It’s Coming On Christmas

It’s coming on Christmas. The days have crossed themselves off the calendar, and here we stand at the year’s tipping point of light into darkness into light. ’Tis the season for enfolding, being quiet, doing less. Instead though, the season demands a deluge of doing, much of which is enormous fun – should one have the requisite energy levels (enormous) to match it. December asks me to be as leafless and dormant as a birch. There will be days of peace, quiet, and simplicity, days of slow breathing where less happens. But not just yet. Chin up, nearly there. I completed the last of the Christmas shopping at the weekend and wavered between the pointlessness of it all, the rapacious consumerism we’ve all been duped into believing, and the magic of the season with its gifting, giving, sharing, thanking. Don’t worry, I dropped the cynicism and the latter won.

They’re cutting down trees. No, they’re all cut down by now. I passed a Christmas tree farm on the bus to Inverness last month, tips tagged in different colours, some system for harvesting. There’s a yard nearby, at Abbeyhill, where they sell them – perhaps those very trees – and when I passed it on Monday, the last of the clippings were being piled into a huge waste bag, the yard swept clean of needles, every tree sold. Trees up, lights up, decorations up, nativity up. More tasks struck from the list.

They’re putting up reindeer. My nephew has a pale blue one propped up in his front window so Santa will find him. This reindeer is the colour of the freezing skies we’ve been having lately, not those dark, bruised skies from which the snow fell. He’s a dignified, antlered stag, not a comedy reindeer with a red nose, though the child has learned that song. He and I sang it at the weekend, we were at a local hardware shop where the extensive display of artificial Christmas trees, dancing inflatable snowmen, an illuminated Frosty twice the size of the child, twinkling lights, and garden-sized Santas is as good as any winter-wonderland a three-year-old could wish for.

And singing songs of joy and peace. Concert time of year, nativity plays, carol services, choral recitals, sit-still moments worth adding to the list for their restorative power. For me, the balm of music was applied last night: Greyfriars Kirk (Is there any better setting to be found in this city?), twenty men, thirty women, Scottish Chamber Orchestra Chorus, blasting glorious, cleansing, expansive sounds. I thought they had finished as they left the stage to great applause, but they were encircling us like a life ring, placing themselves in a sound loop for the last song, encasing us in O Magnum Mysterium (O Great Mystery), Gregorian chant composed by Lauridsen. Close your eyes and feel the sound massage and rub and soothe.

I wish I had a river I could skate away on. Last night was a river. That music should be on prescription. So many people I’ve spoken to lately are wrecked: physically, mentally, emotionally. Or financially, which can set some of those others in motion. People are caring for sick children and elderly relatives. They’re dosing themselves up with echinecea and vitamin C, hoping desperately they last the season without succumbing. People are scribbling Christmas cards they know might not be delivered until next year. People are baking and shopping and wrapping. People are shivering and scraping snow off windscreens, checking travel advice, worrying if the train or flight that’s to take them home for Christmas will run or not. People are working. I once had a boss in Dublin, a singular man, who would tell us to down tools in mid-December. I’d never heard the like of it, but now I understand. We’re seasonal beings, we need to drop our leaves like that birch in my back green, shut down, have a low output before the green shoots appear. It’s coming on Christmas, hold on, well done, almost there.

5 thoughts on “It’s Coming On Christmas

  1. Hi Eimear,
    going to quote you this evening at a Solstice Labyrinth event
    ‘here we stand at the year’s tipping point of light into darkness into light’
    that last – into light- holds me. Happy Christmas!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Okay, I adore this as much as I adore Joni. And the Lauridsen O Magnum Mysterium… possibly my favourite choral work of all time (sang it once in secondary school! and my conductor kept having to remind me to open my eyes). I didn’t realise they were closing the program that way and.. what an absolute gift. I just sat there with tears rolling down my cheeks (xmas is a tender time for me, not all that weepy in general—especially not in public).

    anyway, lovely kindred spirit. Merry melancholy to you from me.


    Liked by 1 person

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