The View from Here: Christmas in a Box

… much as I love Christmas and despite the melancholy which often accompanies the passing of the season, all good things should draw to a proper close before they outstay their welcome

Epiphany.  A favourite word. Today is the Christian Feast of the Epiphany – the reveal of Christ by the Magi – and an occasion marked by tradition and celebration in many countries as well as by religious services.  Today is also known as Little Christmas among Irish and other Christians when men traditionally took on the household duties for the day and women spent the day together.  Mostly I think of it as the day after Twelfth Night: the end of the twelve days of Christmas and the day by which decorations must be taken down and put away.

Christmas 1

I’ve just learned that if decorations are not taken down by today they must remain in place until Candlemas, February 2nd, which marks the end of the epiphany season.  The Queen supposedly retains her Christmas decorations at Sandringham until February.  But much as I love Christmas and despite the melancholy which often accompanies the passing of the season, all good things should draw to a proper close before they outstay their welcome.  So today for me, Christmas is in a box.  Quite a number of boxes in fact, stacked and ready to be placed once again in storage.  All that is, apart from the obligatory pieces which somehow get missed.  Last year it was one of the three kings.  This year’s refugees are more enigmatic: a particular pine cone and a weather vane.  Like the king last year, they will sit on the kitchen window sill in plain sight until they can rejoin their fellows next December.  They will catch my eye every so often.  A little piece of Christmas all year round.

christmas

Having lived here almost four years, we have just celebrated our first Christmas at home in Cornwall.  It was a time for creating new memories and a time of quietly marking absences; a time with family and a time of a few crises all happily resolved.  And now Christmas waits, packed in its boxes, until the season turns full circle again.  What will next Christmas bring, I wonder?

Meanwhile, Epiphany.  And a new year, a new decade.  I hesitate to look ahead at this year and certainly not at this decade.  I’m happy to enjoy the present.

After a crisp and sparkling Christmas Day and a sodden and windblown Boxing Day, the weather has remained obstinately grey and still.  Just one day when the wind blew the clouds away and the sun appeared.  An invigorating day.

Image result for clipart holly

But now we are back to the no-weather days. I venture up the hill under gunmetal skies.  Colours are muted, plants for the most part tired and bedraggled.  Ivy berries remain stubbornly dark green, ferns are dusty and brittle; one or two red campions hang their pale and tatty heads in apology.  The Cornish hedge is mostly dark, dead and dreary.  But here and there a clump of hart’s tongue stands stronger and brighter than its fellows.  A cluster of pennywort is vivid in the gloom.  These are not last summer’s hangers-on.  These have grown in recent weeks.  There are clear signs of foxglove growth – rosettes of strong pale leaves standing out against the drab and dank detritus.  And there is one – just one – new red campion flower, a small shining beacon in its deep pink dress.  Not a primrose to be seen, not a snowdrop in sight.  But growth is here in other guises.  Nature chooses her own reveal this epiphany.  And one day soon I shall walk these same lanes and be surprised by overnight drifts of snowdrops and in turn surprise my first shy primrose, turning its yellow face to the sky.

Blydhen Nowydh Da Oll.  Happy New Year Everyone.

ivy

(There are times when life and health require blogging to take a step back.  It’s good to be back.)

57 thoughts on “The View from Here: Christmas in a Box”

  1. It’s been a tradition in my family to leave the Christmas decorations up until Little Christmas, but I did not know that missing that date meant you were supposed to leave them up until February. My kids would love that, but I’m ready to have my living room floor back; I might not make today’s deadline, but things are definitely coming down by the weekend. Glad you’re back to blogging! Happy New Year to you and yours.

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  2. Happy New Year! I have quite a lot of primroses blooming in my garden but absolutely no sign of the snowdrops yet.

    I was thoroughly fed up with all the decorations by the 4th so cleared them all away then, like you though there are always a few that get missed – every year.

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    1. Thank you Katrina 🙂 I was surprised not to see any primroses; there’s one spot where they can usually be found. And equally surprised to find so many fledgling foxgloves – in an area where they are not usually seen. I like how nature mixes things up year on year.

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  3. Nice to have you back Sandra, I quite agree with you about the weather, it’s been grim, but we’re on the up now and in the local lanes the winter heliotrope is flowering 🙂

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    1. Jude, I must look out for winter heliotrope. Quite sure I’ve seen it but not known its name. Have you got the robins singing? As the solstice passed the robins sand and haven’t stopped singing since. A sure sign that we’re heading towards the light 🙂

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        1. Thank you! It’s quite distinctive isn’t it! Now I’m studying the photo I’m less sure that I must have seen it locally. I shall report back!

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  4. Glad you’re back, Sandra (and refreshed, I hope). One of the things that happened when we retired and moved 2,000 miles was that Christmas items got packed up and have never gotten unpacked. Surprisingly, I haven’t really missed the things, since we don’t have room for them now anyway. We have one small (about a foot high) Christmas tree make out of ornaments that I got at Target our first year here, and that forms the basis of our Christmas decorations. The other big thing is taping up the Christmas cards around the fireplace. A little decorating goes a long way!

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    1. That’s interesting, Mary, as I was without my decorations for several years and when they finally came back to me the memories attached to each one were stronger than ever. This year for the very first time, I chatted to B about paring things back. But we ended up adding to the collection and I do love it when everything is in its place and twinkling. Not sure that I love packing away quite so much! The time will come when I will no longer want to see so much adornment – my sister has minimal decorations which look fabulous. But I think there will be a few more years yet of full-on Christmas garb!

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  5. What a lovely post, Sandra. I trust 2020 will be a year you can look back on with pleasure. (And lovely to know that I’m not the only person in the world with Christmas cards up until February. Now I know there is a precedent I can hold my head up!)

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      1. I blutack my cards to the doors so they aren’t any trouble and are so bright and cheery -definitely dispel the gloom of grey January days.

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  6. Welcome back Sandra. And what a wonderful post to begin the year with. It puts a more positive spin on a day, which for many of us is connected with getting back to the office, stress and overcrowded tube commutes (I haven’t missed any of this one bit). I for one is in favour of putting Christmas in a box very quickly after Christmas. My mother has one piece (a rather obscure angel with Einstein hair) which lives on the shelf all year.

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    1. Stargazer, I had of course entirely forgotten that back-to-work aspect of yesterday! THis is what happens in retirement! I’m now fascinated by the Einstein-haired angel…. 👼 🤔 🤷

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  7. Love your poetic approach to this as always. On the subject of new growth, I’ve also noticed flora beginning to peep out of the ground – I used to see January and February as bleak months which put those cycles you mention on hold.

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    1. As a ‘winter’ person, I’m naturally drawn to the dark nights and inclement weather even if I do complain about it as much as the next woman. But I also like seeing these signs of growth, defying the odds almost. And I love the robin’s song at this time of year. The dawn chorus seems so very far away but come the winter solstice, the robins are back singing and claiming their territories. I suppose that’s the thing with cycles: there’s always something going on as we move around them 🙂

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    1. Thanks Simon 🙂 Our garden seems to have a micro-climate of its own – protected from the south and open to the north and west. Growth in the garden is generally late. I can find no suggestion of a primrose leaf, let alone a flower yet I know they’re here. I’m happy to wait. As for the litany of grey days – eventually they must pass. It feels like the entire autumn here was grey. Perhaps a bout of snow would brighten things up? 🤔

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  8. Happy New Year, Sandra. I’m ready to put our Christmas decorations away as soon as I’ve finished washing the dishes after Christmas lunch! (I don’t, I just want to…)
    Lovely words and photos. It’s so hot and smoky here at the moment that it’s hard to imagine your no-weather days.

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    1. Thank you, Rose 🙂 I’ve been thinking of you a lot with all that’s reported in the news and while I’m reading The Go-Between which is seasonally much better suited to your climate in January than ours. I can’t imagine how it must be in Australia at the moment. I know bush fires are a part of life there, but this year is tragic. I feel for everyone 😟

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      1. It has been a terrible year. We are the lucky ones in Melbourne, safe from bushfires and most of the other natural disasters which Australia is prone to.
        I lived 20 years in one of the towns that has been hit though, and am definitely having some emotional moments. Still, having emotional moments is nothing compared to the poor people who are actually in the fires. Unfortunately , it’s not over yet with plenty of fire days still to come.
        The Go-Between has been a lovely distraction from obsessing over the news. Are you enjoying it? I can’t recall if you’ve already read it.

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        1. This is my first read of The Go-Between. I am enjoying it despite pulling against certain things which are irrelevant to the novel (reading a ‘summer’ book in winter, reading more quickly than I would choose to because I’ve left it so late to begin). My own idiocyncracies rather than any criticism of the book itself. But despite that, yes I am enjoying it very much 🙂 Looking forward to our respective reviews!

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  9. Happy New Year Sandra, and good to have you back! I’m definitely not a Winter person, but I love to look for the small, shy, brave vanguards of spring , once Christmas is over. I have noticed a couple of primroses peeking through the leaflitter in the garden, and I have one bold clump of snowdrops- larger leaves and flowers than the norm ,which I think I acquired on a snowdrop “open” day some years ago- already showing glimpses of white. They’re on my daily ” watch” list. It’s been so mild here that , in general,I’m not sure which growth is last year’s and which is new!!

    No doubt it will all equalise in time.

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    1. I love to see the variations in what grows when each year. Every year here is different it seems and yet, as you point out, Pat, it all equalises in time. Enjoy those snowdrops. I remember the ‘open days’ very clearly. Such wonderful varieties but also such profusion. Email in the offing, Pat; stay well 🙂 xxx

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    1. It would seem so, Derrick. You are in august company in retaining those decs. Though you will now have to continue appreciating them in situ for several more weeks 😉 Hope you and Jackie are keeping well

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    2. I’m with the Queen 🙂 I leave my cards up every year until c February – time to enjoy them and think of the folk who’ve sent them.

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  10. Happy New Year, Sandra! I hope it’s a good one. The weather is so strange now – up here it’s been incredibly mild most of this winter so far, with just a few really cold days and no snow. Maybe it will all happen later this month or February…

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    1. Thank you, FF 🙂 Very mild here too. I was musing just this afternoon as we drove home through the murkiest of mizzly fog on whether we might perhaps yet have snow or at least a spell of cold. It seems to have been grey and damp since mid-August down here, with just the occasional bright spot. Ah well, at least the weather is scintillating in The Go-Between 😂 (currently reading frantically… it’s not like I had 3 months to read it in after all… 🤔 🤦‍♀️ )

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  11. Beautiful – and as someone
    learning Welsh I appreciate the Cornish! Also you may have helped our Christmas decoration dilemma. My partner who is Dutch doesn’t quite understand how ingrained it is to take the decorations down ‘so soon’. Maybe February for the last of those fairy lights then!

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  12. I am so glad to get to read you again. Here it was fun to see all the Christmas trees at the curb yesterday or this morning waiting to be collected by our town and made into mulch. Three Kings Day is very important in Hartford, complete with a parade with three kings on camels. Yesterday one of the kings got bucked off his camel and had to walk the rest of the parade!

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    1. I’ve missed your wry and witty take on life, Elizabeth and I’m looking forward to getting back into following as well as writing. Love the images you’ve painted of the parade. I’m glad the king could at least still walk after that undignified unseating!

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  13. We spotted our first daffodils today, growing on the grass verges of the allotments; crocus spears are also emerging, and it’s as if Nature has gone ‘Okay, Winter’s done, time to deck the fields with Spring.’ Love your nature writing, Sandra, the posts with them in like turning over a calendar leaf to the next season! 🙂

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  14. Beautifully written, Sandra.

    Thanks for sharing your walks. Yes, ‘no-weather days’ is just how most of the last month has felt. I’m waiting for catkins, as well as the primroses.

    Love the photo, by the way. Looks very cosy. Enjoying the present seems like good advice. Happy New Year 🙂

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      1. I’m changing my outlook. No politics. Grass roots volunteering only, where what I do may count. All that activism changed nothing. It bought new friends, and that was a real positive, but ….

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        1. I wouldn’t say that it changed nothing because it must have had an impact for yourself: alongside making those new friends, you did all that you possibly could as an individual and can look back at the efforts you made with pride. But grass roots volunteering sounds ideal as we all look ahead. I bet it won’t be long before you find a cause that calls to you 🙂

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  15. I am SO glad to see you back Sandra. Welcome! I know what it means to try to have a life first and do everything else after, when ‘you’re better, organised, moved, finished, etc’….. it’s good to take the liberty to control one’s day or life by free will and not to feel ‘obliged to please everybody’. But now you are better, aren’t you? And you will delight us from time to time with a post of yours?! I read part of your post to Hero Husband yesterday/night as an example of How Good the English Language can be!!!!

    I didn’t even have a tree last Christmas and cleaned away the decorations I had everywhere during last week. I LOVE Christmas normally but then my life isn’t normal for too long already. I’m however looking forward to NEXT Christmas!!! Candles however are everywhere, as are spring flowers, right now tulips, with winter-blooming tiny daisies from my ‘marguerite stem’ in the large planter in the veranda, decorated with long branches of rosmarin and ivy….. spring: I’m ready.

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    1. Hello Kiki, it’s nice to hear from you too! And oh, such praise; I am blushing furiously! Your house sounds so lovely with its candles and spring flowers. We have strong winds and driving rain here today. It’s ghastly. I shall focus on your lovely description instead 🙂

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  16. Interesting details of conventions related to Christmas, and also your descriptions of the subtle changes in the vegetation at this time of the season. Best wishes to you too for 2020 and as you look forward to spring and you reconnect with blogging in this New Year.

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  17. Oh, it was lovely to read this. I’m so glad you had such a memorable Christmas and I hope all is well with you.
    Have a very happy New Year x

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  18. I had no idea about the tradition that says if your decorations aren’t down by Jan 6th they must stay up til Feb! I just thought it was bad luck to keep them up past Jan 6th 🙂 I wouldn’t want them up til Feb, but perhaps if I was the Queen with a massive house, it wouldn’t matter because there is so much room you wouldn’t mind haha.

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    1. I don’t think I would like them up that long either. I did think of the Queen yesterday though – taking down her decorations. Maybe she was supervising! 😂

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