In the Church of England, after all the demands of Christmas, clergy are expected to take a week off work immediately after Christmas in order to rest and recuperate.
In our case, superman the Mhinisteir decided to take his holidays at a later date in order to allow the assistant curate to go away on their post Christmas break. I have often wondered why the assistant curate always gets the first choice when it comes to holidays🤐!
Anyway, the good news is as of today we are officially on our post Christmas break. Later this morning, we are leaving for our usual hideout and hope to be away for a few days.
I have yet to decide if I am going to continue blogging during this period but if there is a lapse you will know why!
Today is Epiphany, the revelation of Christ to the gentiles.
On the drive back home from church after attending the service to mark Epiphany, I was reminded as to what an important day it is for without the revelation of Christ to the gentiles, there would have been no hope for the rest of us who are not Jews. Unfortunately, my Protestant upbringing meant that we never marked Epiphany or any of the feast days.
Anyway, Epiphany also means that it is time to take down the Christmas decorations. As everyone else’s home, the Vicarage now looks bare without the decorations but it is just a matter of getting used to! I always keep the decorations to a bare minimum and even then I was exhausted taking them down.
Thankfully, today is the day the cleaners were scheduled to come and so they were able to clear up all the mess that I created while taking down the decorations.
I love letter writing and I also like receiving handwritten letters. There is just something special about them! Sadly, in this modern world, most people prefer to communicate via electronic means while some simply don’t bother! 😁
I love to look at beautiful handwritings and in order to improve my own handwriting, I started learning (self taught) calligraphy in 2019. There were no calligraphy workbooks for left handers so I just bought one that was for right handers and practiced religiously. Despite getting frustrated, I must say that I am super pleased with myself for having come this far with just the help of one book!
As you will see from the photo above, I have finally mustered enough courage to show off my work.
In terms of letter writing, the month of January is a busy month for me. The first two weeks in January see me writing thank you cards to all the people who gave us Christmas presents.
As we don’t send out Christmas cards, I spend the rest of January writing to people who are in our “Christmas” card list.
We stopped sending Christmas cards about 11 years ago when I realised through our own experience that due to the busyness of Christmas, the Mhinisteir and I often don’t have the time to read or appreciate the many many Christmas cards plus robin letters that come through the Vicarage postbox. It was also during this time that I discovered through casual conversations with parishioners that after all the hype of Christmas, January becomes a lonely month for most people especially those who live on their own. That is when the idea to write to people in January was born and since then I have stuck to it.
We were late in going to bed on Christmas Eve. Actually, it was already Christmas Day when we went to bed at 2am; I was waiting up for the Mhinisteir to come back from the midnight mass. I always get very nervous when he has to drive in the dark especially during the festive period when half the drivers appear to be less than sober!
The next day, I struggled to get up for the Christmas Day service. Unlike the Mhinisteir, I wasn’t bright eyed and bushy tailed but at least I wasn’t grumpy after a nice warm shower. Just as I was about to enter into Church, a parishioner approached me for a hug. I had to politely decline. He was shocked and I felt bad but I had to act responsibly. I wish that he hadn’t put me in that situation in the first place but ……
While in Church, I realised that it was warmer outside than it was inside for I was frozen. After the service, folk were saying how cold it was in the church but that’s rural churches for you; poor heating and no loo😁. The service was lovely and I got to see the new baby; a young family who are regulars have had a new baby boy. They already have two other boys.
Back home, I struggled to thaw. After a bowl of warming soup, I decided to head to bed with Agatha Raisin and the electric blanket while the Mhinisteir went ahead with his home visits/communions.
A few hours later, I found the Mhinisteir reading next to me in bed! It also meant that it was time for our Christmas dinner which was pan fried turkey breast with rosemary and all the trimmings. I know that the Mhinisteir was exhausted as he also had a few deaths in the parishes in the run up to Christmas so I didn’t insist that he dressed up so we had our Christmas dinner in our old pyjamas which was a first for us!
In case you are wondering, we do have family whom we are very close to but unusually for us, both sets of our families are very busy doing good between the Christmas and New Year period so we don’t usually have a get together during the festive period. It is not something new but has been going on for generations. In fact, almost 50 years, the Mhinisteir’s uncle was returning home after distributing food and presents to the underprivileged when he was tragically killed by an errant driver.
ps: We have yet to open the Christmas presents that came from our parishioners. We hope to put that right this evening and after that I have to start writing thank you cards.
Recently, I was asked how it feels to have a birthday between Christmas and Hogmanay (In Scotland, it refers to New Year’s Eve). I didn’t know how to answer that question because quite frankly I don’t know otherwise. I have always received one present but nothing unusual there because as a family we never exchange Christmas presents; the ones we buy are for the under privileged.
I do know that in the busyness of Christmas, people tend to forget my birthday. No matter. A friend once texted me a month later as she had totally forgotten!🤣
This question got me thinking and I remember how more than a decade ago on Christmas Day, I found myself in a distressing situation in a foreign country. I remember praying and asking God for a birthday present. I have never asked Him for one before! It was very bold of me but I was desperate. By the way, I did get my “present” a day before my birthday!
After all these many years, I have decided to ask God for another birthday present – better health for a close family member.
I don’t intend on making this a habit but this one will make me very happy.
Last week, we received an envelope containing a Christmas card. Upon opening it, I found a £5 note enclosed in the card; It was from a parishioner. Miss JV is a 90 year old spinster who lives in one of our parishes. Every Christmas, she gives us a card with a £5 note enclosed.
As an OAP (old aged pensioner), the £5 must mean a lot to her as it can buy one many things. For the Mhinisteir and I, it is a very humbling experience.
Last year we bought a second hand book and attached her Christmas card to it so that in years to come, when we pick up that book from our library, we will remember Miss JV and her kindness towards us.
We haven’t quite decided what to buy this year but it will be something that will help us to remember the wonderful Miss JV.
Do people even deadhead in December? Well, that is what I found myself doing last week.
The month of December sees a lot of footfall to the Vicarage; just very kind parishioners dropping off Christmas cards and presents. For this reason, I was very conscious of our front garden looking very grubby. The Vicarage gardener has gone AWOL again!
I decided to take matters into my own hands and started deadheading and trimming the overgrown hydrangea bush. The large flower heads were drooping and were such an eyesore!
I quite like the winter when everything is bleak. I love looking at the bare trees that have been stripped of their leaves. However, this winter, everything around me looks grubby . Take our hydrangea bush for example; by this time of the year, it will be completely bare but this year half the leaves are still intact. Wait for this… there are even green buds appearing on its branches. I have never seen anything like this before! The same is repeated everywhere else in the Vicarage garden. Not one tree has been stripped bare. It feels like as if someone has not done their job properly😁😁.
Our local night shelter for the homeless has just reopened and will remain open for the whole of the Autumn/Winter period.
For those who make an annual donation to a charity at Christmas time, may I humbly suggest your local night shelter this year?
Here in the Vicarage, we make a small monthly contribution towards our local night shelter for the 6 months that they are open, in fact I have just made an online donation. For the remaining 6 months, we alternate between the foodbank and the college of St Barnabas. The college of St Barnabas provide sheltered accommodation and residential care to retired Anglicans especially clergy and missionaries.
It was just yesterday that I put away our Christmas decorations into storage even though I had taken them down on Epiphany. Imagine my shock when I came across a personal blog where the owner has already started countdown to Christmas 2021. I couldn’t believe my eyes so I had to read it twice just to be sure.
In the Church Calendar, we have just entered Epiphany and on Sunday we marked the baptism of Jesus. There is still a long way to go before Christmas 2021. Don’t you think?