Search This Blog

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Compulsory Christmas Post

Today I went for my usual Christmas picnic on the beach, after a large breakfast of fruit salad of summer fruits, a pot of tea and raisin toast. It was quite hot and hundreds packed the beach - I was one of the few not going into the water, but the forecast was only 25'C and that's not my usual swimming weather. Also, I had a call from my sister, who spends Wednesday nights with Mum, and they wanted to meet me. So I packed my cool bag with goodies friends gave me at work, including a fruit cake so covered with nuts and glace cherries that when I was given the packet I thought it was just nibbles. I never did eat that, and the pack of chocolate coated biscuits melted. Mum suggested I throw it out. It has gone in the fridge. We'll see.

As I walked through the park on my way down to the beach, I counted eleven picnics, including one informal game of cricket, so there are a lot of people out there who prefer to make things easy on themselves and enjoy a pleasant day out with family and friends, on the grass under a shady tree. I waved and wished them a happy Christmas.

Lots of children, most of them under five, romped on the sand. Delightful kids, though not, IMO, as cute as our Eden and Jonah. ;-)

I was sitting on the sand, munching on my picnic lunch when my mother and sister arrived. I'd packed smoked salmon and cream cheese sandwiches, a hard boiled egg, Kalamata olives, cherry tomatoes, baby cucumbers(washed and eaten with the skin on), a peach and a nectarine, and cold water to drink. I had a thermos of hot water and some tea- a choice of afternoon, Earl Grey and English Breakfast - but ended up not drinking any of it. I didn't take the iPad, because, apart from all the sand, it just isn't possible to read anything in the sun. My reading matter was the Christmas/New Year bumper edition of New Scientist and John Flanagan's latest Brotherband novel, Scorpion Mountain, which I'm reading for the Aurealis Awards.

Not much is open on Christmas Day, but I was surprised at how many restaurants were open on Acland Street. Even two of the cake shops were open. Amazing. I can only hope the staff were given penalty rates. Too much to hope they did that at Macca's, but then, when you apply for a job there, the online form asks you if you're willing to work on public holidays, including Christmas Day. I know this because I've helped several students get started on their applications. And many of those said yes.

Now for some meme stuff.

First, some famous birthdays:

1583: the baptism, anyway, of Orlando Gibbons, a lovely composer of the English Renaissance.

1642: Isaac Newton, the physicist - yes, THAT Isaac Newton! He was also very much into alchemy. I once wrote a little piece about him for Cengage's set of literacy cards. I had to write it as fiction.

1771: the poet Dorothy Wordsworth

And since there are few other writers I know of with this birthday, I'll add an actor:

 1899: Humphrey Bogart! Hey, he was in a lot of films based on books.

And 1870: Helena Rubinstein, who built up that huge cosmetics business.

Some events:

336: first documented sign of Christmas celebrations on December 25 in Rome

597: A massive baptism of 10,000 Anglo-Saxons by Augustine and his helpers in Kent.

800: Coronation of Charlemagne as Holy Roman Emperor. Goodness knows, he's been the subject of a lot of poetry in the Middle Ages. There's a whole Carolingian cycle.

1066: William the Conqueror is crowned King of England at Westminster. (Didn't wait long after his victory at Hastings, did he?)

1223: St Francis of Assisi assembles the first Nativity scene. Well, he is the patron saint of animals!

1492: Columbus's ship the Santa Maria runs aground on Hispaniola. Whoops!

1651: Massachusetts General Court orders a five shilling fine for celebrating Christmas. Bah humbug!

1914; The famous Christmas Truce in the trenches of World War I. Nice, but the next day they got back to the business of killing the people with whom they had exchanged gifts and played football. Oh, well. Pity the truce didn't turn into full peace.

Some Christmas-themed books:

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (of course!)

The Grinch That Stole Christmas by Dr Seuss

Hogfather by Terry Pratchett (my favourite! My copy is all battered and well loved)

Once Upon A Christmas(published this year by Christmas Press. I have a story in it, so buy it!)

Hercule Poirot's Christmas and The Adventure Of The Christmas Pudding by Agatha Christie.

Agatha Raising And The Christmas Crumble is one of two Christmas stories by M.C. Beaton. It's really just a novelette, but you can get it as an ebook. I forget the title of the other one, but I've read both. This one is very funny, showing the village-based sleuth Agatha Raisin getting the bright idea of serving Christmas dinner to some of the village's older residents. She makes a real mess of the pudding - Agatha can't cook but is determined to do this one. Someone dies and she has to find out who did it because she has been accused.

Some other festivals that happened this time of year before Christmas became big:

The Roman Saturnalia. Gifts were exchanged, people partied, slaves got to have a rest and be served dinner instead of dishing it up. There was a topsy turvy flavour, where slaves got to issue orders(naturally, you'd have to be careful - your boss would be your boss again when the festival was over). I'm wondering if there's any connection here with the mediaeval Lord of Misrule associated with Twelfth Night. I wouldn't be surprised.

The birthday of the god of light, Mithras - it was actually December 25. This is not coincidental. The date was picked up by Christians during the fourth century. (See above)

I have read that for quite a while, Christmas wasn't considered as important as Easter and didn't get much celebration. And we do know that the Puritans banned it, claiming it was pagan.

Whatever. For those of you for whom this is a holy day, or even a day you celebrate with your family, I hope you've enjoyed it.

No comments: