When I was growing up in Ireland the eighth of December was traditionally the day when the Christmas season began. On the religious side, for Roman Catholics, it marks the feast of the Immaculate Conception. This day was commemorated with a day off school, attending mass and, if we were lucky enough, a trip to Dublin to see the lights in Switzers store, Grafton Street (now Brown Thomas). A lot of those traditions are now lost with Christmas beginning sometimes even before Halloween! No more do children get the day off school and very few people go to church regularly anymore. But it has still left a legacy of sorts because even today most households wait for this day to hang decorations and many towns up and down the country will have the official “Turning on the Lights” on the eighth of December to officially announce the countdown to Christmas.
This year as you can imagine from reading my recent posts, I was not looking forward to our first Christmas without my mother. Earlier in the week, following Mam’s Month’s Mind, I had not much interest in any preparations. I pushed myself to exercise as I have found that exercise and stretching are more effective than any analgesia for my various aches and pains which have been flaring up recently. It also helps clear the mind. So, in order to create a bit of cheer, I decided to wear these shoes today as I have been mostly wearing black or grey recently. Hubby did a double take when he saw them on me. The picture doesn’t do them justice. They look glittery and have velvet shoelaces. I am probably at least twenty years too old to be wearing them but hey ho! I know my mother would have loved the way they sparkle. They are now called my Christmas shoes!
The children have been working on me all week to hang the Christmas decorations and I kept saying to wait until the eighth. We live close to my father and pop in every day. To my surprise he had all the decorations up and was busily hanging lights outside when I called. “Keeping up the tradition” he said gruffly. Oh, the wisdom of age… Taking cues from my dear father, I wondered why I was holding back so much. With no encouragement the children excitedly started into the boxes with all the various decorations gathered over the years. I have baubles going back over twenty years since my first Christmas living away from home. Having to be on my own in a flat over the festive season I decided that it was up to me to make Christmas for myself. A gentle reminder, perhaps? Everything was complete in a couple hours. We kept the decorations pared back a bit but still I can feel the Christmas spirit seeping through the house filling the emptiness and bringing a sense of peace within our hearts.