Christmas Days – Jeanette Winterson

This was my Christmas gift for myself. I read Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? at the beginning of the year and loved it, I still have to get to Oranges are Not the Only Fruit, so this was my second book by Jeanette Winterson.

The full title is Christmas Days: 12 Stories an 12 Feasts for 12 Days and it certainly does what it says on the tin. As I slowly get to know British culture a bit better I had to educate myself few years ago about what exactly is 12 days of Christmas; it is not a tradition in my country, we’re more hung on Advent and Christmas Eve. I do like the British extension to Christmas, it gives more time for celebration and reflection, than the typical three days (that’s if you count in the Christmas Eve).

I was hunting for this book for several days with no luck, so I resorted to Amazon and as promised they did deliver it before Christmas, so I could happily start reading on Christmas Day. The edition is beautiful, a textile covered hard-back, but not too big as to make it uncomfortable to read. It is beautifully illustrated by Katie Scott, printed on deliciously thick off-white paper. A physical pleasure to read.

The book is a collection of twelve short stories by Winterson, some of them published earlier, some new, all obviously revolving around Christmas. The stories are separated with twelve recipes for Christmas food, each recipe introduced by an anecdote about the person that showed it to Winterson or by her own reflections on Christmas if the recipe is her own. This makes the book very personal, almost intimate and allows the reader to focus on each short story on its own, before jumping to the next one. It also made me realize how very different Christmas food is from country to country, probably none of the recipes form the book would ever appear during my typical Christmas (apart maybe from mulled wine), but now I am tempted to try some of them out, even if not for Christmas, but to keep some of Christmas spirit in January.

The stories revolve around things that are important at this time of year, on slowing down, the power of kindness, the importance of actually being with people, focusing on them. Some stories are about people who are gone from our lives, about remembering them at this special time. And some are good old ghost stories. All of them are beautifully crafted miniatures.

I liked Winterson’s thoughts on slowing down, carving out some time for ourselves over Christmas, about the importance of rituals for our mental wellbeing, how essential it is to consciously care about our mind. To stop running for at least few days a year.

I will definitely be going back to this book, reading it may even become my own Christmas ritual. A treat.

***********************************************************************

My feeling is that we could do with more stability in our outward-facing lives so that we could risk disruption to our inner lives; our thinking, feeling, imaginative lives.

When we’re just like animals, concentrating on food, territory, survival, mating, being the leader of the pack, then what is the point of being human?

The sad truth is that no political system (and capitalism is a political system) has succeeded in providing most f us with the basics we need, so that we have some freedom to explore what might be happening in the 98 per cent of our brains that we don’t use.

That looks like failure to me.

***********************************************************************

The reason I suggest making some of this small meal yourself is because ritual has an anticipatory relevance – we prepare for it, practically and psychologically; that’s part of its benefit.

It’s about making your own raft of time. Your own doorway into Christmas.

You can do this with family and friends, of course, if they’re in the zone. And yes, you could do it while wrapping presents, but it wouldn’t be as powerful.

Ritual isn’t about multitasking.

Ritual is time cut out of time. Done right it has profound psychological effects.

We are too busy and too distracted. Everybody knows that time is speeding up like a car with go-faster stripes and we are running alongside trying to keep pace. Christmas is the busiest time of all – which is crazy. It’s lovely rushing around to see family and friends, but how about an hour and a half that belongs only to you?

To begin with it takes conscious effort – everything worth doing starts with conscious effort. But you might find this ritual, or your version of something similar, becomes and unexpectedly precious part of Christmas.

***********************************************************************

Advertisements

3 thoughts on “Christmas Days – Jeanette Winterson

  1. Pingback: December round-up – bookskeptic.com

  2. Pingback: Reasons to Stay Alive – Matt Haig – bookskeptic.com

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s