As a child with beautiful and imaginative open eyes that fill our hearts with warmth, wonder and excitement and of course the waiting to see what the great big man in red, with his white flowing beard and his herd of high flying deer, might bring through the cleaned chimney to the bedside. I also prepared gifts of sustenance for him tempered suitable by my father’s guidance. On Christmas Eve there was the fastidious preparation for midnight Mass. My mother called it “the witness of the child Jesus being brought into this world by all of us and for all of us”.
We were polished like new brass and gleamed like twinkling little stars. We filed into the church to celebrate the birth of the child Jesus and filled the pews as clerical society ordered. When mass was through, it was homeward bound with speed where the fresh smoked ham was masterly prepared by my father. The whole parish appeared family by family, singing and dancing into the small hours of Christmas morning until the bone gradually appeared on the ham,
Bed for a few hours and amazingly I slept, even though I promised myself I wouldn’t. I jumped up in the heavily quilted bed, burst open the toys with a percentage happiness and took my brand new hurley out to gather up the cows. The cows even seemed happier this morning, the milk seemed fresher, the piglets seemed to be dancing happier than ever, the cock was crowing louder, the whole din and atmosphere was electric.
With the morning’s work complete, the attention now started towards the Christmas dinner. The turkey had been suffering since 6am, stuffed to the skins. The Brussels sprouts were peeled of their dignity rendered to perfection. All the other trimmings were on the ready. Mother and Father were excellent cooks. They knew their meats to perfection, knew their veg and sauces to compete beyond modern day chefs. All was ready.
Now for the big event – the Christmas dinner. Around the table was always full of family, some friends and the “odd” relative self explanatory. Course by course the ritual was performed. The highlight was the carving of the turkey beast, in excess of 30lbs and the smoked ham from a specially selected pig that had been fed on grains and fruits. Dad was like Pavarotti yielding with artistry his glistening knife, which I still reverently possess. Mother sweetened the entire event, as she always did in daily life, with her wonderful sherry trifle. Shane Ross’s new drink driving laws would be out of bounds due to the gracious and copious amounts of sherry and brandy. I was too excited to eat much but later I would eat enough for an army of men, when the excitement of my new toys abated.
At the end of the feast we were all tranquilised in deep slumber by the complements of food and desserts. No wine at our table in our modest home but it was bursting with warmth and country belonging.
The journey I have taken you on is a personal one. I always longed for Christmas at home as life speeds along. Mam and Dad have passed on from this earth but now are my spiritual guardians. They chastise me sometimes for being a Christmas grouch, and correctly so. This year and for every Christmas forth I promise to offer peace, generosity and health to all whom I encounter and especially to the loved ones, of whom there are many in my life. This Christmas I beseech you all respect this period of joy and happiness. It is the time to free your heart, place all worries and anxieties into the mindful cupboard until this period is over. Let joy take over your mood to the wonder of life. Open your eyes and see friends who recognise you as kin. See the gifts life has given you and above all the health to enjoy who you want to be.
Merry Christmas, The Mindful Farmer