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