As Crīstesmæsse or 'Christmas Day' as it is increasingly, rather tiresomely called approaches, it occurs that there are many in our fragmented and mosaic like society, that have lost the ability to celebrate this important feast day properly. Indeed it seems that rather like those dreadful Brueghel paintings, so popular in the Flemish flatlands of the 14th Century, Christmas for far too many has become lost in a landscape of cheap plastic fairy lights and the inevitable 'Santa Clauses' that one frequently sees rather unconvincingly scaling the sides of houses in certain estates on the outskirts of Keynsham.
Generations of Rees-Moggs have honed the oft labyrinthine traditions of this season and indeed it is something we feel we do rather well.
With this in mind I have set myself the task of writing a brief guide to the season in a popular and easy to read A to Z form and I shall be sharing my thoughts with those of you nimble enough to click on the link in the coming weeks.
We shall begin, inevitably perhaps, with the letter A
Advent from the Latin 'Adventus' (meaning coming) is the beginning of the Western Liturgical year and begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas. The time is a traditional period of reflection on the 'second coming' of Jesus and is celebrated across the spectrum of churches with the exception of the tiresome Lutherans and the ever difficult 'Seventh Day Adventists'. Traditionally the high altar and priest are vested in a magnificent shade of purple, except on the 3rd Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday, when rose may be used instead.
From before the time of Queen Victoria Advent Calendars have been sold. Often depicting the events building up to the birth of Jesus in pictorial form, these miniature diversions have delighted generations with their images of Mary hearing the news that she is pregnant, or riding on a donkey to Bethlehem.
Unfortunately in recent years these charming introductions to the Nativity have been hijacked by confectionery manufacturers and marketing chumps, who have sought to sell cardboard cut-outs filled with 'chocolate' and decorated with pictures of popular television characters such as 'Hello' Kitty or "Where's Wally" instead. As far as I can remember there is no mention of "Fireman Sam" or "Bob" the Builder in Luke 2 verses 1 to 20. It might well have missed my keen eye but I am fairly certain that "Barbie and her friends" do not feature prominently in Matthew 1 (18-25) - although one is only sorry that they therefore escaped the massacre of the innocents. Do not buy your children these dreadful things. They will thank you for it in adulthood. And possibly before.