Christmas eve traditions

Salmon terrine, originally uploaded by Thoroughly Good.

Being a blogger – and one who frequently runs short of reasonably interesting things to write about – I’m always scrabbling around looking for suitable inspiration in a bid to get my regular 500 or so words out.

Up until yesterday morning I had thought I might be thinking about whether or not I’d actually embraced the religious aspect of the festive season. It is, after all, the whole point of Christmas. Celebrating Jesus Christ’s birth and all that.

Pope Benedict’s end-of-year address to various Vatican bigwigs kind of put that thought process to rest. Gregory’s standpoint on homosexuals didn’t especially come as a surprise. He was after all just towing the party line.

But even though I’ve not hitherto possessed a latent desire to convert to Catholicism, his headline message did rather leave feel a little left out in the cold.

If I was formerly about to go through a road to Damascus experience, understand and feel the true meaning of Christmas, shun consumerism and then blog about it, Pope Benedict’s end-of-term presentation just left me painfully aware that the largest church in the world wasn’t terribly keen on homosexuals and only served to underline that religion is an earthly construct with all those hideous unpleasant rules drawn up by earthy individuals.

Hey ho. At least there’s the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols. I can always just sing along to the carols and relive my childhood.

There is, however, one other perhaps even more important tradition which I realise I really get off on at Christmas. It does perhaps surpass all others.

It’s the food. I love the food. Christmas food is all about preparation, preparing food for the big event on Christmas Day. It’s about project management. It’s about keeping a reasonably careful eye on the budget whilst juggling the schedule and keeping in mind the grand vision.

In short, Christmas food is about being a producer. It calls on nerves of steel, untold amounts of energy, patience, understanding, persuasion, boundless amounts of enthusiasm and an overwhelming sense of excitement at the prospect of seeing the end product light up the eyes of its recipients.

Nine people will sit around a six foot round table in our lounge tomorrow afternoon. Everything that can be has been prepared already (the salmon terrines are looking especially fab, personally speaking whislt Nigella’s gingerbread stuffing as yet uncooked offers much for tomorrow). Four hours in the kitchen yesterday, another four today. At times the place looked like a bomb had hit it. Now, it’s prepared ready for the big day, all of it ready in time to listen to the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols – the very beginning of Christmas.

Church sermon

Was I suffering from a hangover? Was I tired? Was I coming down with some hideous end-of-the-Proms cold brought on the sudden realisation the season was at an end and I could finally breathe a sigh of relief?

I should really have been paying closer attention to the responses I was meant to be participating in during the baptism service of the newest family member. I found it difficult to focus on the words printed in the order of service, whatever the reason for that was.

Father Joe was conducting the event for a reasonably large crowd of family members (there were two baptism running concurrently). It was the second time in the space of two months I’d found myself in a church.

I could participate in the responses but somehow didn’t feel comfortable doing so. I might have been happy to bob up and down at the Last Night of the Proms the night before, but I was hesitant saying the Lords Prayer. I just couldn’t bring myself to say it. If I didn’t believe it, how could I recite it? I’m a stickler, no doubt about that.

Father Joe was unexpectedly engaging and reassuring when it came to his mini-sermon mid-way through proceedings.

He drew attention to the gurgling and crying babies in the church. Don’t be irritated by them, welcome them into your lives. All children are welcome in God’s home. After all, that was the reason we were there anyway.

He expanded the point further, adding that when the children are crying in our lives, or in our homes or, indeed, anywhere near us, we shouldn’t ignore them. We shouldn’t tell them they shouldn’t cry just because it’s irritating or seemingly not appropriate to the surroundings they find themselves in. Allow them to express themselves. Engage with them. They are a part of the home, a part of your life.

Father Joe’s platitudes were, to a certain extent, lost on me. I have no children nor have the desire to father or parent any.

Still, his sincere delivery and engaging tone made me listen to his every word and left me thinking about the children I know and those I don’t.

Whilst the religious significance of his words still remains lost on me, the humanist implications of his sermon haven’t been.

Whatever it was I was suffering from before, during and after today’s family baptism, I’m left with the very strong thought that more of us should think more about those children around us who could well be trying to attracting our attention.

What do they need ? And can you help them?

(The picture above is the stained glass window I spied during Father Joe’s sermon earlier on today.)