Well today the shortest day and longest night is now upon us. The technical moment was 15.58 this afternoon so we are now moving away from the period of maxiumum darkness. The coldest day is often in the middle of February, however, so we can expect to shiver for a few weeks yet. Once Christmas and the New Year are out of the way so to speak, one can observe that the days are lightening just a smidgeon but, of course, there is a lot of the winter to go yet. I always wonder how our primitive forebears managed with formal calendars to mark out exactly when the winter solstice occurs. Of course, if you go into the intricacies of Stonehenge, then it does appear that the Winter Solstice was marked when the sun’s rays appared at a particular point between two of the uprights. We also know from quite recent archeological evidence that a huge quantity of pig and cattle bones were found near Stonehenge and these animals may well have been born 9 months before and reared so that they could be slaughtered in good time for the winter feasting and celebrations. On a more serious note, our ancestors might have needed the exact date of the solstice so that they could plan when to plant their crops, rear their animals and the like. Christianity grafted itself onto these traditions. The very earliest Christians did not celebrate Christmas but about 200 AD the date of Christmas was assumed to be January 6th. But as earlier Egyptian source celebrated the solstice often representing it as the birth of an infant child, so the early Church Fathers realigned Christmas to be coincide with the date of the earlier pagan festivals – and hence December 25th.
This morning, I busied myself putting some labels on the bottles of damson gin and then wrapping them up (crudely) in Christmas wrapping paper and then writing a card to each of my Pilates class mates. Then as we were short of time, Meg and I made a lightning visit to the park by car and had a quick drink of our coffee before we raced back in time for me to make my Santa Claus decorations. I decided to wear my Santa Claus trousers underneath my tracksuit bottoms and may Santa Claus top underneath my normal shirt. Then I bundled my Santa Claus coat and hat into my hessian bag, complete with the gin, and set off for the class. As it popped down, I rehearsed the lines of my Sanata Claus ditty which I won’t repeat just now but it starts off with ‘I saw Mummy kissing Santa Claus‘ and quickly progresses onto the birth of a baby Santa Claus who proceeds to get outrageously drunk on damson gin. By tradition, the very last five minutes of the Pilates class before Christmas is devoted to a period of relaxation. So I wait for a couple of minutes until I think everyone’s eyes are shut and then sneak out of the door to complete my transformation (which involved ripping off shirts and track suit bottoms in the foyer before I don my outer robes) Then in I pop, with excellent timing as the class were just being woken up and I exclaim ‘My goodness, girls and boys – you have grown a lot in the last year‘ and I proceeded to sing my little ditty and distribute the gin – all in a socially distanced fashion of course and hence no Christmas hugs (Sigh!) But my fellow class members have been denied this spectacle last September so it is two years since I performed my act. I make sure that the reception staff and the owner of the clinic also receive their prezzies as well, so that is all over for another year. I must say that I was minded to walk down to the park on Christmas Day in my Santa Claus regalia but my son cautioned me out of this on the grounds that all of the little children in the park might rush towards me and would have to be severely disillusioned. I do agree with this analysis but I might don a Christmas hat at an appropriate point in our sojourn in the park – after all, one of my fellow Pilates class members came along with a pair of green antlers (which had to be removed before the exercises).
There is the whole of the Christmas grocery shopping yet to be done and I have known some horrendously busy supermarkets in the past. However, tomorrow I intend to be at the door of my local Waitrose store in Droitwich at 1 minute before opening time and then I shall have to have a good race around. Tomorrow evening, we are having our next door neighbours in for a Christmas drink so I can get well and truly provisioned in my shopping trip in the morning.