Saturday, 19 December 2015

Christmas ~ together time, the Five Hands of Giving, and other thoughts

In previous years I've been more involved with Christmas preparations and thinking about what Christmas means to me.  This year my wish is simply to have a nice time with such members of the family who wish to share it with me and for it to take as little effort as possible.  We have largely set aside Christmas celebrations and gift exchanges and are focused on spending time together.  None of us ever knows what tomorrow will bring and we want to make the most of every day just as it comes. 

My mother, Ellen, is elderly and frail.  She is resident in a rest home, and due to difficulties with wheelchair access at my place I suggested we take our Christmas meal to her.  This seems to be a happy solution, and the three of us who will be visiting are each making part of the meal. 

I have got out the Christmas tree.  It could do with a few more decorations, but after wandering down a whole aisle of these in a big department store I decided that I would make do with those carefully stored from the past.  The ones in the shop all looked cheap and rubbishy - not even nice colours, and if I'm going to buy more I want them to be special and festive.  I am not going to waste precious time and energy looking around more shops.  

In years gone by I've enjoyed working out a range of gifts.  I like the concept of The Five Hands of GivingThis includes gifts that are:
  • Hand made
  • Hand-me-down
  • Second hand
  • Helping hand (donate)
  • Hand-in-hand (spend time together)
Giving in this way can take more time and effort than buying something from a shop and having it gift-wrapped, but in my view is way better value.  I've written about it here:

    I first came across this concept here:
    Gift wrapping is a festive part of the ritual of gift giving and adds lustre to the occasion.  I've shared some of my ideas here.  As you can see in the photographs newly purchased wrapping paper isn't nessarily a requirement:

    Since writing that article my preferences have simplified, and for the most part I now use tissue paper, coloured or plain, and bind the parcel up with ribbon.  In the past gold ribbon has been a favourite, but now I want something plainer and more natural.  After I've used up my big roll of gold ribbon I'll be looking for something plainer and in a natural fibre. 

    In New Zealand Christmas comes at a busy time of the year: it's summer, when schools and universities have closed their doors for the summer holidays, people are preparing for trips away, weeds in the garden are growing enormously, and summer fruit is beginning to ripen and need bottling.  A lot of people are tired, needing a break and are rushing about making all these preparations at once.   This is quite different from what goes on in the Northern hemisphere, where it coincides with the depths of winter.  All the bright lights and festivities are just the thing for the darkest time of the year.

    I've often thought it would make sense to have a festive mid-winter Christmas here, but each time the calendar has ticked round to that time of year I have found... that I just couldn't be bothered.  Rather disappointing but there it is. 

    A lot of people don't enjoy Christmas, but it's hard to opt out when family, friends and neighbours are all swarming around with what might be considered to be obligatory jollity.  What is that about really?  For those who do want to opt out and just have a normal day it's never quite normal.  I've tried this myself.  It helps to have a focus, something particular to do and to think about, even if it's quiet and solitary.  I've written about one such Christmas here:

    Late that day the weather put on a stupendous display, which, if I hadn't stirred myself to put on a raincoat and taken my camera out for a walk, I would have entirely missed! 

    Nice food can give the day distinction.  I don't have the time or energy for making elaborate food, so straightforward and tasty food is the order of the day.  

    My recipe for a Christmas cake stand-in can be found via the link below.  It is best made the day before, but is so simple that it requires very little effort.  It has only a small number of ingredients.

    On Christmas Day one of the dishes we are likely to take to the rest home is:

    The other dish we are likely to take is:

    That gooseberry shortcake is a favourite though, and it is exactly the season for it now that gooseberries are clustered thickly on their prickly branches and swelling every day.  My recipe is here:

    My other food recipes can be found via the link below:

    The neighbours' pohutukawa trees are budding up well.  Soon they will be clad in their glorious red flowers - now that's festive!  

    I wish you all a peaceful Christmas and good fortune in the year ahead.


    Anonymous said...

    For the first time in many years I have a real cut-pine tree, & out came the decorations hand-made by my children when they were small, and from when they grew up and attended a craft-making group. Also the 1978-model fairy-lights, which still function perfectly after over 20 years' rest, and have something indefinably special compared to today's LED lights. My tree looks very nostalgic and meaningful. I'm making that lemon pudding (gluten- & dairy-free) myself! Best wishes to you for a peaceful and happy time.- Valerie.

    Leigh Christina Russell said...

    Hi Valerie, that sounds just great, and how clever of you to make the lemon pudding that special way!
    I in turn wish you a peaceful and happy time.
    Thanks for sharing,