We had two excellent and amusing speeches – then we had a buffet style curry meal – and then we had a quiz!
It wasn’t a typical Boxing Day and it wasn’t a typical wedding reception.
But it was a day I will remember with much fondness.
So it hasn’t been a blog about Christmas. It’s been about my Christmas experiences this year.
I’m in a pensive post-Christmas mood and my title comes from – well, some of you will recognize it –
‘We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God, as we understood Him.’
We can all understand God in our own way.
I was so lucky to get this final picture of a traditional Christmas Robin seen in my back garden on 1 November.