Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Holly

Today my mother and I went to my dad's grave. I drove her as she was nervous of the icy roads. She brought some flowers, a rose and some bulbs for the spring. As always, I stood by my father's grave and cried. After we had our quiet moments, we went to Mount Usher Gardens and had a cup of tea in the cafe there. It was lovely there, all Christmassy, with beautiful trees. They have some lovely shops there too and we went and bought some white fluffy stars for the Christmas tree and a white wooden duck. We had a nice afternoon, and when I got home, my hubby had got some holly for me to put over our pictures.
This is the one thing that makes Christmas for me, putting holly over the pictures. When I had it done I breathed a deep sigh and relaxed, now it feels like Christmas is here. It's the one thing my dad always wanted to do, and always said it was Christmas once the holly was up. And obviously it got imprinted onto my brain, as I feel exactly the same. I miss him so much, especially at this time of year, but now the holly is up I feel it is Christmas and he is here, all around me, as ever.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Babies, mangers and light

A few days ago we put up our Christmas tree, and our crib, and gradually, other Christmas decorations. I don't usually put the tree up so early, being a firm believer that Christmas begins on Christmas Day and continues for 12 days after that. However, the last few days have been so busy with INYB's production of the Nutcracker that I decided to do it a little early. I put my nativity scene up as well. This is a very plain and basic nativity made from olive wood, that I have had for several years. The starkness and simplicity of it appeals to me.
As usual, I put the whole scene up, including the baby Jesus. This doesn't trouble me, which is strange really. As a child, I went to Midnight mass with my parents and when we got home we had a little ceremony of putting the baby Jesus in the crib. Until then, the little stable held only Mary, Joseph and the animals. And the whole thing continued, with the Wise Men being moved a little each day from their starting point behind the crib somewhere to arrive at the stable on Jan 6th.
For my own nativity scene, however, I have always put everything up at once, baby, Wise Men, camels, the whole thing.
I have a friend who always says to me - oh no - baby Jesus doesn't arrive until Christmas Eve - you can't put him in now! And I have always shrugged this off as not important, which to me it isn't. But until this year I hadn't really thought about it. WHY isn't important to me whether my nativity scene has the baby in it or not?
I thought about it and I realised. I am not a religious person in the sense of churches and prayers and hierarchy. I am, however, a very spiritual person, in the sense that I respect every other living creature, human, animal or plant. I believe that there is something of God (whatever you believe God to be) in every living thing, and it is up to each one of us to reach out to that 'something of God' in each other living creature. So it doesn't matter to me whether baby Jesus is in my nativity or not. Jesus and his teachings are always here. He is in every moment of every day. He is in every person that I speak to. He is in every person that I ignore.
This will make some people smile, because I really am not a religious person. But I do genuinely believe that God is in every one of us. And that Jesus showed us the way we should try to live. So whether my little nativity has its baby or not, its irrelevant.
The message is here, in everyone's heart. If we can't find it, then we need to look harder. A few years ago I made Christmas cards with the message 'And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness knew it not'. Each card was water coloured and it took me ages, but to me, somehow, the message was important. No matter how dark it is, there is always light. Christmas is hard for many people who have lost loved ones. But the message is always there. No matter how dark it is, the light will always come back.
And amidst the glaring flashing shops, the canned music, the constant cries to spend more money to get yourself the perfect Christmas - amidst all this, is the message of hope, light and love.
Christmas is about love, love for each other, acceptance of each other, sharing with each other. That's what each present means. Love, share and accept. Personal items don't mean a thing. Who has dinner where doesn't mean a thing.
What matters is what is in your heart.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Music


This time of year I always listen to a lot of music. There is so much beautiful music written for Christmas, and of course all the carols that are sung at this time of year too. Last night we had the annual carol service in school. The day before, I had been asked to play with Senior Choir, they were going to sing John Rutter's Star Carol. I love this piece, and have played it before, but it is quite tricky, and so for the sake of everyone's stress levels we opted for Oh Holy Night. Not one of my favourites, but a very popular one. The soloist was beautiful, and the choir did themselves proud. It was lovely. Yesterday morning another piece of music got added into the mix, and I played for the boys choir who sang a jazzy version of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. This was a bit more of a challenge, partly due to the lack of rehearsal time, but also because the accompaniment wasn't written, out I had to make it up as I went along (with instruction from the music teacher as to what she wanted). It was something I hadn't done for a performance before, and it was great fun.
My favourite carol of all is I think, the Coventry Carol. Closely followed by In Dulce Jubilo, and In the Bleak Midwinter. You will see a theme there of voices in close harmony and the yearning to have been at Bethlehem and to have had the chance to share at first hand in the experience of Christmas.
Music is for me an integral part of Christmas. I couldn't imagine Christmas without it. And while I love the big numbers like Messiah, Winter Wonderland and Hark the Herald Angels (with Handel's tune, not Mendelssohn's I'm afraid!), the true message of Christmas for me is found in the simpler haunting melodies and achingly beautiful harmonies of composers like Tavener, Vivaldi and Leontovych.
Happy singing everyone!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

More Candles!


I got some time to try more of these today. These candles came from Ikea and they are the short ones. They have a mixture of brads and gems on them. I think I'm getting the hang of it now, though they are still a bit messy for my liking. But definitely an improvement! I have more ideas now, but no more candles so guess what I'm buying tomorrow! If anyone wants me I will be in my craft room...........

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Candles


I have wanted to try this out for ages, stamping on candles. This is my first attempt, which had a few teething problems. The tree is a little greyer in real life than I wanted, but overall its not too bad. There are little gems on the tree, and my idea was that the snowflakes turned to gems as they landed on the tree. I haven't had time to try out another, but having got some advice from different crafty friends I hope to get a chance in the next few days to give it another go!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Advent

I can't believe it's Advent already. We lit our first Advent candle last Sunday and I have put up the Advent tree that I made a long time ago. I was really pleased with it at the time, because I made it from felt and fabric that I had already and I didn't have to buy anything for it. The numbers are getting a little tatty now, as they were only glued on and some of them are falling off! The first Christmas we had it, it was just the two of us and we took it in turns to fill each pocket with something small for each other. Now it's just the children that do it, and even thought the eldest is now 21 they still do it - and there's always a family discussion as to who got the star last year. This year I bought some pocket gnomes from my friend Carol to fill it - one of the pockets has 2 gnomes in it, so that son no 2 can give one to his girlfriend too!
Two of my children are performing with Irish National Youth Ballet in their production of The Nutcracker this weekend. I've just been baking mini gingerbread men which I am going to ice as Nutcracker Princes and mini gingerbread ladies which will become Snowflake Angels for their first night party. While I was baking I put onone of my Christmas CDs for the first time this year and had a great time singing along to White Christmas. Happy Advent everyone!