1 December 2009


Sheffield at Christmas
The Christmas race has truly started. December and last night was frosty - the first proper frost of the winter. Crystals glistening whitely on windscreens. I have been Christmas shopping twice in the last few days - mainly because we need to get gifts posted to our relatives in Ireland and France during the first days of this month.

As we grow older, time seems to accelerate. Was it really a year ago that I crammed those presents in shoeboxes? And here I am doing it again.

During school termtime, I had never previously been Christmas shopping on a Monday so yesterday was a first - strolling through Fargate, along The Moor and into Orchard Square - I was surprised to see so many people around with colourful Christmas bags. Two or three Christmas shops have sprung up overnight - presumably with month long leases. I bought crackers and wrapping paper. Whenever I saw adults with children in tow, I felt like challenging them - "Why isn't this kid in school?" but of course I didn't.

Shirley has steamed several Christmas puddings after following her mother's ancient recipe and I bought two pounds of best Italian sweet chestnuts ready for turning into simple chestnut stuffing. Over in Alabama, our daughter is looking forward to coming home though she spent the Thanksgiving holiday with her room-mate's family in Snelville near Atlanta and had a lovely time. Many Americans are particularly kind that way.

Some people say they hate Christmas - it's too commercial, it's lost its meaning etc. but I always love Christmastime which I see as a pagan midwinter festival - celebrating the fragile birth of a new year as the winter equinox completes its cycle. And at Christmas I remember dad and mum, Nana Morris, Charlie and Winnie (Shirley's parents) knowing that we are all just links in the chain of life. It's a time for reflection and taking stock and wondering what will have happened a year from now.


  1. Last night here was also our first "proper frost of the winter." As proof, our encore azaleas and our Sasanqua Camellias that began blooming in October are now kaput until spring after being (you should excuse the expression) cold-cocked by Mother Nature just before sunrise this morning.

    Ah, Snellville! The town whose motto is, "Snellville - Where Everybody is Somebody" and whose solitary claim to fame to date is that it is the hometown of Diana DeGarmo, first runner-up to Fantasia Barrino on American Idol 2004. Perhaps the town fathers will now erect a large sign that says, "YP's daughter slept here."

    Happy Christmas shopping to you and yours. I can't think about that right now. I'm going to the dentist tomorrow, frost or no frost.

  2. I have to say that I am hoping that next year will be a happier and healthier one for my family, YP and I do agree about time. It definitely speeds up the older we get. Einstein must have produced an equation about it, surely!

  3. Taking stock- this is the happiest and most charmed and dare I say it to a heathen like you, yes 'blessed' Christmastime that I've spent in years.

    Your post has evocatively got me even more excited.

    Can't wait to be 'flying home for Christmas' in a Chris Rea style, if only so I can leave again fairly sharpish...

    Those of us in fast-developing countries though, are loathe to spend so much time with the natives in the third world...

  4. Anonymous1:44 am

    YP, As one of the city fathers of Snellville I beg to differ with your assessment that our ONLY claim to fame is Diana Degarmo. We actually have quite a few famous citizens, many former and current baseball, american football, and basketball stars also hail from our city. I am also a first generation american, my father was born in Cinderford, Glos, UK. I am glad to see we are mentioned in your blog, and hope that your daughter had a enjoyable time in Snellville. Regards, Tom Witts, Snellville City Councilman.

  5. Three cheers for the Midwinter Festival! I like lots of things about Christmas apart from the commercialism and I like singing carols even though I'm not religious. I do like to think of it as a Midwinter Festival that's on the way to a new Spring.

  6. YP: Would you believe that I too think of Christmas very much as a festival steeped in rich pagan traditions? There is the Christmas story itself, which is both lovely and horrific (it's a mistake to gloss over Herod and the slaughter of the innocents), but without Yule, the tree, holly and mistletoe, and all of the merry drinking songs, winter would feel so much longer than it already does. My daughter's school has a yearly "spiral of light" festival to commemoriate the winter solstice. It is a quiet, contemplative ritual of setting candles down into evergreens in a darkened room with live harp-music and no voices.

  7. I agree with you, it is the Winter solstice, Father Christmas was always the spirit of the harvest to come.


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