Monday, 31 December 2012

Another year over!

Here we are, rushing towards the soggy (around here anyway) end of 2012. In rather less than 12 hours' time it will be 2013; indeed, in some parts of the world it already is 2013. We are rather hoping that the weather lady who promised on TV last night that the rain should stop before midnight is correct. Following one of our traditions, we are off to a friend’s birthday party tonight and plan to walk home in the small hours of the morning. Experience proves that even when you book a taxi for one or two o’ clock on New Year’s morning it’s impossible to get one. Besides, strolling home means we walk off the alcohol and avoid starting the New Year with a huge hangover. Hence our hope that the rain will have gone by then. 

Anyway, Christmas has come and almost gone, although a friend of mine still has to celebrate it next Monday as she is married to a Ukrainian. But we have done most of the traditional visits and lunches out with various members of the family. The usual suspects have come to stay and I have cooked inordinate amounts of food. After tonight’s no doubt excellent party meal, soup, poached eggs, beans on toast and other such things should be the order of the day for the rest of the week. And then maybe I’ll think about other meals and tackle the supermarket once again. 

One tradition I didn’t join in with was the Boxing Day Sales madness, which by all accounts excelled itself this year. People started queuing not long after midnight on Christmas Day to get into stores like John Lewis in London. What an unbelievably strange way to end Christmas Day: eat a large meal, pull crackers, watch a bit of Christmas telly and then go and sit in the cold for hours in order to bag a bargain. I know that some of those bargain-hunters were folk who don’t celebrate Christmas but not all of them. Many shoppers were boasting about buying stuff ready for NEXT Christmas, for goodness sake!!!! 

Meanwhile, in Santiago de Compostela in Galicia yesterday they celebrated the “TraslaciĆ³n de los Restos del ApĆ³stolo”, something that they do every year on December 30th by all accounts. I wondered if they actually moved the saint’s bones around so I did a bit of research. And the answer is no. This is the celebration of his remains arriving in Spain. Legend has it that after Pentecost, when the disciples were given the gift of tongues and went out to spread the word, good old James (for the uninformed, Santiago = Saint James) and a few of his followers went to Spain, particularly Galicia, to preach. So when he was beheaded it was logical that his followers should steal his remains and take them to Galicia. After finding a nice grotto to put him in, some of the chaps went back to the Holy Land while others stayed on in Spain to do some more preaching. 

Whether you believe all that is up to you, of course, but the Spanish do know how to celebrate such legends in a big way. The Presidenta del Parlamento de Galicia, Pilar Rojo, stood in for the king at this ceremony and asked the Apostle Santiago to please intervene and help sort out the crisis in Spain. 

Goodness knows it needs sorting out. I’ve read that prices of flats in Galicia are down to 2001 levels. People are still unable to buy many of them because the banks will only give loans for the purchase of properties owned by them. So it goes. Here’s a link to an album of photos of the crisis in 2012 from the newspaper La Voz de Galicia .

 As I run, walk, drive around our rather grey and damp area of the northwest of England, I still see loads of houses and gardens festooned with brightly lit Christmas decorations. Either the people who live in those houses are not affected by the crisis or they are making a last-ditch attempt to cheer themselves through it. 

This has led me to reflect on the Christmas decorations of my childhood, including paper streamers which stayed up until my brother and I had had our birthday parties in January. Our Christmas tree was always in the front room. (Do you remember “front rooms”? The room where the “best” furniture was almost only used for show. In the days before every household had a TV set you only went in the front room for special occasions or when Grandma came for Sunday tea.) We didn’t have plug in electric tree lights but candles which clipped onto the branches of the tree. Consequently, the tree could only be illuminated under supervision and over the Christmas period we made extra use of the front room as we had a kind of ritual lighting of the candles and would all admire the tree in its glory for a while. The candles were then extinguished to avoid danger of setting the paper garlands (and eventually the house) on fire. 

Now, my mother rather looked down on those who put up their tree actually IN the window, in a position where then the curtains were drawn the only people who could see the tree were passers-by. Partly she couldn’t see the point of depriving yourselves of the tree after drawing the curtains but also she regarded it as rather “common”. And the last thing you wanted to be at that time was “common”. 

I rather suspect she would have something to say about the people who decorate the outside of their houses with glowing inflated Santas and reindeer!

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