Part of the traditional Christmas feast in Medieval times was known as “The Great Pie”, which contained huge quantities of ground beef and lamb layered with boiled hens, rabbits, ducks and game birds. The pie was so big, they used iron bands to hold the pastry case together! In contrast “Umble Pie” was made with the ‘umbles’ of the deer – the heart, liver, tongue, feet, brains and ears! These days the traditional family Christmas is centred around Christmas Trees, crackers, Father Christmas, mistletoe, stockings, presents, parties and lashings of roast turkey!
In Charles Dickens famous book, “A Christmas Carol”, Mrs Cratchet made the most of very little. “There never was such a goose….its tenderness and flavour, size and cheapness were the themes of universal admiration. Eked out by apple sauce and mashed potatoes, it was a sufficient dinner for the whole family.”
On 23rd December 1822, Dr Clement Moore, a university professor, wrote a Christmas poem beginning with the words, “Twas the night before Christmas.” The jolly, red cheeked elf of the poem, bore little resemblance to the real Saint Nicholas but after the highly successful advertising campaign for Coca Cola by commercial artist Haddon Sundblom in 1931, the red tunic white beard and high black boots of our Father Christmas, stuck in the minds of millions around the world.
Celebrating Christmas with family and friends makes this a special time of year as long as we don’t miss the main course – the message of the angels: “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day a Saviour, who is the Lord. Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill to all people!” (Luke’s Gospel) In such an uncertain world, where so much hangs in the balance, we need to hear once again the voice of the Christmas angels.
Late on Christmas Eve, 1968, the crew of the Apollo 8 spacecraft sent their Christmas message to earth in the form of a reading from the creation story according to Genesis in the Bible. The message ended with the voice of Frank Borman: “And from the crew of Apollo 8 we close with goodnight, good luck, a merry Christmas and God bless all of you – all of you on the good earth.”
This Christmas time I’m praying for the gift of peace in my parishes, remembering those who have lost loved ones, those who are lonely and isolated and those for whom family is a distant memory, and those who are afraid for the future. May we all bring Christmas peace that will bring a blessing to all around us through our celebrations this year.
On behalf of my wife and I, may we wish you a very happy Christmas and a peaceful New Year.