Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

The Holly and the Ivy

We are finally at Christmas Eve, that most lovely of days when the greenery is brought into the house.  Before the advent of the Christmas fir tree in the nineteenth century, Christmas was celebrated starting with the holly, ivy and mistletoe being brought into the house.    In the middle of winter when nothing much is growing and the trees are bare, we still have these plants to help us bring joy.  Holly was sacred to druids who associate it with the winter solstice.   The bringing in of the holly and ivy has been taking place in England since at least the fifteenth century and probably even before that.
Then candles are lit to bring light into the darkest days of the year.  The Christmas symbols, the pagan holly and ivy and the Christian symbols of the season are just wonderfully intertwined.

"When we recall Christmas past, we usually find that the simplest things - not the great occasions - give off the greatest glow of happiness."
- Bob Hope

I also make pomanders out of oranges and cloves to decorate the mantelpiece each year.  The smell is intoxicating!

"Christmas--that magic blanket that wraps itself about us, that something so intangible that it is like a fragrance. It may weave a spell of nostalgia. Christmas may be a day of feasting, or of prayer, but always it will be a day of remembrance--a day in which we think of everything we have ever loved."
- Augusta E. Rundell
"At Christmas, all roads lead home." ~ Marjorie Holmes

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Shortest day musings

Last weekend we spent a lovely day at Buckland Abbey, once the home of Sir Francis Drake.  They put on a very funny mumming play as well as the usual Christmas decorations and food.  The mumming had a Sir Francis Drake theme -  the hero was Drake and his enemy was The King of Spain! 

For those who aren't aware, mumming is a very old English traditional Christmas play, which was usually a way of raising extra money for Christmas.  The speeches are in rhyming couplets and the action is mostly comic and exaggerated.  Father Christmas often appears at the end after everything has ended well. 

We spent most of our time looking around the marvellous kitchen, which had an open fire going, and lots of lovely Victorian Christmas items and a particularly grand dresser.

The kitchen smelt of herbs, spices, Christmas pudding mixture (which we all stirred as we walked past) and the fire.  We wanted to sit there all day.

Due to the particularly inclement weather we didn't get a lot of chance to go on a long walk whilst we were there.  We did briefly get some fresh air and the weather was very misty and windy with frequent showers.  The weather hasn't improved much since then.
On our return home, we decorated our tree, which we think is looking rather nice.  Decorating the tree is one of my favourite parts of the festive season and now that we have reached the shortest day, it finally feels as if Christmas is almost upon us.

"Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childhood days, recall to the old man  the pleasures of his youth, and transport the traveller back to his own fireside and quiet home!"-  Charles Dickens 

Thursday, 12 December 2013

A misty winter's morning

Walking on a misty December morning, all was silent other than the birds echoing in the trees around us.  The sun struggled to rise about the trees, the mist shrouded and clung to the ground and it felt as if the world had stopped briefly. 

Suddenly the leaves are almost gone from the trees and winter is seeping in.  Before all the midwinter celebrations, before Christmas and all of its light and warmth is upon us, its a time to stop and watch the seasons change.

Monday, 9 December 2013

A time for lighting candles

It has been quite a busy couple of weeks.  We had our local Christmas Fayre at the end of November and I was selling Christmas decorations, some of which were quite old, possibly 1950s.  The vintage decs sold very well, so did the traditional red and green baubles.  The modern looking blue baubles were mostly unsold.  It was a fun but exhausting day though and I managed not to buy all of my own stall.


One of the positives from the Fayre was that a friend won a new bird table which they didn't want, so they sold it to us.  Within a day of the new table being put in place we had seen wrens, the robin, blue and great tits, blackbirds and a pair of magpies.  Then the other day the starlings who circle the area landed, making a complete racket!

We are really enjoying having a bird table that we can see from the house all year round.  It is more entertaining than watching television most of the time. The leaves on the hazel tree are falling more and more each day now.  It wont be long until it is bare.

Almost everything in the garden is dying back except for the winter jasmine which lights our way beautifully and reminds us of the spring that will come eventually.

Now that the days are dark and shorter and getting colder we are spending more time inside of the house.  The mincemeat, christmas pudding and christmas cake are all made and waiting expectantly in the larder.  Now that it is the season of Advent we are lightly candles each evening until Christmas.  There is something special about lighting candles.

How far that little candle throws his beams So shines a good deed in a weary world.
William Shakespeare