The reason for the season

24/12/2019

Jim Hopkins remembers Christmases past:

. . . Christmas always stirs strong feelings and vivid memories for me.

I grew up south of the tracks in Christchurch when coal was king and fired the steam trains that thundered through. Dad was the vicar at St Mary’s Addington and, for him, Christmas was one of the most important times of the year.

Which should come as no surprise, though it may do now.

A birth in Bethlehem is, after all, the reason we actually have a Christmas holiday. And that birth used to be an integral part of the celebration.

Recognised in school nativity plays, on the wireless, in newspapers, its story touched most people’s lives.

Mary and Joseph and the Three Wise Men shared the limelight with Mr Claus and his elves.

Needless to say, the vicar’s offspring took their place in the pews – along with the rest of the community. Service first, pud and presents later. That was the drill.

I can still see the interior of that old church, dark timber beams, dust motes drifting in the light filtered through stained glass windows. I can hear the carols. I can smell the Christmas lillies. These memories return every year, as time grows longer, becoming ever stronger.

But the Christmas I remember is a faded thing. As the churches have lost (or surrendered) their influence, so faith has left the festive season.

Christmas today is a strictly secular affair with scant public recognition of its religious roots. The establishment avoids them and the media simply ignores them.

Bad for business or just old hat, anything biblical is off the agenda. Those who run the fourth estate may argue that’s because fewer people say they’re Christian, to which the reply might be, maybe that’s because you’ve spent decades dismissing their beliefs.

Whatever the reasons, it saddens me that the spiritual dimension of Christmas has withered as it has. Because the nativity story literally marks the beginning of a faith which, whatever the woke folk may say, is a core piece of our heritage and the foundation of our morals, manners and laws. For that reason alone, it has a place on Christmas day. . .

A few days ago I read a media release from a government entity (which I now can’t find) explaining how it’s sensitive to employees who don’t celebrate Christmas.

Fair enough, but sensitivity shouldn’t mean pretending it’s something else, especially when it’s not applied to celebrations for other religions.

No-one pretends that Diwali isn’t a Hindu festival, we’re not asked to skirt round, we shouldn’t be offended if someone wishes us happy Hanukkah so why the pussy-footing around Christmas?

You don’t have to be a Christian to understand and acknowledge the reason for the season.

You don’t have to believe what Christians do.

And Christian or not, we’d all be better off with more reflection on the real message of hope, joy, peace and love.


Summer Christmas

10/12/2018

A few years ago we spent Christmas in Canada.

For the first time a lot of the traditions we’ve imported from the northern hemisphere made sense there in a way they don’t here.

Our family accepted long ago that we’re in the Southern Hemisphere and our Christmas celebrations reflect that – keeping them simple and summery.

Beef + Lamb NZ is doing it’s best to foster the spirit of a southern Christmas:


‘Tis the season

24/12/2017

It used to take years to get from one Christmas to the other, I’m not sure if it’s even been weeks since the last one.

But however quickly it’s come, it is Christmas Eve.

Thank you to all who read and especially to those of you who add to the conversations.

Wishing you all the joys of Christmas and may 2018 be especially kind to you and yours.


Counting down to Christmas

06/12/2014

It used to take years to get from one Christmas to another.

I don’t think it’s even been weeks since the last one.

But here we are counting down to this one with the first candle of advent having been lit.

 

advent

The credit for the wreath goes to Jonell’s Florist in Oamaru who make me one each year.

Everyone has been different, all have been beautiful.


5/12

24/12/2013

A sorry 5/12 in NZ History Online’s Christmas quiz – most questions are pretty obscure, would help to read the references first.


Phew!

24/12/2012

Just back from my last trip to town before Christmas and keeping to the spirit of our keeping-it-simple celebration managed to get round the supermarket with only a basket.

There’s just a bit of tidying up to do at home then tomorrow with extended family to look forward to.

Thanks to all of you who read, extra special thanks for all who leave a comment which adds to the interest of the blog, and blogging.

May your Christmas be happy and may 2013 be kind to you and yours.

P.S.

If you want some pre-Christmas reading, I commend Remembering the Night: Christmas Story 2012 at Bowalley Road.


Sing the song of Christmas

24/12/2011

Jim Hopkins begins his column Silent Night voice of our history:

The spirituality of Christmas has been heedlessly stripped away by the Caesars of our age … It was playing on the wireless last week, Justin Bieber’s version of Silent Night, and no matter how soppy the singer, the song still cuts, every time, like love, to the quick. There are always tears in the tune and a lifetime in its lines.

Silent Night is the song of Christmas. There’s so much inside it. The melody floats and soars and lives in the Gothic nave of our imagination, stirring something in us we’d forgotten was there. . .

And concludes it:

. . . But that will happen only if we acknowledge the character and history of Christmas and allow some part of the holy day into the holiday. And that’s all but gone now. The spirituality of Christmas has been heedlessly stripped away by the Caesars of our age, who would have no rendering except to themselves. Officially, like or not, this is still a Christian country, yet our politicians – and the media they control on our behalf – cannot summon the will to make any reference to 2000 years of tradition and belief. We have come to a contrary pass when those who assert the sanctity of taonga in one breath will so casually forsake it in the next.

Still, Silent Night survives. To goad, comfort, challenge and console. As memory and star, it is the song of Christmas. Sing it.

The bits in between are worth reading too.


Christmas gift suggestions

25/12/2010

“To your enemy, forgiveness.
To an opponent, tolerance.
To a friend, your heart.
To a customer, service.
To all, charity.
To every child, a good example.
To yourself, respect.”

   – Oren Arnold –


Flying pig alert

24/12/2010

Next year:

I won’t wait until three days before Christmas to send Whitestone Cheese gift boxes and find the courier can’t guarantee they’ll be delivered by today.

I won’t wait until Christmas Eve to post gifts to my nieces in Australia, a calendar to my cousin in Scotland and cards to people all over the world.

I won’t leave it to my farmer even if he says he’s got staff gifts covered.

I will know where the bucket and stones needed to keep the Christmas tree upright are.

I won’t leave the tree my farmer cut propped on a box in the living room for 12 days before decorating it.

I will remember about the cake I always bake to give a friend so I don’t have to make it on Christmas Eve.

I will not only be organised I will be organised early.


How did that happen?

20/12/2010

RivettingKate Taylor mentioned that there’s only five more sleeps until Christmas.

How did that happen?

It used to take years to get from one Christmas to the next but I’d swear the last one was only a few weeks ago.


Bah! Humbug!

05/12/2010

BP has given $230,000 to volunteer organisations through its Vouchers for Volunteers programme.

Doing good work often comes at a considerable cost for the people and organisations involved and fuel vouchers are a good way of showing appreciation of that.

Maybe I’m getting cynical in my old age but I wasn’t quite so sure about the story of  Whitcoulls and Borders joining forces with the Salvation Army to help struggling families at Christmas.

From now until Christmas, Whitcoulls and Borders will have specially marked boxes under their in-store trees and are asking customers to buy an additional book or gift to place it under the tree.

Helping the Sallies to help others is a worthy project. But there is nothing in the media release about the companies doing anything more than providing boxes for the collection of extra books or gifts purchased in their stores.

If they’re doing that, shouldn’t they be giving a little themselves either by discounting purchases given to the project or giving directly themselves? Otherwise it looks like an attempt to tug their customers’ consciences so they buy more.

Unless the companies are giving something too all they’re doing is taking the credit for their customers’ generosity while boosting their sales.

If that’s the case then it’s, as Scrooge would say: Bah! Humbug!


Tuesday’s answers

29/12/2009

Monday’s questions were:

1. What was the best Christmas present you’ve ever had?

2. And the worst?

3. What’s your favourite Christmas Day menu?

4. What was your best Christmas?

5. And the worst?

Deborah, Rob, Paul Tremewan and Gravedodger tied for first place with 5/5 because there were no wrong answers.

1. So many to chose from . . . but ones which stand out: a dolls house my father made when I was about 4; a watch when I was 10; the sapphire pendent my farmer gave me the first Christmas after we met;  the book Chicken Soup for the Soul my mother gave me – yes I know it’s syrupy, but I was coming to terms with life with a son with multiple handicaps at the time and syrup helped.

2. Least appreciated was a pair of frilly knickers, given by an aunt when I was about seven. I’d much rather have had the sweets she gave my brothers.

The one which made me feel the worst was bronchitis 8 years ago.

3. Ham, tomatoes with basil, green salad, new potatoes and nut roast (made by one of my sisters in law who is vegetarian) followed by pavlova, strawberries, raspberries and cherries.

4. All but the one below – spent with extended family and or/friends. One which stands out was 1988, the sun shone, the adults lounged in the shade of a tree on the lawn while the children (eight cousins aged from 3 to 10) played with giant bubble makers near by.

5. I’ve had only one not so happy Christmas – it was the first away from home when I was working as a kitchen hand in Omarama in the university holidays. I’d had the two days before off and went back on the bus on Christmas Eve. It was full of blokes who were working at Twizel, they were all drunk and one threw up at the start of the two hour trip. Christmas Day was just another day at work.


Monday’s Quiz

28/12/2009

1. What was the best Christmas present you’ve ever had?

2. And the worst?

3. What’s your favourite Christmas Day menu?

4. What was your best Christmas?

5. And the worst?


Is there a word . . .

27/12/2009

. . . to describe the act of listing unwanted gifts on Trade Me within hours of receiving them?

. . .  for what you feel when you come across a listing and realise it’s the gift you chose so carefully?

. . . and for what you’d feel if you found out that the person who gave you the gift knew you were trying to sell it?

Some of the givers and recipients of the 5000  unwanted gifts listed on Trade Me so soon after Christmas might need these words today.


Do you want sex with that?

18/12/2009

What message does a billboard with an unhappy Joseph and Mary under the duvet and the words: Poor Joseph, God is a hard act to follow give?

Catholics, evangelical protestants and other denominations who revere Mary are offended. I’ve read and heard a range of views from Christians who take a less literal interpretation of the Bible and none of them was amused either.

Archdeacon Glyn Cardy said:

“What we’re trying to do is to get people to think more about what Christmas is all about,”

Does that mean he wants us to think Christmas is about sex?

I thought it was supposed to be about hope, faith, peace, joy and love.


Wouldn’t it be good if. . .

17/12/2009

. . . there was another week between the end of November and Christmas?

That way people like me who turn off at the first sight of tinsel in September wouldn’t find themselves more than a little under-prepared with just a week to go.


Monday’s quiz

14/12/2009

1. How many letters in the Maori alphabet?

2. What is  a Sophora microphylla?

3. What are Frankincense and myrrh?

4. Who wrote, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus . . .”?

5. Who said, “Christmas is the one time of year when people of all religions come together to worship Jesus Christ.”?


The C word

29/11/2009

The first signs of Christmas approaching seem to happen earlier and earlier each year.

The sight of tinsel and sound of carols in October, or even September, used to irritate me now I just ignore them until very late November.

That coincides with the first Sunday of advent which is plenty early enough to start thinking about Christmas for me.

It’s still too soon to get a tree or put up decorations but one of our family traditions is an advent wreath.

We light the first candles on the first Sunday and one more on subsequent Sundays until Christmas day when all five are lit.

Whether or not you are a Christian, it is much better to ponder on hope, faith, joy, love and Christmas itself, which each of the candles signify, than the many other less inspiring meanings attached to the C word now.

Jonell from Jonell’s Florists, makes the wreath for us.

Although she’s been doing them for years now, every one has been different and all have been beautiful.


12th day

05/01/2009

It’s the 12th day after Christmas when you’re supposed to take down all the festive decorations to ensure good luck for the coming year.

I’m not superstitious and usually have had enough of pine needles dropping from the tree before January 5th so generally clear the tree and other signs of Christmas away before now.

We left the country half way through December and hadn’t bothered with a tree or other decorations so the post-Christmas clean-up was simply a matter of scooping up the cards.

decorations


All I want for Christmas

25/12/2008

 

 

 

from The Best of Jock by David Hensaw, published by Hodder & Stoughton.


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