“For years Christmas Day had been for him a day when one ate too much so as not to disappoint cook, stifled a great many yawns and made a lot of silly jokes to hide an inner sadness that was both a lament for romance and belief that had faded and a vague sense of unsatisfied expectation.”
How wonderfully this describes the majority of peoples festive season. The presence of ennui that the day entails, with no meaning attached to traditions which increasingly seem out dated and pointless. The gifts we exchange costing money we can’t really afford but think the recipient will be the richer for receiving. No fasting observed as in the past during Advent, which cumulated in the glory of the traditional feast
“But today in the company of Henrietta and Hugh Anthony, romance and belief and satisfaction were vicariously his again. He stood in the Cathedral during morning service with the children one on each side of him and sang “Hark the herald angels sing” aware that Henrietta whose eyes were beaming with joy and whose muff was swinging from side to side like a pendulum as her figure swayed in time to the music, was seeing a starlit sky full of wings and a manger with a baby in it and seeing them with her…..
Beyond Henrietta was Grandmother. She was sitting down with her eyes shut because she was tired with the Christmas preparations, but her mind was thankfully fixed upon the fact of God made man. She was too practical, of necessity too concerned with the details of daily living, to be romantic in her religion like Henrietta or quixotic like Grandfather, but her faith was the strength of her strong minded life.”
Here we have in a couple of well-crafted paragraphs Elizabeth’s passion for the Christmas season. The sacred meaning to her of the nadir of the Christian year, the eighty services she attended during her life, the words of joy, hope and redemption she had imbibed. This was the not only the meaning of Christmas, but the very reason it was celebrated, rather than the Winter Solstice that had preceded it.
“The Christmas dinner, too, seemed because of the children to take on a new value. The turkey was a noble bird, brought overnight by Father Christmas in his sledge and the flaming pudding, that they had stirred laboriously in its earlier stages, was alight with the wishes they had wished as the spoon went round,
And then came the ecstasy of present giving, and then a short walk to assist the processes of digestion, and then, at last, it was tea time and they were sitting in the drawing room…”
I can’t help thinking that for Elizabeth the actual meal itself would have been a chore to get through but for the closeness it engendered with her beloved family. In later life she always ate frugally and didn’t seem to enjoy rich or elaborate dishes, preferring a good loaf of bread, a nice piece of cheese, an apple from the garden, to a fine dining experience
But friends and family, especially children, were very important to her and I’m sure that if you had been lucky enough to slip in at her Christmas table she would have welcomed you with an open heart and wished you a very Happy Christmas and all Good Wishes for the coming Year.