This ongoing crisis has bubbled alongside us for a staggering 273 days with no end in sight. Each time there is a glimmer of hope, it is snatched away & the despair is becoming paletahle now.
Our home decorations are unseen by friends who would usually join us for Xmas baking & suppers doing December. That cannot happen & it means the rituals we usually observe, have been set aside.
Sometimes, rituals are the things that you observe because they are familiar & comfortable; they help in difficult times as they give structure to events. The festive season is challenging enough normally when people are hothoused together & often the tasks fall unevenly leaving people feeling overwhelmed.
The familiar ones of listening to Carols, setting the table properly, of putting out crackers with dependable filings, the silliness of wearing the paper cracker hat, the reading of the silly jokes etc are things which set a rhythm to the day.
My late Mom used to buy advent calendars for the daughters when it was not a mainstream event & they could only be bought from specialist shops in Johannesburg, a reminder of the German influence that existed there. This was Mom’s joy to hand them over & I have continued it ever since, even buying fabric ones that could be filled with chocolates I knew the family would enjoy.
When I was growing up in South Africa, presents were opened in the morning, then my late Mom & Grandmother did the lunch; the table was always beautifully set & the crackers were laid out. Us children used to sneak in & peek through the crackers for the nicest games or toys & then move them around & so it would continue. When we eventually pulled them, it was often not the one we had carefully manoeuvred as someone else had done the same thing. Those little cracker toys were in demand then, in simpler times.
After lunch, my Dad & Grandad would adjourn to the patio with the bowls of nuts in their shells & we would all eagerly select our favourites - the bitter almonds were seldom in demand, & then if we could not open them ourselves with the variety of nutcrackers, they would crack them for us so we would enjoy every single little bit of it. I still buy nuts as this is such a fond memory. This year, the two traditional nut crackers were no where to be found, I searched the familiar cutlery drawers (plural) and the cupboards but in the end I had to buy this modern one which does the job rather well ....
There always has to be an iced Christmas cake on the cake stand for the afternoon with a hot drink before watching the Queens Speech in the UK.
The afternoon is for games, songs, news - we used to play monopoly or cards at home. My Great aunt was a great card player & that was her influence. She had no children of her own & regarded her gaggle of nieces & nephews as fair game to impart her skills on.
Simpler times, these rituals evolve & I wonder which ones my family will continue & which ones they will treasure - too often this is not clear.
I have diligently lit my 4 Advent candles again, a nod to the Teutonic ancestry I have - the simple flame on the four Sundays leading up to Christmas just slows the pace & makes me reflect - mainly on those who are absent - my Mother was a Christmas baby & it is always a reflective time for me to ponder the opportunities missed, the times taken fore granted ....
I wish you a blessed time as you prepare for Christmas, however it will look this year.