Sunday, September 27, 2009

What would Sir Roger think?

I grew rather fond of Sir Roger de Coverley when I was studying English Lit, back in the middle of the last century. I was suddenly reminded of him on Thursday morning when I noticed a display of Christmas goods at a local National Trust property:
  "I have often thought, says Sir Roger, it happens very well that Christmas should fall in the Middle of Winter" The Spectator, No 269

Poor Sir Roger would be very confused by our modern seasons; I am sure that he would have considered September as an autumnal month. I wonder how he would have reacted had he been in Bristol at the beginning of August when I visited the Hole in the Wall pub and found the Christmas menu on display?

I had a vain hope that the Credit Crunch would ensure a measure of restraint on the part of shoppers and shopkeepers alike. Alas! The gaudy decorations, tacky displays and awful musak are already evident in the town centre.

If we can't avoid the tacky commercialism altogether, at least we can introduce a little  meaning and good taste to the season. I recently bought a copy of A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts and I recommend it to anyone who wants to recapture the real spirit of Christmas.

The book is really lovely to handle and is packed with descriptions of Christmas traditions, stories, recipes, poems, ideas for gifts and ways to decorate your home.

Terra Hangen, one of the authors, calls by Random Distractions occasionally. As well as the book, she co-writes A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts blog.

If you would like a chance to own a copy of this delightful book, leave a comment here. You can share my grumpy view of shops and advertising or tell me what you like about Christmas preparations. I'll draw a name out of the hat at the end of next week.


  1. Hello Monix
    Advertising has begun here as well - mind you Christmas in the sun is not quite the same as in the cold. Hotels, pubs and restaurants are still plying for business as it seems eating out on The Day has become quite popular. Also lots of BBQs and Family Picnics taking the place of the traditional 'hot dinner'.
    Haven't been to a shopping centre since we got home so I don't know if they have 'decorated' yet.
    Thanks for popping in and welcoming me home - will get round to the Award soon. don't normally take part but maybe it won't hurt just this once. will have to take a good hard look at ME and decide what to tell lol
    Take care

  2. I don't think you're grumpy at all. I think we should at least get our other celebrations out of the way (Halloween, Bonfire night) before the preparations begin. There's no harm in doing a bit of canny shopping, but real Christmas shopping can only be done in December.
    We put up the tree a week before, my favourite part...all the nostalgia and memories that come out with the decorations. I love Christmas!

  3. I was quite surprised to see the row of chocolate Santas on our local supermarket shelf last week. I was more surprised that they were next to a row of chocolate Easter bunnies!

  4. Cathy
    I've been enjoying your holiday posts and will be interested to see how you spend Christmas. My husband grew up in Africa among lots of expats who ate traditional roast turkey and plum pudding! I wonder if that has now been replaced with more appropriate picnics and barbecues?

  5. I always think of the eponymous dance when I see the name Sir Roger de Coverley, M!

    As for Christmas, the most memorable one I ever had was in Venice in 1989, when my daughter was studying in Italy. It was short - really just limited to Christmas Day and the evening before and no shops groaning with tat for months on end. Only the sight of people making their way home on Christmas Eve with one or two elegantly wrapped parcels (as you might expect in Italy) gave a clue. We went to a glorious Christmas Day sung mass in the Frari chapel and in the evening had a quiet meal in a small family trattoria overlooking the Giudecca. And that was it. Just perfect. Everything was more or less back to normal the next day; later, we were sitting in a cafe reading La Repubblica and discovered what had happened to Nicolae and Elena Ceaucescu in Romania on Christmas Day . . .

  6. Rattling on
    Although I start my homemade gifts long before, I refuse to think of shopping until all the family birthdays are over, the last one being my brother's on 8 December. Our Christmas tree has always gone up on Christmas Eve and we love the stories associated with the decorations, too.

  7. Millie's Mum
    Perhaps the shops will have a dedicated seasonal aisle where Easter bunnies, Christmas crackers and buckets and spades sit next to each other all year round.

    Make the most of the sleep you will get on Christmas morning. Next year Millie will be calling out "Has he been yet?" at about 3am!

  8. D
    I'm sure that Addison stole the character's name from the dance!

    Your Italian Christmas sounds perfect. I hope that hasn't been spoiled in the intervening years.

  9. The post by Millie's Mum reminded me of this picture:
    the famous christmas easter bunny.

  10. I am so excited and honored by your kind words about my book. I not only visit here occasionally, as you mention, but am also a follower.
    My book has a real sweet want to hold it in your hands look, readers tell me, and I agree.
    Our book is about how to make Christmas meaningful and about sharing (goodies, gifts, kindness, etc.)
    You are so good to your blog readers to offer them a free copy.
    I will post a tweet about your blog & this offer today.
    Hugs from California

  11. So far the craft stores are the only places to find Christmas decorations. Everywhere else is blooming in Halloween colors! As soon as ghost and goblin season is over, Christmas decos will be evident near and far and hung from every possible space. It's still a bit too soon for my taste. I would much rather they wait until after Thanksgiving. But, then, the shopping season would be much shorter!
    The book looks like the perfect antidote to the commercialism of Christmas.

  12. breussel
    I imagine that you have wonderful Christmas markets in Brussels; please don't tell me that you are reduced to Christmas easter Bunnies!

  13. Terra
    Your book really does beg to be picked up. I hope the lucky winner will enjoy it as much as I do. I think I'll have to get an extra copy for my daughter if her name doesn't come out of the hat!

  14. Karin

    This really is a beautiful collection of traditions, quiet reflections and lots of things to make. If you don't win, I hope you'll buy a copy anyway. Good luck.

  15. I read your post yesterday - but followed the link and got lost in the book. Not until now did I realise that I never left a comment.
    Living the kind as hermit life as we do, mean that we seldom get a chance to be upset about Christmas decorations in September. Have to go to town on Friday though - so I might write a grumpy post this weekend.
    I make my own Christmas Cards, usually about a hundred, so I need to start early - but other than that the only Christmas thing I do is to cut a tree the day before Christmas Eve and decorate it the next morning.

  16. August 1st, our local grocery store was stuffed to the gills with Halloween candy and decorations. Halloween is big business here--some say bigger than Christmas. Sad...

  17. Margaretha
    I am so glad that you found the book interesting - I put the Gutenberg link especially for you. I hope the trip into town is not too stressful, perhaps your shops will be filled with autumn fruits and vegetables rather than Christmas fare.

  18. Jodi
    The film ET had a great influence on youngsters here and the shops stock a lot of Halloween sweets and decorations. I don't think it will ever be as big a celebration as in the US, though. We make more of 5th November when we have bonfires and fireworks.

  19. Monix, Thank you for the kind words about our book. I am also a coauthor and found your blog through Terra. Have not been to Devon yet but have visited England several times and we are planning another trip--extensive this time, probably in 2011.

    I too grumble about the early Christmas displays. Trees are already up and decorated in our stores and it isn't even Halloween yet!

  20. Karen
    Hello and welcome! I love your book, which is full of the things I hold dear. I really believe that it is important to help children to develop a sense of awe and wonder, and for adults to experience reminders of it through celebrations and rituals. Thank you for your efforts to keep the important aspects of Christmas alive.

  21. I think just remember what the original reason for Christmas is, makes celebrating this special time of the year even more meaningful. Taking time to reflect on the perfect gift given to all of us that day, that our salvation is assured if we simply have the faith to believe in God. That is the true meaning of Christmas!

    Love and Hugs ~ Kat

  22. Thank you, Kat. I'm sad to say that I saw a televised survey of shoppers of all ages last year and a great many of them had no idea what the origin of the Christmas celebration was!

  23. Hello! I found your blog by way of a friend who linked the wonderful-sounding mushroom tart recipe you posted recently. We're part of a group of Christian Tolkien fans, and therefore rather fond of mushrooms. :-)

    This book sounds lovely as we've always tried to keep our Christmases fairly simple, focusing on the birth of Christ and not so much on the commercial hoopla.

    Off to explore your blog!

  24. Lee Ann
    Welcome! I hope you enjoyed the mushroom tart. If you are looking into my archived posts, you might find some odd spaces where photographs should be. I had problems with disappearing pictures, some of which I have restored, but I haven't been through all the archives yet.

    Good luck in the book draw.

  25. We do have nice Christmas markets, but for the authentic experience, I think Germany is best. In Cologne, they will have 7 different markets this year, including one on a boat.

  26. Breussel
    Some of my friends go to the markets in Cologne every year. I must say, the market on a boat sounds interesting.

  27. I cannot believe that I have seen Chocolate Santas in the shops already, especially as we have yet to have one misty morning and temperatures have been edging up to 21 degrees all week here in London. I'm with you on this one - let's keep Christmas for, erm, Christmastime.

  28. Colleen
    I feel the same about foods in their right season, too. I know from your blog that you do, as I pop over to see what you are picking!


I love to read your comments and promise that I will reply as soon as I can leave my garden, sewing room or kitchen!