The Christmas Letter

It used to be quite acceptable not to communicate with one’s friends until just prior to Christmas, and, at a stretch, at Easter, or on birthdays. This year, no doubt, my mother has once again managed the “post before” date and those friends of long standing smile fondly at an envelope which arrives at Christmas time on their doorstep in her distinctive hand. I imagine these friends rush inside to put the kettle on for tea, and retreat with pot and cuppa to their favourite armchair to read all the news in advance of reading it out aloud to their loved ones.

How sad it is that I have only just realised that Christmas is just around the corner, despite all commercial messages I have been confronted by since long before the advent of Advent, and despite three of the four Advent candles having been lit at our local Church.

I have not bought or made my own Christmas cards; I have not sent individual, carefully considered letters to my closest friends “across the miles”; I did not make a Christmas cake in October, and pour brandy into its underside every week.  No marzipan, no icing sugar required therefore. I have made six jars of pear and ginger jam – no loving labels yet. I have purchased a pair of bright pink socks as a gift for one friend.  My imagination has now been exhausted. We have done a wee bit for charity (labour, not money) one way or the other. I do not know yet what we will eat on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. We look forward to the Carol Service on the 20th, and to freezing our toes off at the normally wet Midnight Mass. My nose has started dripping already in anticipation. We shall have candles at our doorstep (in jars: contact me if you want specifics) to bear testimony to the coming of the Light into the world. I have, however, already purchased sufficient candles for this purpose.

But I digress.  This is part of the procrastination involved in the writing of The Christmas Letter. The latter has degenerated into a typewritten, one-size-fits-all-who-have-e-mail missive sent off at the eleventh hour. When I lived in southern Africa I always knew when it was time to write my Christmas letter. When the rose beetles came, it was time to whip out the fountain pen and good stationery.  My chief excuse now is that I do not have this seasonal reminder.  One could argue that when the carob flowers come out and the last of the figs have dropped from the tree, or even the coming of the winter rain are early warning signs here.  But these signals do not summon me to action in the same way. I am more likely to mend holes in jerseys or wash one more blanket, than put pen to paper, so to speak.  My summer tan will have completely faded and I shall be shivering at the very idea of a much needed haircut before my fingers dance over the keyboard in annual review. Some people make the excuse that others are not really interested in the parental pride or bemusement they experience over little Johnny’s report card. I beg to differ.  This is how I get to know the sons and daughters of friends scattered across the world. I like to know who has been hatched, matched or despatched in the families of those in my acquaintance. It is the glue that binds us together.

Those linked to me via social networks which shall remain nameless here already know what I have been up to, and are given little updates every couple of days – and vice versa. Is this enough? No, I do not think so. This opinion was heartily reinforced when much to my delight I received a round robin letter from someone who has relatively recently become a friend. There was a blip of excitement on my personal radar. I got up, made a cup of coffee, and returned to my beloved computer screen to read, and reread her offering. How can I deprive my friends of similar delight? How can you?

A merry Christmas to all – and for those of you who know me, let us all hope I can restrict myself to one typed page this year, once I have depleted all sane reasons for procrastination in this regard.


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