RHYS BOWEN: I'm currently writing a Molly Murphy Christmas book, called Away in a Manger, which is perfect as I can get into the spirit of the season as I write.... or can I? Would Molly have been surprised to learn that some people find a new car under their tree? That all presents can be bought online? That people fight each other to get into stores on pre-Black Friday Thanksgiving Day sales?
Sometimes I think we've completely lost the spirit of the season with this constant desire for bigger and better gifts, more and more of everything. In a way that's why I'm enjoying taking myself back to Molly's time, when children were thrilled to find an orange, some nuts, and maybe a small toy in their stockings. When the Christmas Day feast of turkey/pies/plum puddings really was a treat because the rest of the year meals were very simple. When carolers sang in the streets, and the air was full of pine greenery, roasting chestnuts, baking potatoes.
I took a Christmas market cruise one year up the Danube and visited the markets in small towns along the river. That's about the closest I've come to old fashioned Christmas: stalls with wooden toys and ornaments, serving hot wieners/mulled wine/gingerbread. A brass band playing. A feast for the eyes and ears and nose. Small children, wrapped up against the cold, standing wide-eyed at the magic of it all. I loved it. But would my family really be happy with a carved wooden train?
I remember one year we decided we would make hand-made gifts for each other and get away from the commercial aspects of Christmas. So we worked on them. Clare made lovely velvet pillows. Dominic made fleece hats/scarves and toys. He also made CDs of stories read by him (he's an actor) They were a big success. I did jewelry and throw rugs with family photos all over them. BUT I went to the store and got real presents (just in case). As it turned out, so did everyone else. We opened our gifts to exaggerated delight and then when we were done, one of us cracked. "I just happened to see this as well," and brought out the store-bought gift. Sheepishly we all followed suit.
So I'd love you to share--what does an old fashioned Christmas mean to you? Can you remember things that happened in your childhood that were special to you? Special foods your grandma made or family traditions? I'd love to include some in the book I'm writing.
And did you ever have a Christmas of home-made gifts?