Week 12: A Christmas Story

An extract from Louisa May Alcott’s ‘Little Women’

When I sketched out my ideas for the thirteen weeks of The Fourth Quarter seasonal journey, I
didn’t plan on doing any explicitly about advent, Christmas or the festive
season in any guise.  Twelve weeks in,
all I can say is what was I thinking?! Even as a child I don’t think I’ve spent a
December in such a state of excitement.
Maybe I should have guessed when, before moving in with my partner back
in April, I expressed a desire for a real Christmas tree.  Clearly the ideas and feelings that are
coming out now have had a long germination process!  I think that moment when I first mentioned
the tree also gives a big clue as to the roots of my seasonal joy; it means a
lot to me that we have our personal space in which to create a Christmas of our
own as a new family.  There is now a
physical environment and an emotional context in which I can try out all of the
wishes and desires I’ve ever harboured about Christmas.  

I didn’t realise that I *had* so many wishes
and desires about this time of year, but it seems that I kept them tucked away
safely somewhere until the time came where I could unleash them.  Now I’m embracing them as firmly as I can,
seeing what works and what doesn’t, what has meaning for me and what I can
happily accept as just meaningful for others.
This is requiring a hefty dose of mindfulness and conscious attention on
my part, for fear that I could descend down a never-ending candy cane spiral of
Christmassy Things To Do (if you’re in doubt about how infinite the
possibilities are, enter the search term Christmas on Pinterest!).  When I found myself contemplating making my
own pate, I knew time had come to take a deep breath and relax about it all.  Swept along by my own enthusiasm, I was in
severe danger of reaching peak Christmas well ahead of the day itself.  There was a good chance that by 25th,
my internal pendulum would have swung and I’d have become a Scrooge like
figure, wrestling the crutches off any well-wishing Tiny Tim and chasing them
down the street with them.

Ah, Scrooge!  It seems
entirely apt that I should fall back upon a famous festive novel to provide the
right imagery.  Is Dickens’ A Christmas Carol the most famous book
about this season?  Maybe so, but there
are others that contain equally evocative festive scenes which have become
lodged in the collective Christmas memory – Louisa May Alcott’s glorious Little Women, featured in this week’s theme photo, to name just one.  And what could be better at this time of year
than curling up with a good book, particularly a well-thumbed old friend?  Whether you love Christmas, loathe it, or
don’t celebrate it at all, December afternoons were made for a spot of
reading.  When it’s cold and grey and
often kind of crazy outside, we can find a warm corner and curl up under a
blanket with familiar pages open on our lap, drawing us into a different world
whilst comforting us with a story we already know well.  Unlike films, the quiet hush of reading can
be a soothing balm to the razzmatazz and glitz of this time of year.  Like all the best things, a good book in
December is a paradox: an antidote to festivities but not a refusal of them; a
moment of escapism but also often part of our Christmases, whether because we
associate a story with the holiday or because they were always our favourite
kind of present.

So give yourself the gift of a good book this week.  Pick up an old favourite and snatch as much
time as you can, whether five minutes or five hours, in its company.  Think of it as your own Christmas story.

And please do share with us your favourite festive
read!  I’d love to get some more
suggestions as well as the examples above.
You can share your thoughts (and your reading moments) either the A Life Of One’s Own
Facebook page
or using the hashtag #fourthquarter2015 on Instagram and/or
Twitter.

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