[Stained glass at Parish of St. Helen Witton, Northwich, U.K.]
As I’ve mentioned here before, MY WIFE and I celebrate Little Christmas. That is, while we have our allotment of standard-issue Christmas merriment with relatives and friends during the traditional December holidays, we wait until January 6th to exchange presents with each other.
Some of you may wonder why we do this. That’s certainly understandable, given that January 6th receives little play from the merchants and media. As far as those people are concerned, the Christmas holiday is over at midnight on December 25th. It then becomes time to push Valentine’s Day candy and President’s Day car sales down our throats. However, January 6th on the Roman Catholic liturgical calendar is The Feast of the Epiphany. It is sometimes known as The Feast of the Magi (the "Three Kings" of Christmas carol fame) or Little Christmas. It is the date when, according to tradition, the wise men visited Jesus and bestowed upon him the gifts of Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh.
Are you one of those people who wondered why there were twelve days of over-the-top gift giving in the song "The Twelve Days Of Christmas"? Well, the actual Christmas season, at least in some Western European civilizations, runs from December 25th until January 6th. This being the case, it can reasonably be argued that the 6th of January is a more correct time to exchange presents in honor of The Lord’s nativity.
MY WIFE and I decided years ago that it made eminent sense to delay our own gift giving until the 12th day of Christmas. In that way, we would eliminate much of the stress associated with what should be a joy-filled celebration with friends and family. We would concentrate on others, during the more secularly traditional Thanksgiving through December 25th time period, and then devote our efforts to each other during the 12 days following.
(This is, of course, another one of the reasons why I get so amazingly pissed off when Christmas advertising and holiday music begin in October. Not only does it do a disservice to the wonderful American celebration of Thanksgiving [which occurs on the fourth Thursday of November]; it also utterly ignores the rightful 12 days of festivity that occur at the end of December and beginning of January. My Christmas runs through January 6th, so if I acquiesce to their greedy mercantile demands, I’ll be singing a stretched out and thinned-to-absurdity Hallelujah over perhaps a 75-day period. That’s far too much water in anybody’s holiday soup.)
Since we celebrate on the 6th, I won’t be at work then, nor will I be on the 7th. And, since my only internet connection is at work, there will be nothing new in this space. I won't be spending any of my time during the holiday writing. I'd consider it slightly sacrilegious to do so (aside from the obvious fact of my laziness) and thus nothing new here on the 8th, 9th, or 10th, either. You might get something on the 11th, but only if I've got words inside of me itching to burst through my fingers much as the alien burst through John Hurt's stomach. In other words, this may be the last new entry you'll see until the 12th or 13th. Or possibly February.
I know, I know. I see veritable rivers of tears coursing down your collective faces. Just so you know how much I truly care about you, here are some crummy photos with hurriedly-dashed-off prose concerning each.
This is our Christmas tree. I took the photo without a flash, of course. I rather like it. You can't see the rest of the room, which is a mess.
Not one to leave well enough alone, here's the mess. I do kind of like the whole oeuvre of this shot, though. MY WIFE's mileage may vary. She somehow feels it's a reflection on her housekeeping skills if people see anything less than cleanliness in our place. I refuse to allow anyone to cast aspersions on MY WIFE. I'm her husband. That's my job.
I am one of the all-time worst giftwrappers in history. For some reason, the folding of paper, and application of tape to same, has not made it into my skill set. MY WIFE, on the other hand, always does a wonderful job of it. This is some of her handiwork, and lovely it is, no?
Here we see two festive cows. They appear to have had more than their share of eggnog. The bear in the beret, on the other hand (or paw, or hoof), has filled up on the multiple fruitcakes which have shown up at our door since I was so obviously needy in my pleading for you to send them. Damn bears eat anything that shows up while we're not home (which is good when it's a burglar but a horrific tragedy when it's a fruitcake.)
Even with bears chowing down on our goodies, our far-fatter-then-we-were-four-weeks-ago thanks to my great Uncle Jim (as opposed to my Grand Uncle Jim); Thimbelle, The Twinkie, and The Wrench (a family unit, with only The Wrench being a non-blogger.); and Jackie, otherwise known as Teacher's Pet. That's the order in which the fruitcakes we were able to wrestle away from the bears showed up. Actually, by all rights, Thimbelle, The Twinkie, and The Wrench should get double billing because we received two shipments of amazingly fruit-and-pecan-laden goodies from them, at separate times. And Jackie's was delightfully homemade, so she should get special mention for that. And Uncle Jim's showed up FIRST, which is always a plus, so everybody is special! By the way, I'm open to giving 75 or 80 plugs next year, so don't be afraid to join in. As long as I can still waddle to the front door and pick up the package, I'll be happy to eat whatever you send. You should probably send four or five fruitcakes, just to make sure one or two get by the bears.
This here is Simon Peter Poinsettia. I related the sad news concerning Pointy The Poinsettia's demise (it's way at the end of the story linked, so feel free to skim if you already know the story - and if you didn't already know it, now you know too much of it) and Kim, office manager to the stars, took it upon herself to give us a new poinsettia for Christmas.
Since I am the foremost interpreter of poinsettia on the planet, I asked this plant it's name while riding home with it. He (it became readily apparent he was a he when he spoke) said that his name was Simon. I conjectured that was somewhat cool in a Christmassy way, given that the apostle Peter was originally named Simon, so would he mind if I called him Simon Peter, since it makes it much easier to remember a poinsettia's name if it begins with P? He voiced no objections, so Simon Peter Poinsettia he is (although, since he's become more comfortable in his surroundings, he doesn't seem to mind us calling him just plain ol' Pete.)
Another plant, although you might not know what it is unless I tell you.
My Grandmother planted a little holly bush in front of her home some 50 years ago. This towering monstrosity, which reaches a good five feet beyond her roof, is that same holly bush today. It is as tall as the much older tree also seen in the photo. I have no doubt that, given another 50 years, it will eat the house and everybody in it, then uproot itself and start on the neighbors.
I took a number of photos while at My Grandmother's place, but this is the only one (of people) that was worth showing to you. This is My Stepfather, Bill MacDonald, and My Mom. In the background is my Cousin Scott's wife, Andrea, doing dishes.
Really, I thought I had this picture-taking thing down pat. For the longest time, I was unable to deny being the world's worst photographer, but then some kindly souls set me straight on how to focus and other such arcane necessities. I apparently need to take a refresher course. Out of the eight or nine shots I took that day, the only two that came out even reasonably well were this one and the one of the bush. No Grandma, no Uncle Rick, no Cousin Scott, no MY WIFE, no wonderful table full of pies...
Ah, well. Considering what a social catastrophe it is to have your face associated with my words, it's probably for the best.
And, finally, here is one of my favorite things of all. It is something that delights me every Christmas. It is our door covered in the various Christmas cards, photos, and greetings we've received from friends and relatives.
Every day during the season, we take special joy in looking through the mail and finding a card or two that day. If yours is in this photo, know that we truly love you for making the season brighter.
(And, if you sent us a card, and yours should be in this photo, but isn't, my most abject apologies. One of the bears probably mistook it for a left-over slice of fruitcake and ate it. You know how bears are.)
Merry Little Christmas, my friends. See you (relatively) soon with more better stuff.