Yule’s Getting too Modern!
I love Christmas, I really do. The family rituals, community, national and international traditions make it such a heartwarming, uplifting and negative-vibe shifting time of the year. But in our modern day, frenetic paced world, it’s all too easy to ‘move on’ too quickly, shunning what was once festive for commercialism, gadgets and all things 22nd century. It’s enough to make me weep under the mistletoe… and even that isn’t as abundantly decking our hallways as it once might have been!
Tell me: what happened; where did all our quaint traditions go?
Rain forests and trees: I know, I know. But, really, have you considered how much energy we emit sending out the alternative E-cards? And we can’t even hang them! They’re yet another example of us spending our lives online, they don’t fill me with good cheer and it’s just downright annoying when I keep getting reminders sent to me via email that I haven’t opened them. Unless they are in a proper envelope, I simply won’t. It’s too much hassle!
You see I’m an old fashioned girl at heart. And nothing makes the heart sing on a winter’s morning more than hearing that letterbox flap open announcing the fresh arrival of a flurry of cards which fall like snow on the doormat. Poetic, uber-melancholic? Maybe. But it really brings a smile to my face. It’s personal, heartfelt and meaningful. It’s sincere. As a child I just loved the guessing game of whose handwriting was on the envelope – does that long lost skill of putting pen to paper even exist any more?
It was fun to place bets on whether Auntie Maureen would send the usual ‘boring’ churchy snow scene card with only a robin to liven it up. And would Auntie May send another rude one which had to be grabbed by my dad before we could catch a glimpse of the uncensored bits? Would Great Uncle Reg pop a tenner inside ‘for the kids’… only to be scorned by my mum for taking such a chance with his money and the Great British postal system?
And how exciting was it to pick your box of cards for your school friends at the shops, then come home and write them by the fire, curled up with a hot chocolate, taking great care over your individual picture selections. If you were unfortunate enough to end up with the remnants from your mum’s box then the fun and games really began because you had to make the ultimate in tough decisions: who should receive the naffest card? And it was a chance to practice your very best handwriting too.
Oh, I could write an essay about the merits of the Christmas card. Especially the thrill of receiving cards from boys at school… and the most popular girl in your class who you didn’t realise even knew you existed! Suffice it to say that Queen Victoria would be spinning now if she could see the way we have abandoned this most basic of traditions.
Bring back the cards. If for no other reason that this: you can recycle them to make gift tags for next years’ presents and be an Earth Mama!
I suppose by the time I was born this joyful door-to-door custom was already sadly dying out. Yet it’s funny how we have no problem dressing up to scare the neighbours and then begging them for sweets – or else pummeling their house with rotten eggs at the end of October… But the sound of song is one of the most positively glorious things ever. Especially at Christmas. Especially when in tune. So why did it stop?
Was it because we were too cold come December to ring on people’s door bells and hang about outside while the warm glow of their cosy front room teased us? Was it because we coined in on the fact that we’d only get goodies given to us if we donned witches hats and Scream masks? On that rare occasion now when I happen to catch an amazing choir filling a shopping centre, I am covered with goosebumps, transported back to how Christmas must have been for my grandparents; a time of coming together as one, a time of co-creational festive spirit, a time when sharing a cuppa over a mince pie was frankly more important than catching the Black Friday sale at Argos.
Pioneers like Gareth Malone have helped the choir make a comeback, it’s true. But so much more can be done. And when we consider how many health-giving qualities the belting out of upbeat lyrics can give us, it makes so much sense to be forming neighbourhood choirs in all of our streets. Singing shouldn’t just be a pastime for contestants on the X Factor or the confines of our showers. It makes me sad when I realise my children don’t know all of the words to the traditional Christmas carols like I did at their age. So less of the Simon Cowell and more of the Aled Jones!
Of course we are doing more of it. Popular television shows such as The Great British Bake-Off, Masterchef, Nigella, Jamie, Gordon and The Hair Bikers have seen to that. We love our baking! But when it comes to Christmas, somebody’s eating all the Tesco mince pies. Else they wouldn’t need to produce them. Is it you? And for such a crime to be committed (have you ever tasted a supermarket’s own brand mince pie… with the exception of M&S, Waitrose or Duchy Originals? – Nope, Sainsbury’s Taste The Difference even you don’t make the cut!) there has to be one helluva good excuse… I will let you off the Christmas pud since even my attempt came out moldy – it turns out there is not only an art to making the things but an art to wrapping and sealing them if you make them as far ahead as I had in September! But as for the rest… get back in the kitchen and do it the proper way. Do your grandparents, great grandparents and great great grandparents proud!
Office Christmas meal out
It’s been a while since I worked in a traditional 9-5 office job. Shhh… don’t tell anyone but I don’t plan to go back! But the last time I did, where was our Christmas party? At the dogs! Yep. The dog racing. Because how festive is that?! And so many companies and offices are opting for these rather bizarre ‘team-building’ festive get-togethers nowadays. Which are fine during the year. But you know what? I rather like the whole ‘meal and done’ thing that the traditional office party(ish) dinner provides. If we work with great colleagues then fab – we can move on to the cocktails bars and clubs and leave the boring peeps behind. But equally if we work with a crowd that aren’t exactly our chosen tribe, then the Christmas meal in itself is quite enough, thank you. Of course the alcohol flows which helps enormously with ice breaking conversations, but we can leave after the cheese and biscuits and token Baileys for the road. If it ain’t broken don’t fix it!
Independent store shopping
At this time of year it can be all too tempting to penny pinch and opt for the bargain basement cheap gift possibilities that hail from our giant multinational retail outlets… as opposed to supporting local traders. But not so long ago our High Streets were choc full of gorgeously unique stores. So let’s get back out there and support them. Frankly I have become bored with the underwhelming array of plastic toys on offer in the large shops. Let’s get back to our wooden dolls houses, cars and puppets. We live in a world which has become totally Disneyfied. And whilst I adore Disney and all of the fairy tales, do we really need another piece of merchandise with Elsa and Anna smeared across it? In this house we can’t see the wood for the trees for branded children’s toys, bags and clothes. But this year I (Santa) shall be going out of my way to take it back to the innocence of the 1970s.
I am not one for the needle and thread…and definitely not one for the sewing machine! But there are myriad ways we can create our own homespun decorations – as well as gifts – this Christmas. Which is exactly how it use to be in the good old days. So rather than buying yet another string of tinsel or chemical-fueled ‘snow’ spray to doodle Santas on your windows, why not make some easy peasy yet super effective snowflake cut outs using white card? You know, like we used to at school! Or save up your empty loo roll tubes to morph them into Christmas crackers, snowmen and Christmas trees. Red, gold and green strips of paper make great paper chains. And pine cones and holly (just be mindful of children with the prickles and berries) are ideal for designing your own pretty table decorations, into which you could mount a chunky white candle. And don’t forget the ubiquitous scarf and festive jumper you could knit if you start sometime in Easter. Take some inspiration from The Glass House’s Lady Lolita, who is an expert at all things arts and crafty.
And there are so many more terrific traditions that are screaming out for attention; traditions in danger of being forgotten forever in time. So don’t let them die out like the dodo. Support the ones you love, shun joining the sheep and their conventional ways!