As I sit here by my solitary candle I am looking at the corner opposite me in my lounge. It is now empty. Today I took down the Christmas decorations and so the tree in the opposite corner is no longer there. My candle seems very solitary indeed now that the lights on the tree are packed away upstairs. Now that the garlands and cards are gone from my bookshelves too, the room seems empty indeed and cold as if a chill winter breeze has crept in though the window or under the door.

I am reminded once again of Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’, when the Spirit of Christmas Future returns Scrooge to the Cratchits’ parlour and the corner where Tiny Tim used to sit is sadly empty. Of course, Scrooge changes heart when he wakes up in the present on Christmas morning. He helps Tiny Tim as much as he can and presumably Tim recovers from his illness and lives so the corner will not be empty at all. And of course I will be putting up the decorations and tree once again in December and, like Tiny Tim’s corner, my lounge corner will not be empty once more either. And it will once again glow with the lights on the tree.

At the end of ‘A Christmas Carol’ we are told that ‘it was always said of Mr Scrooge that he knew how to keep Christmas well’. We are also reminded: ‘May that be truly said of all of us.’ What does this mean? Scrooge’s sudden change of heart, indeed the opening of his heart in generosity to others, including those less fortunate than himself, did not end with that first Christmas season when he became truly alive. The spirit of Christmas remained alive in him throughout the year. Moreover, his heart had been opened for the rest of his days.

You may remember the phrase ‘A dog isn’t just for Christmas’, warning people not to buy a puppy for Christmas without being aware of the responsibilities of looking after it afterwards. Well perhaps Dickens is saying ‘Christmas isn’t just for Christmas’. We should keep the generous spirit of Christmas alight in our hearts even though the Christmas lights have been extinguished in our home. Just as, if we buy or receive a dog or puppy at Christmas, we have the responsibility to look after it, so we also have the responsibility to be generous and kind to others, especially those less fortunate than ourselves, all the year round. If we are looking for a New Year’s resolution perhaps this should be it. Or perhaps we should be thinking more in terms of a New Year’s attitude.

A few days ago, I mentioned to a friend that my lounge looked gloomy now that the decorations had been taken down and packed away. He suggested that we should put up different decorations for each month of the year, in line with the seasons I suppose. I do know that in Hungary (and I imagine other parts of Eastern Europe) people put up an Easter tree in their homes. This is very often a large bunch of bare branches decorated with ribbons and imitation eggs made from wood or papier-mache. The eggs are painted with traditional designs and are very colourful. I have a few on my Christmas tree! When I bought them in Budapest several years ago, I thought they were Christmas decorations!

My Christmas lights may be put away now but my solitary candle is still burning brightly. Perhaps in the year ahead, we should burn a candle to remind ourselves of the spirit of Christmas in season and out of season and to remind ourselves to live by that spirit. And

to encourage us, in the dark and uncertain opening days of this New Year and new decade.

Happy New Year.

Ave atque vale – Hail and Farewell! Till the next blog.

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Many thanks

Neilus Aurelius

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