YES, it was a happy Christmas – still is. Here’s why.
- Some of the family (two branches of) together, which hasn’t happened since Sally’s wedding: no squabbling, lots of laughter.
- Sledging in perfect crisp white snow on a fabulously sunny Christmas Day.
- Plenty to eat and people to share it.
- Talking to two of my three big brothers.
- Midnight Mass and the Christmas Tree Festival in Askrigg parish church.
- Advent windows – an innovation in the village this year and incredibly beautiful.
- Thoughtful gifts from family and friends.
- More family arriving on Monday as others leave.
- Tom – Ian’s eldest – and Allie, his girlfriend, got engaged.
All in all a perfect family occasion. I feel like I’m in the middle of a postcard; or even a character in the Waltons. The snow in Askrigg is deep and white and widespsread but the main roads at least have remained passable. It stopped snowing today and turned to rain and slush but there was still enough for sledging this morning. Though I stayed behind and pretended to be Nigella – well, Delia if I’m honest – making lunch and even turning my hand to two types of quiche.
So just to record who’s here and who’s not. On Ian’s side: Tom, Ruth, Simon and Dan – plus Allie (see above). In my corner, Beth and Charlie. Morag and Sylvia and friend Jilly are due to arrive Monday for two or three days. Then, those most welcome of visitors – paying guests – over new year.
It occurs to me that while priests universally condemn the excesses and over-indulgences of the season, and while I’ve spent a lot of my adult life feeling guilty about it all, I’ve finally realised it’s not only inevitable but necessary. You can’t entertain and care for nine people without ordering, spending, shopping, queuing and – ultimately – eating and drinking. Of course it’s excessive, but it’s a once a year celebration. Of course it’s indulgent; but when everybody’s happy and content and free of the general worries of life, if only for two or three days, it feels to me like the very opposite of sinful.
Here are some pictures of Askrigg – and the family – in the snow: