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Tuesday, 23 December 2008

A Very Crunchy Christmas


It is, I believe, ritual rather than housekeeping that has been the mainstay of BrocanteHome,because much as I consider some of the lowlier joys of homemaking to be a necessary evil, it is my personal and familial rituals that I hold most dear...

Rituals fall in to two categories- those that happen almost by accident and instantly become beautiful habit, and those that we design and force ourselves to repeat for the comfort we know they will ultimately bring. Ritual can be something relatively simple: always using a certain cup and saucer to drink cranberry tea is a ritual, as is following a complex pattern of behavior before snuggling up in bed at night. The fact that my sister insists on stuffing every Christmas cracker gift down her bra at the Christmas dinner table is a ritual as is the fact that every year my Dad refuses to to follow the ritual of collecting and binning the wrapping paper and I have something of a two minute hissy fit because he isn't doing what he should and then he goes and gets a bin bag and we all feel better... a ritual that has evolved from an effort to maintain a childhood certainty that made me feel that another year had passed but the world was as it should be...

What ritual to the Vintage Housekeeper however, is not, is compulsive. It is not set in stone and each of the little rituals we use to trim our daily and indeed seasonal routines should be constantly evolving and altering to reflect our way of life if they are to continue to bless our days in constantly changing circumstances.

In a December like this one, ritual becomes our mainstay. It is perhaps something personal, but it seems to me that this year the universe isn't putting on the pantomime that is Christmas with quite it's usual level of commitment to tinselly over indulgence, frenzied spending and merry enthusiasm. Perhaps it is this so called, media generated, "credit crunch". Perhaps we are afraid of throwing money at something that seems frivolous in a climate where too many people's livelihoods continue to be threatened. Perhaps there is something terrifying about standing in the certainty that is Woolworths two weeks before Christmas and watch a shop that is part of all our childhoods, try to liquidate its stock in crazy sales during a season in which we expect to pay top dollar for every item we chose to stuff in our bubbas stockings with. All of a sudden the world feels wobbly and somewhat jaded...

I don't know why. But I do know that Christmas doesn't feel the same this year. That everything is tinged with the unfamiliar taste of real, necessary frugality, and worse than that, the gentle sting of something like guilt. In some quarters Christmas 2008 is being held up as the year that will in history prove to be a turning point in the way that we all live: that blatant commercial endeavours will be replaced by acts of random goodness, that frugality and green ethics will have to establish a balance that makes it possible for an organic way of life to be achievable for every Tom, Dick and Sally, and not a way of life exclusive only to those who can afford it, and that in the long term we all benefit for having had the very fabric of our lives threatened by the kind of fat cat financial mismanagement we may or may not tolerate in the future.

And so as a society, and indeed as individuals we have no choice but to seek the comfort of familiar ritual, even if our expectations of those very rituals have to be shifted to reflect a way of life inflicted upon us by the powers that be. It is after all, entirely possible, that if for whatever reason whether it be ethical or financial, we choose to consume less, the rituals that stitch families together will gain greater significance in our lives, because we only have to look to the children in our lives to understand that it is the rituals of the festive season that matter most, and that we have an opportunity as the only generation of adults to have ever lived in a climate where money was almost no object and where value was measured by price, to shake off greed as a way of life and teach our children to really embrace the spirit of daily and seasonal celebration.

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