Reminiscence being very much one of the desired flavors of the winter holiday season I have decided to continue my journey into Christmas past with a few more recollections of possible interest to those of lesser years and of non-European descent considerate enough to scan my various chronicles.
Much ado is made in the media of the royal families persuasion to promenade to their kirk of choice for Christmas morn services. I readily admit to mine own recent church attendance having become so rare as to be almost unheard of but must report that till my residence within this unquestionably great and welcoming country I rarely if ever missed such a gathering at any of the more marked religious festivals. Eating a hearty breakfast en famille, then strolling in procession to our local church was a tradition respected and followed by most every family in the British Isles. Indeed such occasions were the one time every member of a congregation could be expected to attend, churches being packed from naïve to alter, the interior vibrant with joyous familiar song from stone flagstaff to lofted arched ceiling. No doubt such attendances have waned considerably since before my exile, but even so the tradition remains embedded in the national psyche, to be carried out both in continuance and perhaps substitution by a representative highest and mightiest.
The United Kingdom has been since the earliest of times a religious state, organized and ruled according to the prevailing singular belief system of the period. From various pagan vagaries, through Roman Catholicism, to Church of England, Puritanism, and Church of England once more this convention of social, political, and spiritual unity has largely prevailed, quite possible the singular reason for the consistent advance of nation and influence.
No morning recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance for British school children, rather a religious service firmly based around very pointed patriotic and monarchist principles. I well recall the first occasion pupils of other faiths were ever excused from assembly prayers. Before that followers of Catholicism, Judaism, Hinduism, and any number of other isms were expected to join in with the rest in the almost daily rendition of Blakes ‘Jerusalem’, a remarkable piece of visionary prose, but as a hymn as Anglocentric as can be imagined.
Church of England religious festivals were celebrated at each and every nursery, pre-school, school, college, and university by government ordinance, including Lent, Easter, all Anglicized Saints Days, and naturally the Christmas season. Such commonality, whether for good or bad produced a unity of value, a skein of philosophic moral and ethical principle that circumvented and overrode any exterior influence.
Christmas was of course of particular import, being not only of great significance in the Christian calendar but also, amongst others, in the pagan. As heavily influenced as education was by the Church, teachers equally taught the rudiments of those preceding belief systems based around solar phases, druidic law, natural mysticism, and magic. The countryside around population centers was after all abounding with astonishing monuments dating from thousands of years prior to the start of the first millennium anno domini, constructions which, much as might have been wished, could not be easily ignored, hidden, or destroyed. Britains were raised in a landscape their ancestors had walked for time immemorable, and that simple continuation deserved and demanded explanation.
In consequence at Christmas time I am as happy to wear the green willow around my hat as a sprig of holly and ivy on my lapel, to bow to the sun on winter solstice as kiss the cross come the nativity. It is strange dichotomy of convictions, a curry if you will of unlikely ingredients that somehow combines to create a succulent and fulfilling dish.
I consider myself extraordinarily lucky to have been raised in possibly the last period of true Britishness, unapologetically patriotic, still able to retrieve some pride from cumulative achievement, but suddenly and ashamedly cognitive of the exploitation empiric might lays upon the unfortunate, and the responsibility carried by the perpetrators.