For once we did Christmas my way. A simple wreath on the door, no tree, and token gifts.
For over two weeks the snow and ice prevented us from venturing further than the corner shop. Cooking became inventive as we tipped various store cupboard ingredients over rice and pasta. So long as it was hot, we were not fussy.
No going out also meant no Christmas shopping. Hallelujah! I loathe Christmas; or rather I loathe what Christmas has become.
Did I imagine it, or did my local supermarket progress seamlessly from selling Halloween masks to playing Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer? It certainly felt like it. Newspapers and magazines played their usual role, overwhelming us throughout December with articles on the countdown to a perfect day, together with new twists on old recipes. Had I had time to waste, I would have wallowed in the sensuous, lavishly illustrated descriptions of festive food: plump white pears poached in Riesling, served with moist chocolate cake, drizzled with velvety vanilla cream. Enough! I poured the Riesling down my own throat, thank you, forgot about the fattening chocolate and cream, and chopped the pears into a fruit salad. Done.
Despite endless reruns of A Christmas Carol on television, we no longer live in a Dickensian world where winter's chill culled the weak and the elderly and a communal feast was life-affirming in the face of adversity. When you can eat your fill all year round, when the local greengrocer offers blueberries flown in from the other side of the world, why choose to overload everyone's digestive system by serving a mammoth meal washed down with bucketfuls of alcohol?
Of course it's enjoyable to treat the children and lay on a spread for friends and family. But not under massive commercial pressure to outdo everyone else. Instead of running myself ragged, this year I put my feet up, with a simple menu and fellowship to the fore.
Moreover, while magazines offered a surfeit of advice on nurturing the body, there was no mention of nurturing the soul. Whether you celebrate the Nativity with its promise of redemption for Mankind, or the winter solstice with the promise of crops pushing their way through the soil come the spring, I reckon nurturing the soul ought to be top of the agenda at this harsh time of the year.
Instead, the shops were full of glittery tat, designed to feed the frenzy of Christmas giving. I even saw garish Christmas stockings filled with doggy treats. Then there was expensive tat, such as the kilted teddy bear containing a removable heat pad. How long did that last before being consigned to the bin?
The one ritual I do appreciate is Christmas cards, and the news they bring. Sitting down to renew contact with old acquaintances was a welcome way of counting my blessings for the year. And that's how Christmas should be.