The Christmas Chronicles
Nearly the end of the decade, although it doesn’t feel like it. I can’t tell whether it’s my age, or the age I live in, but this decade doesn’t feel like it has the shape or feel of those of the last century. I’m not sure in thirty years I’ll be able to hear a piece of music or look at a photograph from this time and be able to identify the decade, where I think I could do that with the 1960s or 1980s, say.
And yet this has been the most momentous ten years of my life. I have encountered great joy, beyond what I thought was possible. There has been great sadness too.
But I’m not sure I’m ready for too much contemplation right now. It feels like that kind of thought, whether on a personal or political level, would be overwhelming. I’m a little ashamed to feel that way.
So I think Christmas will serve as a kind of retreat. A chance to rest and recuperate, but also a chance to lock out the uncertainties of the world for a few days.
This is where the routines of Christmas come into their own. There is a deep comfort in these kinds of traditions. They bring a sense of order where there is none. I always liked a sense of routine.
I spend most days reading Nigel Slater’s The Christmas Chronicles. It is nominally a book of recipes, but it is so much more than that. It is a guide to the rituals of the season, and a roadmap to creating your own. We now prepare our Christmas pudding on Stir-up Sunday. I’ve discovered how the right candle can change the feel of a room. I’m now wary of a visit from the Krampus. I could write a whole book about this book, there is so much to explore, so much to think about. These few words I write now feel quite inadequate.
My wife bought the book for me during a particularly difficult time and it has provided solace and hope ever since, and I suspect always will. It was a very special gift.
In times of hopelessness it has helped me to provide for my loved ones something small, but hopefully meaningful – maybe a meal, or a suggestion of a new family tradition, or just an act of kindness. A few moments reading have offered me calm, and some hope. In the quiet of the morning, in the stillness of the night. It is my most treasured book.