Charles Dickens – what were you thinking ….
What is it about Christmas that attracts the most ridiculous behaviour? For the past two weeks I have been sleeping in the air conditioning, and yet this morning I subject myself to conditions that would be outlawed in any other circumstances – and mind, I do it voluntarily!
Am I mad? No – I am just trying to recreate for myself the Christmases I remember from my youth
One of my most enduring memories of the Yuletide season is the first time I was allowed up to attend midnight mass in my local English country church. My grandmother bundled me up in scarves and overcoats, I pushed stone cold feet into thick woollen socks and then into wellington boots. We were ready and my grandfather opened the kitchen door onto a fairy kingdom of ice and snow beneath a low full moon. Across the fields I could see the church standing pale in the moonlight, and the flickering light of candles bid us make haste. We set out into the shining landscape and my first footstep crunched satisfactorily in the crisp snow.
Although I have travelled around the world and settled at the opposite side of the globe, the memory of that scene has stayed with me as the defining experience of what Christmas is all about.
Because of you, it is Christmas Day in the Southern Hemisphere, it’s seven o’clock in the morning and my ham is already in the oven, basted and ready to go. The temperature is appalling!!
Alas – such things are the stuff of dreams; and the traditions of Christmas have a great deal more to do with Charles Dickens than with any real cultural memories. After all, the English ate a roasted Boars Head at the Yule Feast, and even in my younger days my grandparents chose to roast the traditional English goose rather than the American upstart – Turkey!
In a Christmas Carol Dickens created a fabulous myth of what the festival should look like, and nostalgic English immigrants have taken that vision with them wherever they have settled – and boy have they settled!! I don’t think I have visited any country in the world where the English haven’t settled in!! I should know – I am one!!
Here in Australia, the national memory is still redolent of the Dickens story – and a feast that does not at least pay passing tribute to the roast, the stuffing, the Christmas pudding and the brandy sauce is not considered much of a Christmas Feast.
I have tried the sensible solution, I have hosted a summer feast of BBQ meats and salads with fresh seafood and fruits in season. The children were bitterly disappointed – ‘Wot! no turkey?” was the Dickensian cry of anguish.
And so, here I am at 7am on a Christmas morning with the ham nicely sizzling under it’s citrus plum glaze, and the turkey awaiting the mystery of the magical stuffing to bring out the rich flavours (well that’s what it says on the packet) – all because in 1843 Charles Dickens published a moral tale about the meaning of Christmas. Bah Humbug (Said with a grin!) for who would have it otherwise.
So wherever you are celebrating this Christmas, I hope that you are with loved ones and that you have yourself the merriest of times, and maybe, the truth of Dickens’s Tale is in the message that this is truly a feast of hope.
from Michele @ Trischel