Just got back from a visit with my extended family in the London metro area. When was the last time you shared Christmas with your Grandma’s sister’s family? It was an experience quite relaxed considering how well I knew them before. I had visited for a few days back in 2006 en route back to the USA, but this trip was a bit more extensive considering we all stayed under the same roof together for a week in the middle of the holidays. With any family, that kind of trip can get heavy but I must say we pulled it off quite well.
The most traditional thing we did was attend an English pantomime. Pantomimes are a strong Christmas tradition in the UK, and they are geared towards kids. The audience (adults too) is encouraged to interact with the characters on stage, usually in the form of cheering for the hero and hissing and booing the villain. Other common characteristics include the hero being a man character played by a girl actress and lots of jokes pertaining to current events (for example, Kate Middleton and Prince William). We attended the classic “Aladdin.” Although I’m not sure what it had to do with Christmas, there were many flashing lights, disco ball, scene changes, smoke and special effects, and cheering kids. It great fun and I thoroughly relished the opportunity to cheer and boo at the actors on stage. For all the fun and games, they were actually quite professional.
I went with Holly to the midnight mass on Christmas Eve inside a centuries old Anglican church. Outside it looked like the perfect scene for a Hollywood ghost movie with ghoulish tombstones and eery shadows cast by torch-like white lights outside against a cool mist. Inside, about 25 people gathered to sing Christmas songs and listen to my great-uncle Dan Mullin preach about Polar Bears and Jesus. He described how both seem so cute and cuddly when they are born as they pose in Coca-Cola commercials and mangers, but went on to note how much we shy away from them when they get older. They become stronger and more dangerous, capable of making us react and respond—not nearly as easy to control. Father Mullin reminded us that the baby Jesus came to change people’s lives for all of time, not just to pose for nativity scenes. It was certainly a unique way to celebrate Christmas, I particularly enjoyed the opportunity to take communion (a rare sacred moment in this whirlwind life) and read Luke 2:1-20 during the ceremony.
I spent a lot of time checking out surrounding cities such as London, Berry, and Cambridge. So much of it reminds me of the US and home compared to where I am now. Still, all I had to do is wait for people to speak and the accent snapped me back to where I was. My nephew of some sort once removed had a few laughs at his American uncle’s expense for his Midwest accent. Sausage and mash, fish and chips, mince pie, all of the food was great. The very fact that I didn’t have to worry about getting my own food was fantastic; I’m such an illiterate bachelor cook. Played a little bit of saxophone Christmas music and enjoyed some folk jamming with Heather on the ukulele. Worked often at keeping Scion in line and entertained, no small feat for a 10-year-old kid with more energy that he knows what to do with. I played lots of Moo; Bill Hallman apparently inspired Myrt the last time she was in the states to the ways of this slightly addicting die game. Saw some really good drama movies such as Juno, Walk the Line, and MacBeth (Shakespeare!).
No matter where I am in the world, my family is fantastic company. Thank you Mullins!