On the mantel: December

Ahhh, the Christmas mantelpiece.

It’s the one I remember most fondly from my childhood. Hundreds of cards jostling for space. An ever-growing nativity scene, ultimately boasting four baby Jesuses made out of clay, the child/sculptor’s name scrawled into the bottom and the constant pestering to my Mum to decide which of us had made the “best Jesus.” An advent calendar and advent candle hiding in there somewhere, the candle lit ceremoniously in the evening – though we’d frequently forget it for days on end, or leave it burning for longer than we should, so it rarely showed the right date.

Christmas is really all about creating traditions for kids, isn’t it? It’s something I look forward to with more excitement each year as the sproglets get older and more able to understand what’s going on.

December mantelpiece | Wolves in London
Oh so hard to take photos in these dark days!

My mantelpiece now is nowhere near as full, riotous or jolly as those we used to have when I was little, but I’ve got a nod to some of the same elements.

On the right, perhaps my favourite Christmas decoration of all time: an angel candle holder. The angels spin round and round when the tea light is lit… I’ve had it for four years now, but it was only when examining in closely with the sprog, that I realised each angel is carrying a different offering.

Angel candle holder
I could watch these spin round for hours…

The beautiful poppy illustration to the left is an RHS 2014 calendar that I discovered in the attic just last week… I must have put it away when we moved out last Autumn for the building work and then forgotten about it once we moved back in. It is absolutely stunning, so I’m pleased to be enjoying it for the last few weeks of the year, anyhow, ha ha.

All is not lost, however, as I plan to cut out some of the illustrations and frame them, so they can have a more permanent position in the room.

RHS calendar | Wolves in London
This is a poppy illustration in festive Christmas colours…

Of course, we don’t only have one Christmas card, the rest are on the bookshelves in the alcoves surrounding the mantelpiece. But I am quite fond of this little polar bear in his woolly hat…

Polar bear card
It must get cold in the Arctic. I’d want a woolly hat too…

On the far left, a fabulously kitsch Mary, Joseph and Jesus, nestle next to an offcut of our Christmas tree and some pinecones. The little nativity trio were sent to me by one of my oldest friends a few Christmases ago when we were out in Hong Kong, as part of a fabulous Christmas bundle to bring a bit of the classic British Chrimbo to our little patch in China. (Also included, The Muppet’s Christmas Carol, a CD of Christmas songs and some Christmas tree hairclips.) It might well be the favourite parcel I’ve ever received.

Nativity | Wolves in London
Shiny shiny

In a slight aside, I’ve been pondering a lot this year how to explain the whole Christmas thing to the sproglet. I was raised (very loosely) CofE, but am not religious at all anymore.

(For anyone interested, the nutshell version of what I believe is that this short life we have here on Earth is all there is, so let’s all be nice to each other and try and make it as enjoyable and as much fun as we can. )

I’m not quite sure, though, what line to take with the sproglet when explaining various (mainly Christian) religious things. Obviously, we are actually celebrating Christmas, so do I just give him the story of Jesus, or do I preface everything with “some people believe that…”?

It seems like there’s quite a fine line to tread in there somewhere, explaining about all religious festivals, but why we only celebrate certain ones of them if we’re not, ourselves, actually of that religion. And why other people, such as friends or relatives, believe things different to what we (or rather I) do.

Anyway, he’s only two still, so perhaps I can worry about all that another year.

On a much lighter note, the ginkgo garland below is still hanging since last month (missing on a central leaf). I had planned to take it down and replace it with something more Christmassy, but I just love it so much, it’s stayed up there. I’ll leave it til Christmas Eve and then put some stockings up.

The fireplace remains unlit, again something for Christmas Eve, I think. Meanwhile, the wicker basket is full of blankets, for snuggling up under in these dark cold nights.

Candlelight, blankets and kitsch ornaments: I need nothing more from Christmas!

I’ve been showing you my mantelpiece each month since September, but have decided not to carry on in 2015. I’ve become aware that there are lots (and lots and lots!) of other bloggers out there showing beautifully styled, beautifully photographed vignettes from around their houses. Now, I’m not a stylist, nor an especially proficient photographer (see my struggle to get these images in gloomy winter weather) so I started to think I’m not really adding anything especially interesting to the mix…

I’m planning on sticking a bit more to what I’m good at: crafting, gardening and a lot of wittering, ha ha.

I’ll be popping back in tomorrow (Christmas preps all going well, at any rate) to show you a little crafty / papery project I made for my guest room and then it’s off to the mulled wine and mince pies and duck that we’ve got planned. Hope you’re all settling down to enjoy festivities…

5 thoughts on “On the mantel: December

  1. I’ve been making more of an effort to help my son understand the real reason behind Christmas this year. It felt important because it was starting to become too much about the presents. Christmas is part of our culture and the stories behind it should be celebrated and respected regardless of if we believe in them. As far as I’m concerned we are quite happy for children to believe in Father Christmas, the tooth fairy and even disney characters so why not a baby called Jesus who is the whole reason for our two main holidays of the year,. I’ve bought my son a book and made a christingle with him and I’ve made the decision to only use the term ‘some people believe’ if and when he starts asking questions.

    1. Ha! Debra, that is such a good point about Father Christmas and the tooth fairy! I think you’re right, the whole “some people believe” is only really necessary if they specifically ask about it…

      I think I might have to educate myself a bit better in other religious festivals too, so I feel well-equipped to talk about them as well. Interesting how often having small children makes me realise my own ignorance…

      Thanks so much for commenting and have a wonderful Christmas and happy New Year. xxx

  2. Beautiful things indeed on your mantel. I have some angel chimes as well, and we did when I was little, I love them. What to tell the children is always tricky isn’t it. It’s all a bit of a mishmash here. CJ xx

  3. Merry Christmas lovely. And for what its worth I’ve loved your mantel series. As for the religious thing, I was brought up in the RC faith but haven’t really practiced for years, Our kids attend an RC school and are taking the main sacraments but I fully intend to let them make their own decisions later. I agree with you about generally trying to be nice to people, showing kindness, compassion and respect for others. This Christmas instead of a church service we decided to support a charity in Africa. We let the little ones choose a gift to send out to make a family’s life easier, My youngest has been telling anyone who will listen that they sent a pig and eight apple trees to help a family. I like to think it is in the spirit of Christmas. Sorry for the long winded ramble but it is something we wonder about too. Bee xx

    1. Merry Christmas to you too! I love the idea of sending a gift to support a charity (especially a pig and eight apple trees, in fact, I think that might well be my own Christmas wish list next year, ha ha…) It’s the whole idea of the right and wrong thing around religion I find really difficult — belief in one implicitly suggesting that people who believe something else are “wrong”… But then, also, it’s nice to be able to pass on what understanding I do have to the sprogs as well. I was just chatting with my Mum about it all, actually, and she said that as well as the faith of the religion there is also the whole idea of a cultural heritage too, which I thought was a very nice way of putting it.

      Anyway, I’ll tax the old brain cells further this time next year, no doubt! Have a lovely New Year and start to 2015. xxx

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