It is that time of year that all the beautiful, festive Christmas lights and other decorations go up. I truly love this time of year (the cold and snow notwithstanding). There is something about the holiday spirit, the happiness that people seem to feel, the smiles one gets in the stores that you wouldn’t see at other times of year that make you feel so warm, so blessed, so joyful. It is a time of year when people are in such good spirits – more so than any other time, and it infuses your entire world.
I have a glass of wine in hand at my desk, a meatloaf in the oven and potatoes boiling on the stove – my daughter’s favorite meal. It doesn’t get much more comfort food than that in my book. The smell is permeating the house. The Christmas decorations are up, the Christmas baking has been started – the little we’re doing this year due to the kitchen renovation – and my Christmas shopping is finished; all that’s left now is to wrap the presents.
I checked out Nigella Christmas from our library and have been reading it both for pleasure and for ideas. We had planned on hosting Christmas this year, but as our cabinets are being delivered the week before Christmas – it’s just not realistic. Still, there’s always next year – and then I’ll be proud of my kitchen and much more apt to welcome people into my home.
I love Nigella’s writing voice, and there’s a few bits that I thought she put so well …
“… that warmth and contentment and welcome and friendship emanate from and are celebrated in the kitchen – finds most cogent expression for me at Christmas.”
The kitchen truly is the heart of the home – and it seems no more so than over the holidays. The women gathering in the kitchen, talking, enjoying wine or a cocktail while the kids run through the house laughing, and the men are doing their thing (looking at guns, talking hunting …); it all says Christmas, family, togetherness. It’s pleasant, homey, joyful.
“But truth is, the Christmas we celebrate in our kitchens is not the Christmas that is celebrated in Church. Yes, of course, they coincide … but the Christmas feasting, the Christmas lights, the carousing and the gift-giving, these come from much further back than the birth of Christianity. Indeed, one of the great geniuses of Christianity has been its sage piggybacking of pre-existing feasts and festivals. … The idea of the unconquered sun, or the rebirth of the sun, has been linked by Catholics to the notion of the birth of Christ, and links, too, with the pagan notion … of the winter solstice being about the promise of the return of light in the depth of the dark winter.”
“Christmas in my home really is about bringing light and fire and warmth into the chill darkness. I love the reminding of the cycle of the seasons, the belief in the beneficence of Mother Nature and the sense that the hearth and the home keep the light alive and provide sustenance and hope.”
This idea is one that speaks to me – probably in large part because where I live the winter days are so short, the cold is often one that bites right through you, the snow drifts can get nearly as tall as me. Everything is cold, dark, dead. And then we celebrate Christmas, the birth of Jesus, the Light of the World. The link between this and the pagan celebration of the winter solstice is one that makes sense. The promise of the return of light and life.
“… it is … the belief in hearth and home, the fervent adherence to ritual and tradition when everything else in the world can make one feel unmoored, a faith in hospitality and fellow-feeling – that the book is about. And yes, it is also about indulgence, although I see festive indulgence not as a bad thing or an act of weakness, but a celebration of being alive …”
Christmas truly is all about the celebration of being alive, the celebration of food, family, friends; the festivities that surround the holiday are centered around this idea.