Sleep­ing beauty

Sing out the old year, ring in the new and let tra­di­tion rule as the world briefly stills and qui­etens

Country Life Every Week - - The Four Seasons -

in­ter comes in with a howl. Unseen, whether in the bor­ough park or the Shrop­shire wood, the vixen screams for a mate, the tawny hoots for ter­ri­tory. Win­ter is the mid­night of the year.

in the city, there is a new and for­eign feel­ing. ro­mance, ac­tu­ally. Christ­mas lights re­flect on wet Dick­en­sian streets (rain and dark­ness make ev­ery­thing ‘olde’), chil­dren skate in ever faster swirls on the ar­ti­fi­cial ice rink be­side the mu­seum as adults sip mulled wine, the shop­per’s restora­tive, at pop-up yule­tide mar­kets. Walk­ing down the mews at night, there is the elec­tric glimpse into the front room of other peo­ples’ lives: a wo­man poised to serve din­ner un­der a chan­de­lier; a man on a steplad­der putting the glass an­gel on top of the Christ­mas tree—the same an­gel as 10 years ago. it’s fam­ily tra­di­tion.

A crammed shop­ping ar­cade and a choir sings car­ols for char­ity, bat­tling the piped muzak of the Pogues’ Fairy­tale of New York. in a Sur­biton gar­den, a robin sings his own win­ter song. ‘Wildly ten­der’ emily Bronte called the car­olling of the robin. red is the colour of win­ter: the red of the robin’s breast, the hunts­man’s jacket, the berries of the holly, rey­nard’s re­splen­dent fur coat, the turkey’s wat­tle.

Fi­nally, the child’s prayer is an­swered and it’s Christ­mas eve. While the boy sleeps fit­fully, Grandma rounds up adults for Mid­night Mass (it’s fam­ily tra­di­tion). Al­though we haven’t lighted the door of St Michael’s since easter, the guilt is for­got­ten in the ex­ult­ing, com­mu­nal, beery-winey blast­ing out of Hark! The Her­ald An­gels Sing and, bet­ter yet, O Come, O Come, Em­manuel.

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