Miles walked: 294 Miles left to go: 18.5
‘Oh simple thing, where did you go?’ Keane, Somewhere Only We Know
Christmas is coming and for many people, there is magic and sparkle in the air. I don’t begrudge anyone that and I respect everyone’s right to celebrate how they wish; however, those who know me are well aware that I’m not a great fan. It’s not a miserable, miserly ‘bah humbug’ thing; in fact, I love the idea of a midwinter festival (like the Yule of old) to cheer up the dark days, a celebration of the fact that the longest night is past and – no matter how far away it seems – spring will come again.
I love to bring greenery into the house, light candles and share delicious food, a fireside and laughter with good company. I believe that many of the traditions and customs, whether Christian or more ancient, are truly beautiful.
What I really, really cannot bear are the gross consumerism and waste which more and more seem to define the season. What’s more, I hate the way it starts to creep into the shops as early as September and pretty much takes over for the next three months. Whatever happened to autumn? It is such a gorgeous season, too good to be missed.
Am I alone in not wanting to be bombarded with tinsel, shelves heaving with plastic tat and Slade belting out, ‘So here it is, Merry Christmas . . .’ everywhere I go? Or am I just getting old?
For us, Christmas has always been homespun but two of the best we ever had were when our children were teenagers and we decided to do things a little differently. We put our names in a hat and picked out one each: the challenge was to create a gift just for that person with a maximum budget of £5. Cue several weeks of secret goings-on and furtive activity behind closed doors! Christmas Day itself was full of excitement, anticipation and gratitude; we were all as intrigued by others’ gifts as well as our own, knowing that with such a tight budget there had been a need for imagination, creativity and ingenuity from each of us. The gifts – just one each – were some of the loveliest and most personal we ever received: this felt like a real Christmas. (In case you are interested, gifts included a fantastic gourmet meal, a box of homemade melt-in-the-mouth French macaroons, a knitted alpaca slouchy beret and gloves, homemade bathbombs, a painted canvas, a mini-stocking full of little goodies. . . )
Roger and I stopped giving each other Christmas presents several years ago, not because we don’t love each other or couldn’t be bothered or didn’t want to spend the money: it just seemed like unnecessary pressure to go somewhere and buy something for the sake of it. We would both far rather have shared experience over ‘stuff’, anyway. Who can put a price on the fun of a winter picnic or barbecue in cold, crisp weather? (If you’ve never done it, try it – these things don’t come with a ‘summer only’ label – and barbecued food in the snow is a hundred times more delicious. Trust me. We even did it one Christmas Day and it mas magical.)
What shop sells the beauty of a winter sunset watched together . . .
. . . or the pleasure of mulled wine and mince pies by the light of an ice lantern in the garden on a starry night?
I am interested to see what Christmas in Spain is like. We have been told that not much happens but there is certainly no shortage of Christmas ‘stuff’ and music (including English songs and carols, no Slade yet but Frosty the Snowman is going strong) in the shops. I’m hoping there might be some different Asturian traditions to experience, but we will see. I am definitely keen to try a box of turrón (nougat) which is on sale everywhere. Otherwise for our part, we will bring in some greenery (not holly, though, as it is a protected species here – the ice lantern above was one I made in France, that’s not Asturian holly in the photo!), bake mince pies, stoke the stove, cook a lovely meal and raise a glass to our loved ones.
A simple celebration, by modern standards cheap and boring. To us, perfection. Merry Christmas, one and all! 🙂