Cass’s blog, written on December 4thth 2017
Ah, 4th December. The John Lewis and Marks and Spencer adverts have long since landed; it’s cold enough for gloves; and the Christmas present gift list that lives on my desktop is frighteningly scanty.
Jonathan’s comments in manly blue; Cass’s rebuttals in ladylike pink
But… you’ve got mine, right? Um, is this the time to tell the world about the Christmas when you got me a water softener? To add extra lustre to your already lustrous hair!
Time will now gather me up, tie me to a cartoon sleigh and drag me round the universe, hopefully with some nice CGI twinkly stars and appropriate music, until it dumps me on the cold, hard ground on Jan 1st. Wow! The missing verse to ‘White Christmas’!
I actually love Christmas, I always have. I admit it’s a fair bit less magical now, what with being an adult with responsibilities and all, but I love buying gifts that I’ve thought about And I have to admit, she is excellent at it, I LOVE having and dressing a real Christmas tree (my favourite part, actually) Our darling dog Dixie used to love creeping round and round under the lowest branches of the tree, in a kind of trance-like slow-motion, tickling her own back and she came back smelling of Christmas tree which was even lovelier… (Watch her here: dixie)
…and I love the music, the food, the sights and, of course, the smells. The bit I don’t love is when it all comes to a crashing halt; everyone’s moaning about being on a diet, no-one’s drinking (cowards), and it’s just plain old winter. Also… all those dried pine needles everywhere, that you keep finding under bits of furniture until at least March.
Which is why I think the Spanish are so clever. How absolutely brilliant to have a national holiday to celebrate the Three Kings fiesta day on January 6th, when everything stops again for a day, and people are happy and jolly! And before you know it, you’ve made it through the first week of the new year. Obviously, it has a religious significance (what is it again?) but that’s not what we’re about here. Sigh! It’s when Gaspar, Balthazar and Melchior came to adore little baby Jesus and brought him gifts of frankincense, myrrh, and gold (Shh! Thanks, Google),
I’ve overheard some grumbling from various quarters that Spain didn’t really used to ‘do’ Christmas, and Three Kings was, well, king of the festive season, but now it has to do both, thanks to the insidious spread of global popular culture: McDonald’s, sushi, computer games, and now Christmas. Good cultural analysis! I thank you. I thought that all by myself.
Saying that, you couldn’t call it Christmas as far as I’m concerned – no fairy lights, no village tree, carols or mince pies, so, you know, pah! I think the grievance is that the kids now expect presents on both occasions – although, as an outsider, I would say that there’s far less conspicuous consumption of modern technology than in the UK. Recent fiestas we’ve been to have featured incredibly antiquated wooden games for kids and they’ve all seemed fascinated. They are children, after all. Quite right! Give them a stick and hoop.
What I love about the Three Kings day in our village is that it has its own fragrance. When we’re there for the celebrations, we tend to walk down into the village, so first of all you get the notes of the surrounding cedar woods, and the gorgeous fragrance of trampled pine needles, which smells to me like a field full of fresh Christmas trees (so therefore, heaven, and no needles to jam up the hoover). Then, we get to the heart of the village, where the church doors are wide open and the air is infused with incense (which we imagine to be frankincense and myrrh), as well as the warm scent of traditional, homemade turrón (almond nougat) being sold from stalls. It’s usually a cold day (even in Spain), so there is much milling about with the promise of a brightening tot of brandy.
Aside: I do love the – admittedly old-fashioned – English language for its euphemisms for a stiff drink. A brightener, a stiffener, a snifter… Makes me think of WW2 pilots with posh accents in black and white films: “I say, did you hear that Squadron Leader bought it over the Channel?” “Gosh, rotten luck. Fancy a stiffener?” No offence intended definitely not! to anyone who fought in the Battle of Britain, obviously. Or to whoever wrote the Biggles books.
Anyway, OF COURSE, Three Kings had to be a candle fragrance. I hope that the description of our walk into the village gives the idea but, as ever, Marianne, our perfumer, has concocted a scent that is both true to our experience and infinitely richer and more sophisticated – regal, even. Oo-er! True though. She is a true artist.
I have it burning by my side as I write this, and even the most Grinch-like characters (not referring to anyone in particular – shh! Yes I am) would have to embrace the festive season if it smells like this. How about I embrace parts of Christmas? The food, the twinkly lights, some of the films on TV, and the candles (of course) – just not the endless days off, when you can’t get the simplest thing done, and the tension of large family gatherings, and the present-giving frenzy…
I’ll get my coat.
I’m right here holding it out for you! Honestly!