December 17, 2013 by lucieromarin
It’s boiling hot outside. About half an hour ago I stepped outdoors for two seconds, and I’m still warm. In fact, I think I’m actually turning into leather. So now I’m indoors, looking out at the plants and feeling sorry for them, so bravely looking green while they get sucked dry.
Despite the heat, there are decorative snowflakes hanging in shops and on trees and frost patterns sprayed on windows; ‘Frosty the Snowman’ is playing in every second supermarket and butchers are selling great chunks of meat to roast on Christmas Day. Many and varied are the attempts to make the secular trappings of Christmas ‘relevant’ to Australia – sleighs pulled by kangaroos, Christmas songs featuring brolgas, Santas on surfboards, and indescribably ghastly books with such titles as ‘The 12 Days of Aussie Christmas’, and you know what? None of it sticks. And I think the reason it doesn’t stick is the same reason that ‘relevant’ liturgies don’t last. An inheritance isn’t meant to be contemporary and relevant; change it, and it’s no longer an inheritance. It no longer connects you to something bigger than you.
Thank goodness, though, not every Christmas-themed book in the world is ghastly. Here’s a tip – if you ever see a children’s book illustrated by Christian Birmingham, grab it while there’s still time. His illustrations are magical. Look out for ‘Wenceslas’ – it’s breathtaking.
Now, truth compels me to admit that when I tried this with the book club, it went down like a lead balloon. They couldn’t wait for it to be over. However, I think that that was partly our setting – we were surrounded by noise, rushing water, other screaming children, flapping pigeons and all kinds of distractions. It should have been read of an evening, by lamplight, cosied together on a couch.
I’ve never tried ‘The Church Mice at Christmas’ with the children, so I can’t vouch for it’s reception. But if you enjoy a nice Anglican-rectory-mice narrative with vivid illustrations, you should get a copy for yourself!
Don’t read ‘The Story of Holly and Ivy’ if you’re feeling lonely and childless; it’ll make you cry. But if you’re not likely to be too melancholically moved by the sufferings of unwanted dolls and you’re in the mood for a bit of Christmas wish-magic, try it, because this is Rumer Godden doing what she does best.
And don’t forget this.
Christmas music! What’s not to love about singing Midnight Mass? When First and Second Cantrix, high in the loft, release the first notes of the Mass into the chapel, it’s like a call out of heaven, drawing all the hundreds of persons present into a single, unified act of worship. If First Cantrix is an accomplished soprano, it’s like watching a golden arrow be fired from that same heaven into the sanctuary, leaving behind it a trail of light. That it’s night, and hushed, and the place is all muted candlelit gold is even better!
Speaking of ill-adapted Christmas transplantations, it’s many a time I’ve had to warble, “The North Wind is tossing the leaves, the red dust is over the town, the sparrows are under the eaves, and the grass in the paddock is brown,”, etc etc. Poor us in NZ. The last and lowest on the Christmas cultural hegemonic totem-pole. (Unless, somewhere in Antarctica, a puzzled penguin is singing “Te Harinui” and wondering what on earth the words can be about.)
Hee – I know that song! We used to have to sing it in Primary school. We also had ‘Out on the plains the brolgas are dancing, lifting their heads like warhorses prancing; up to the sun the woodlarks go winging, something something something is singing ‘Orana! Orana! Orana to Christmas Day!’ (I love the image of a penguin singing ‘Te Harinui’!)