Monday, December 26, 2011

Flowering Peach Tea and Yuletide Magic

Christmas is a bitterweet time for many of us, as we recall the past while enjoying the magic of the present and hoping that the future will hold more joy than pain. Whether through the hand of Death or having failed to navigate the dangerous reefs of personal relationships successfully, there is usually a reminder of loss in our memories of Christmases past. If we are firm in faith or balanced philosophically and spiritually, we can distill joy from those memories while refusing to grieve over the loss of loved ones.

My mother is spending her first Christmas without the husband with whom she shared over two-thirds of her life. She told me that she has been creating little altars to his memory with Christmas decorations that somehow evoke him. A pair of white turtledoves given to her... the female had a little flaw that resembled a tear in one eye. A pewter figurine of Father Christmas in a sleigh that reminded her of a poem he wrote two years ago...

For the most part, my mother always has been a forward-looking individual, but every one needs to be able to acclimatise the heart to loss somehow and this is her way of doing so.

For my part, I remembered all the letters to and from Santa in which he played a significant role and my letter this year was addressed obliquely to him, although it contained the usual salutation to Father Christmas.

As a writer, however undisciplined I may be at this point, I perceive every occasion as a memory in the making. Christmas this year will be incorporated into the tapestry of memory next year...

As the priest remarked at Christmas Eve Mass, Christmas is all about Gifts, even though it should not be centred on commercialism. After all, the Sacrifice of the God is His Gift to humanity and the Earth. The sacred birth of the God as a helpless infant is another Gift of Trust and Love. The WInter Solstice is a time of potent magic, and the very movement of the planets and seasons is cause for wonder. Magic and Yuletide for me go hand in hand.

I received a very magical gift this year in the form of a glass dragon vessel in which special tea is brewed. The tea is in the form of a ball that, when the hot water is poured into the vessel, blossoms into an exquisite floral arrangement.

It is a luxury item, pure and simple, but I always rather love that sort of gift, even when there are practical items I need desperately. After all, Christmas is a time of magic and luxury is the magic that gives an individual the illusion of having everything one needs and the heady sensation of being above the reach of dire need, even if it lasts only briefly and one plummets back to earth (and hunger and cold perhaps) with a resounding thud, bruised in body but not in spirit.

There may be gifts I need far more, but the gift of a shining glass canister painted with a golden dragon in which magical flowers take the place of ordinary tea is an amazing one. It is as though I were given a private magic show that I can repeat again and again. There are ten of the magical tea balls in the tea tin. The vessel itself has a lovely box covered in velvet as its home. It is a very elegant gift indeed.

My wish this Christmas is that every one, however rich or however poor, receives a little magic, whether it is a magical cup of tea, the appearance of a rare bird on a tree in the garden or a diamond ring...

If no one performs any magic for you, 'have yourself a Merry Little Christmas' and make certain that you give yourself a gift of magic! In the age of self-empowerment, there is no reason in the world why any one should suffer from the indifference, forgetfulness or cruelty of others. If no one does it for you, do it for yourself, with my blessing. I have spent some Christmas Days alone in the past and I was perfectly miserable until I decided to have a Tree, even if I were the only one to see and enjoy it and to place at least one small gift beneath it, even if I had to buy and wrap it for myself. It may not be the sort of Christmas I would choose, but it is far better than allowing the world to convince you that only people surrounded by families and friends deserve to celebrate Christmas!

Beyond the Tree and the Gifts, our age of technology gives every one the ability to watch films, shows and to listen to music. Good cheer always in a wonderful Christmas film or comedy or in the music of the season, sung or played by a group or artist one particularly likes. Perhaps it is not as personal as carollers at the door, but at least one can have the music at any time, no matter how far one's door is from the beaten path.

A Blessed Yuletide to All!

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