Christmas rushes towards us and I see all the traditions coming out once again.
The tree is up and decorated, with a few new baubles as per family tradition: this year a new fairy, a sparkly robin and some of the tiniest little glass bauble imaginable, about ½ an inch in diameter and looking altogether too pretty to take out of their box at first. We managed it in the end however and soon had a production line of grandchildren and me, cutting red string to the correct length, threading it through each bauble in turn, knotting the string and finally hanging the bauble on the tree. You have to take Christmas seriously, you know!
I’ve been to the Nativity play at my grandson’s school, seeing lots of small children dressed up as stars, others dressed as animals and watching said small grandson trying to use his shepherd’s crook as a makeshift machine gun. I’m sure that’s not what the Christmas message is all about.
Having watched the Jesus story as seen through the eyes of 5-7 years olds (Mary didn’t so much “lay” the baby in the manger as swing him around and hurl him in!) I went into Manchester for what is becoming a part of our personal Christmas ritual for a friend and me.
We meet up in the late afternoon/early evening in Manchester, go and have an early something to eat and then head for the cathedral for the carol service which is a fundraiser for an organisation that helps people overcome addiction to alcohol and drugs. Manchester’s cathedral is quite small and intimate and looks delightful when we all sing Silent Night to the light of candles and nothing else. And my friend and I do love a good nostalgic singsong!
Of course, since then I have also been into the ritual present buying thing: what on earth can I buy for so and so? You know the kind of stressful thing I mean!
And then there’s the ritual family argument as we try to coordinate a get together for everyone without anyone feeling left out or put upon. No-one must feel obliged to do too much and no-one should have to travel further than anyone else. It is Christmas after all and there has to be fairness.
We’ve also had our Christmas crisis for this year: the central heating boiler packed up, plunging us back into our 50s/60s childhood of icy cold bedroom and the desire to stay in bed all day or at least to get dressed under bedclothes. Fortunately we found a friendly plumber who was able to restore a semblance of normality and promised to provide a more permanent solution in the New Year.
I’ve not even mentioned the weather! As usual, you just get rid of one lot of bitterly cold weather than the next lot turns up. The weathermen promised us a pattern for today: rain, turning to snow and then freezing nicely. And that is just what happened, precisely when I was going to ToysRus, one of those shops which claim to be toyshops but are really a modern version of one of the circles of hell: wall to wall toys displayed from floor to ceiling in the most unattractive way possible. Children should never be allowed in that shop. It encourages acquisitiveness without stimulating the imagination. However, today I took my courage in both hands and ventured in, having phoned in advance to check they had the item I wanted. A successful foray!
The afternoon ended well though as I went from there to Waterstone’s bookshop which does still manage to give the appearance of employing people who enjoy books and like to help you find what you are looking for. In the middle of hunting for quite specifically requested books for the granddaughters I ran into an old friend.
This is another Christmas ritual: come across each other quite accidentally and get in the way of everyone else as you spend half an hour catching up on ALL your news in the middle of the shop floor. And that is precisely what we did. Anyone would have thought we were Spanish!
Isn’t serendipity wonderful?