Wednesday, December 29, 2010


On returning from the “Midnight Mass” I engage with my personal ritual of over twenty five years in pouring a glass of Calvados and sitting in a comfortable armchair before the Christmas tree, allowing my thoughts to wander. It’s odd how the reflections change from year to year. Last year and the year before they were melancholic in nature; this year they were vivid in their detail, and nostalgic.

Perhaps it was due to a surfeit of Charles Dickens, but I had flashbacks to many Christmas Eves long, long ago. Tucked up early in a warm bed in an otherwise frigid bedroom in Himbleton Vicarage. Only the downstairs rooms had any form of heat, and even though my room was above the kitchen (and the magnificent Rayburn stove) it was never warm in winter. Then parading with my siblings in St. Stephen’s Vicarage, wearing dressing gowns and holding embroidered pillow cases in anticipation of Father Christmas’ visit that night. The bedtime parade was always at the foot of that enormous staircase which joined the hall to a small landing, and then continued up some more. It was a ritual always filmed by my father – enjoyable as an eleven-year-old, but so embarrassing as a teenager. Funny how attitudes change within just a couple of years.

My late teenage years hold no significant Christmas memories, and neither did my “twenties” – except that each Christmas was traditional and always enjoyable. Normal is a good word. Growing up in a normal family environment. The memories would return many years later when I was ordained in 1986. Then, in a parish in the West of England, Christmas Eve (and the long line of carol services that preceded it) was quite an exhausting affair. Many, many home communions; a children’s service; a Midnight Mass. Then up on Christmas morning for a 7.00 a.m. mass, and 8.00 a.m. repeat and the large and well attended Parish Eucharist mid-morning. Of course as the newly-ordained curate I would have to attend each one! At the end of Christmas morning I would load my car with presents and drive two hours to my parents’ house in Worcester – just in time for a heavy lunch. Often I was asleep in the chair mid-afternoon!

Life is simpler now, with just one service on Christmas morning. No wonder the memories are easier to recall. As I sit before the splendid tree, I toast all others who do the same.

1 comment:

Saintly Ramblings said...

It's a glass of port and a piece of Stilton for me after the Midnight Mass, something I've been enjoying since the mid-70's, only then there was pork pie as well. Luckily cheese just before bed does not give me nightmares, just as coffee doesn't keep me awake and I can happily have a late-night mug without worrying.

I don't really spend much time in reflection after the Midnight - I find that I expend so much energy in creating Christmas for everyone else in the services etc. that when it comes to my own it's now something of an anti-climax. I still enjoy it though, even if this year I missed out on Christmas lunch .... I had left-over chilli-con-carne and rice.

There were still the traditional turkey sandwiches at supper, although the English mustard didn't taste right as I made it, and looking at the tin it was "Best before Oct 1996", which probably explains why it was a bit musty and not hot. It went in the bin and I put cranberry sauce in the sandwiches instead. They were delicious.