Friday, December 21, 2007

O Holy Night

"Love is what's in the room with you at Christmas

if you stop opening presents and listen."
Bobby - age 7

Today’s the winter solstice. As I write, I can see thick frost sparkling in the moonlight ~ truly a picture of mid-winter beauty.

I’ve been admiring my garden a lot lately, not because of luscious summer growth, or abundant vegetables, but because of the simplicity it wears at this time of year. Winter kills back everything but the spruce, holly, ivy, and my beloved eucalyptus (which I grew from seed ~ a treasured, fellow native). The stark nakedness reminds me of the purity in simple things. With very little light during the day time, I still find moments to reflect on how, despite the hibernating tendencies I have when it’s so darn cold, stunning life and nature are when we peel back the layers. It’s just so easy to miss this in the busyness of modern life. So easy to forget to breathe in LIFE.

The oak trees, silhouetted against apricot sunset skies, fill my senses to bursting point. It almost makes me weep to see the stunning views where we live. All around me, Mother Nature mentors me through the festive season. She shows me that beauty is felt, as much as seen.

I absolutely love Christmas. I despise the crass commercialism associated with it, and stay well clear of frantic shoppers and adverts! For me, it is a time to be with loved ones ~ celebrating and loving. I only need to hear Perry Como singing carols and I’m completely Christmased up! My inclination to hide away for the winter is symbolic of a deeper inward journey ~ a reclamation of my spiritual life ~ a time to put the rest of the world on hold as I explore my practices, beliefs and rituals, and consider how I can bring them back from the deep unconscious, and gift them out into the wider world.

As a child my mother created magical Christmas times…memories which will stay with me for life. I always strive to bring that magic forth for her granddaughters. It’s a legacy that would be such a beautiful tradition to pass down our family line. I know if I never gave my girls another Christmas present again it wouldn’t detract from the love, joy and passion they have for this season. They’ve felt the true meaning of Christmas and that is what they look forward to. To them, the highlights of Christmas are food and candelight.

I told them recently about a survey asking children what they got as presents last Christmas and how none of them could remember. My girls were able to recall all their gifts from the last few years. I wonder if it is because the items held meaning and also because we don’t do ‘overload’. Present opening isn't an expedition through dozens of gifts.

A few years ago I stopped doing Christmas cards. I’ll be honest ~ it was a really difficult decision. You see, I’m not an eco-scrooge (as one newspaper columnist described people like me), and I’m not trying to ruin Christmas by apparently being anti-social. I came to know so many gorgeous people through The Mother magazine (and our camps), that the list of people I felt genuine affection, love and care for, just grew and grew. For me, the solution was to stop doing cards at all, and to just do presents for those who share Christmas Eve under our roof. I can honestly say I have no regrets!

I truly love how special it feels to receive cards and packages in the post. I’ve learned to trust that it’s ok to receive cards and not ‘have’ to send ones back. I do, however, phone or email as many friends as possible over the festive season.

In childhood, our presents weren’t wrapped. My mum would bring them out after our evening meal and put each child’s presents (there were eight of us) in little piles beneath the Christmas tree. As we all sang our carols, in English and German, our eager little eyes would be surveying the floor wondering which selection of goodies was ours.

I still celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve. It feels so magical in the evening by candlelight, and the fire crackling. I do wrap presents, but again, like everything else around Christmas, I keep it simple. Tonight, as I was wrapping, the girls said it reminded them of Little House on the Prairie (there’s a beautiful Shaker-style simplicity to their lives). You see, I use brown wrapping paper and some string (raffia or hemp) to tie it up, and add a holly leaf. It may not be glamorous, but it is genuinely pretty.

Bethany and Eliza have been preparing a Christmas concert for weeks ~ carols on the violin and piano, and I believe a play is in store too. The excitement they feel at their contribution is worth bottling! It could be titled Essence of Ecstasy and would heal depression the world over. Each year since they were toddlers, they've taken part in the local nativity at the chapel. We recently showed my stepdaughter Hannah (who was over from New Zealand for a couple of weeks) videos of the girls growing up as she'd not seen them for nine years. The highlights were watching them at each nativity. Truly brought tears to our eyes ~ and a lot of laughter!

My goal with any presents I give is that at the end of their life cycle they will be fully compostable. Mission accomplished! God love my local bookshop ~ Bluebell! If you’re ever in Penrith, do go there. And ask Derek for his wonderful hot chocolate! If you go in December you might just hear Bethany tinkering out Christmas tunes on the bookshop piano. And Indigo in the arcarde is great for knitting needles made of bamboo or birch. Shhhhh. There are two young ladies who love going to the weekly Knitting Cafe in town.

It helps enormously that the girls have so many genuine passions ~ food preparation, art, music, sewing and knitting, dancing, singing, history, horses, cats etc. Finding gifts they’ll love is such a pleasure.

We haven’t had a Christmas tree for a couple of years now. We used to get various evergreens with roots, and then plant them out in January. This year we’ve pruned the spruce a bit and put some branches into a large vase of water. Our decorations are simple ~ hand made from wood and felt.

The rooms are adorned with fresh holly (and those divine red berries) and ivy.

It doesn’t feel any less like Christmas because we’ve abstained from acres of commercially printed wrapping paper, pine trees or play stations; or stripped supermarkets of food. Our Christmas meal is made from local veg bought at our weekly organic farmers' market, and our wholefood order through Suma. The more I consciously simplify the season, the more beautiful and real it becomes.

I have it on good authority from Santa, that deep in his grotto, the number one present request from kids is play stations/nintendos/mobile phone and loads of 2 and 3 year old girls wanting televisions for their bedrooms. (Weep). What will become of this generation of children raised on electronic media?

Very, very occasionally Santa meets children who would love a book, a baby brother or sister (grin), or who ask for world peace, but on the whole, they mostly want a list ten foot long of electro-gadgets worth the equivalent of our monthly household income….and the parents stand alongside them nodding to santa that it’s ok to get these things. Hate to think what they'll get next year, and the year after!

The Iroquois message is of leaving the world a better place by our actions ~ what does OUR Christmas mean for our family-line seven generations from now?

However you celebrate this season, enjoy. With my warmest, brightest and most sincere blessings for an abundant, joyous and divinely rewarding 2008. Love your family, and love Mother Earth.

Chat soon!! ~ Veronika ~

Winter Solstice, 2007
Chilly Cumbria, UK


Barefoot in the Garden said...

I loved your post, I'm nearly as in touch with the seasons again now as I was when a child. This year more then ever I truly appreciate the beauty and simplicity of winter and have been really drawing inward and feeling the urge to hibernate. Our christmas will be a simple one too, we light candles every evening from Solstice and sing carols. Our organic food is bought locally and from a box scheme, such a pleasure to not be caught up in the histeria of the shops. The boys have a few simple gifts and we use some of their art works saved throughout the year as wrapping. Many of the gifts we give are homemade and the happiest gift for me is to know that they are growing up knowing the true meaning of Yule Time.
Love to you and your family Veronika

Carrie x

Anonymous said...

Happy Christmas, you made me very nostalgic for the Cumbrian Christmases of my childhood!
The Bluebell Bookshop is wonderful,it is simply the best bookshop that I have come across!

Mary said...

Thank you for being such an inspiration! Best wishes for a peaceful, joyous season and new year.
Mary XO

Laura McIntyre said...

What a wonderful post , you have truly captured the magic of Christmas.

We have kept it simple this year, most presents are practucal, although a bunch of girly feather boas/tu tus etc... are included. We always by dozens of books, nothing electronic at all

Danielle said...

Your post brought tears to my eyes. You truly captured the magic of the season, and brought me back to my own memories of Christmas as a child. As a parent of a 3 year old, it is my hope to instill these same values and love for the season in my children.

Harmonious Living said...

The words woven into 'O Holy Night' glowed like the yule star.

As wise 'men' followed the star - so too, 'wise beings' are inspired by the 'star' that you are.

syster and soul lover :)
namaste ruth.