Coming up to Christmas this year, I was struck by how many articles I happened to come across which focused on how lonely a time Christmas is for so many people. With the build up time – which in Ireland is now almost two months – being ever extended, it’s no wonder. Not that many years ago, the build up lasted three weeks, which even then felt long.
Maybe it’s because I have been engaging on Instagram more, who knows? Or that there are now lots of ads on Facebook about those in Ireland who are homeless. In the States, there was far less razzmataz and while living in Provincetown on Cape Cod, the community spirit there included everyone. It’s why volunteering in the local Soup Kitchen meant so much and was so important. The whole community was included, no one needed to be alone.
For those on their own, the endless focus on togetherness and perfect happy families must be torture. It’s one of the reasons I decamped to Italy in November for a while, to get away from it all! And in Italy, it was indeed beautiful. Understated Christmas decorations in Lucca, with the usual Italian elegance, sparkly decorations in the l’Anfiteatro, Piazza San Frediano and so many other places. Coming across Babbo Natale in person in the small winding streets on Sundays. In Italy there isn’t the endless focus on presents which we have in Ireland. Presents from the parents to the children and maybe to partners/wives/husbands and that’s pretty much it.
So the lack of consumerism helps too. As usual in Italy, it’s all about the food on the day! My time back here this time really helped me realise that food for Italians is actually how they communicate and connect. It’s not the food as such, it’s the sense of connection around it and the togetherness it brings. It’s why my reunion with my sailing friends was so important. I would laugh and laugh in helpless disbelief when both during and after a meal, we would still be talking about food! Yes, really!
She was still hosting dinner parties in her late eighties and when she protested that she really wasn’t able to cook any more, our reply was to set the date and say that we would do the cooking! Ceres in our natal birth chart is all about food, and my late mother was Sun, Moon, Mercury conjunct in Aquarius. As I don’t have her time of birth her Ceres was in either Aquarius or Capricorn, most probably Capricorn. Ceres was however in very close conjunction to her Sun and food was how she nurtured us all when growing up.
Our home of seven students reveled in the late night suppers, where the scones came out fresh from the oven, ready for supper at 10pm. I have such strong memories of making coca for Jimmy on Saturday night, ready for when the scones were baked. Served with home made jam of course. And of the precision with which my late mother taught me to cook and bake. Her baking might have been full of “a dash of this, and a fistful of that” (!) but in other ways, she was wonderfully precise. The pastry had to be rolled just so, no lumpy crusts which she so hated. The brown bread had to be hollow when tapped, to ensure it was cooked through.
It is said that you are either a cook or a baker. Not so with my mother. She taught me both skills and she taught me well. I have given away most of what I inherited from her, apart from the letters I wrote her and her cookery books. My happiest memories are of baking while she was cooking. She would be making the Irish stew and I would be making the apple crumble, following her instructions with painstaking precision, for her eagle eye never missed a thing!
I’d love to know where Ceres is in the charts of my Italian tribe! I intend finding out! For my late mother, it was not simply the baking or the cooking, it was also very much about the ritual of laying the table, with beautiful china, cut glass crystal, cloth napkins, Newbridge silver cutlery. The saying grace beforehand. The banter, the wit, the teasing during the meal.
Ruth understood the importance of this ritual, it came naturally to her. She too would reverently lay the table at my late mother’s house, commenting on the decades old lace doilies my mother still used. Or the china set and Newbridge silverware which were a wedding present from over five decades ago and which was still used.
So this, the last week of Christmas, how did you do Ceres? How did you nurture yourself and others? Did you reach out to someone on their own and include them? If not, there is still time. Did you take time to reflect on and honour old family traditions? Or did you do as I did, and create new ones? Have you started your own dinner parties? That’s how you can re-establish connection within your community, in the simplest manner.
And if people ask, what can I bring – give them the answer! Make it easy for yourself! People love to help, again it’s all about being included, feeling they matter. The connection. Asking people to bring something helps them feel they matter, increases their sense of connection.
Make new traditions if you have to. If you want to. You may not want to but you’ll be glad you did! I am on a short break to nurture myself and my creativity in my new artists studio over the holiday period, so I hope you can do the same. Your soul will thank you for it.