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Christmas at Home
Keith Parmenter

Although Christmas is moving away from its traditional and religious roots and is becoming more commercial, you can still find people who celebrate the true spirit of the season. For the older generation in Britain Christmas doesn't mean excessive consumption or long hours of shopping, it is simply about being together, reminiscing about the old days and being in contact with family and friends and enjoying the occasion. It is also about the preparation and planning in advance – fresh homemade food rather than the well presented, but low quality, supermarket produce.  

Elderly people prefer not to travel at this time of the year, except for those visiting loved ones. However for the younger generation, with their busy lives, having a few days of holiday is a good excuse for going away.

The recipes that grandfathers and grandmothers use for baking the Christmas cake and pudding can barely be found in modern cookery books. They have been often passed down by word of mouth to the next generation although you may still find hand written version of these recipes.

For so many of the older members of the family, Christmas is a reminder of those things that were not so easily obtainable in times gone by. The little Brussels sprouts that are traditionally served with turkey on Christmas day can nowadays be found fresh or frozen throughout the year. But in the old days they were available only for a short period of time towards the end of December. Not being able to provide sugar or spices such as cinnamon or ginger, and not having the fresh fruit available during the winter season and just having only a little deposit of dried fruit from the summer made the Christmas cake a magnificent symbol of the most festive celebration of the year, which would have been prepared months in advance.

All these details and many more will gradually be forgotten by the simple act of stretching our hands to the shelf of the supermarket chains, or even worse by the act of pressing a couple of keys on a keyboard to order a wide variety of produce within a couple of seconds online.

These days no one makes paper chains as Christmas decoration. Making these decorations which once kept all members of the family in the only warmed room of the house during the cold winter is no longer an engaging and creative activity.

The Christmas tree which is supposed to be evergreen as a sign of life can be produced and found in any shape or colour. And many people are not aware that the red breasted bird, the Robin has had its own special place amongst the decorations of the tree: it is the winter bird heralding the next coming of the spring, and for religious people its red breast also symbolises the blood of Jesus.  

Instead of sending hand written letters and cards, with individualised good wishes, most people send a batch of mass produced pre-printed cards, just signed and put through the post box. And the younger generation just post a simple message on their Facebook or Twitter. They seldom sit and play board games with the older members of their family on Christmas day as they are mainly occupied with their netbooks.

Perhaps one should accept that Christmas is changing like so many other things and is becoming devoid of human relationships. Nevertheless, this year, Christmas is full of light and delight, and the Christmas spirit with its heady aroma of spice is present in many houses in Britain. 

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