“Let it blow, let it blow, let it blow … “ seems to be the theme tune for this Christmas. I pity those travelling, and wish you all safe journeys there and back. My personal instinct today is to go to bed and pull the covers over my head, hibernating till spring arrives.
Somehow, it doesn’t feel like Christmas this year at all. We had a Carols-by-Candlelight service on Sunday evening, and have been exchanging cards, gifts and greetings with family and friends for the past fortnight. Brightly wrapped presents are piling up, a CD of Christmas music is playing, candles are burning and the little carved wooden nativity with its angels is on display – but the true Christmas atmosphere somehow remains absent.
We are going to a restaurant for our Christmas dinner this year, something we have never done before. My mother is quite excited and a little apprehensive about it: it isn’t often a 97-year-old does something pleasant for the first time (there are sadly quite a few unpleasant firsts). I hope the restaurant chef is up to her high standard.
On reflection, I think that must be the key: it’s the yule smell that is missing. Most of my Christmases have been Germanic, where a vital part of the atmosphere is olfactory: the scent of the fir tree and candles, cinnamon, nutmeg and stern anis in the Glühwein and Christmas cookies, often a crackling log fire, plus in our family we follow the English custom of having a turkey with all the trimmings bringing the aroma of the bird roasting in the oven on Christmas morning. Usually, too, in Switzerland the weather behaves itself appropriately, so there is that indefinable almost-odour of snow. There is none of that here this year.
Perhaps I am just a little bit homesick, then? My daughter, granddaughters and respective spouses together with the little ones and a few in-laws will be gathering tomorrow for the traditional turkey dinner at my granddaughter’s, and we shall not be there to share in their festivities.
Ah, but I am forgetting the magic of modern technology: with our laptops and tablets, we can not only speak to one another, we can see one another and exchange smiles and chuckles, as well as virtual hugs. What a blessing! And this evening there will be the beautiful timeless service with carols from King’s College Cambridge on TV.
It’s beginning to feel a little bit like Christmas after all.