Well, Christmas is over and all the family dispersed today. DD1 and the boys declared last night that they would leave soon after 8.30. They left at 10 past 12. The house was so quiet when they had gone and I was left with a very dirty pale gold carpet and piles of washing . Will gave me a great big bear hug when he went - lovely! DD2 has gone over to Holland as they always do to spend New Year with Pim's sister. So we are Derby & Joan now. Bliss!
Every year Christmas Eve is a busy day for me and George. At 3 we have the Crib Service which is the MOST popular service of the year and the church is PACKED, standing room only. And the reason is this..... We have a living Crib. People now start arriving at 1.45 to get a good seat. The Christmas story is enacted with the Innkeeper (George with a lantern and the church keys on a big ring round his waist) coming down from the vestry and being interviewed by the vicar - no room at the inn tonight! Then we sing Little Donkey and Noah our donkey, followed by Mary and Joseph, walks all round the church to the delight of the children. I wonder if we are the only church in England which has its own donkey? Last year we had to buy up yards of old carpeting to put round the aisles as Noah doesn't like walking on the flagstones! Then the shepherds (carrying toy sheep - we used to have a real sheep until Health and Safety said it was dangerous)come out and an angel pops up from the pulpit and delivers the Good News. All of them in turn process down to the bell tower where they are eventually joined by Baby Jesus and all the congregation file past to have a look. That is my job, to try and keep the crowd moving on! The children are funny as they wait to see the tableau, every year some little boy says to me it was a good thing the donkey didn't mess on the carpet. I have a feeling there would be great delight if one day he did! George has been organising this event for many years and says that it is a wonderful and moving experience to see the look on the faces as people gaze at the scene. But the responsibility rather goes to his head and he becomes very lovey, demanding equity cards and auditions etc!
The Vicar was telling me that for the first year in memory we didn't have a baby lined up - but nothing fazes our Andrew. He went down to the surgery and hung around until a suitable young mother turned up with a small baby and he accosted her -and as no one can resist our Andrew two days later they were starring in our show!
On trips to the middle east we have bought up djellabayas and head coverings etc. so no teatowels round the heads of OUR shepherds ! Anyway, the day doesn't end there because at some time or other all our family have arrived and have to be fed and then at 10 George and I go back to church to 'sidle' and to read the lessons at the Midnight Mass. This again has been George's job for some 30 years ever since the then vicar decided he needed a strong young man on the door to deal with any drunks or disruptive elements coming in when the pubs closed. For a number of years we did have trouble but not nowadays, the worst that happens is that a group of youngsters come in and after about 10 minutes make a noisy exit. But at least they come. Then we go home and fall into bed at about one o'clock - at least the grandchildren don't wake us at the crack of dawn any more.
This is one of the flower arrangements I did - all the flowers were white and gold this year and the church looked beautiful. I do like the thought that villagers have been celebrating Christmas there for centuries.