Monday, 20 December 2010

Truly Christmas

Eventually we approached our last house high up on the hill, the place of Joseph the farmer. For him we had chosen a special carol, which was about the other Joseph, so that we always felt that singing it added a spicy cheek to the night.

We grouped ourselves round the farmhouse porch. The sky cleared and broad streams of stars ran down over the valley and away to Wales. On Slad's white slopes, seen through the black sticks of its woods, some red lamps burned in the windows.
Everything was quiet: everywhere there was the faint crackling silence of the winter night. We started singing, and we were all moved by the words and the sudden trueness of our voices. Pure, very clear, and breathless we sang:

'As Joseph was walking
He heard an angel sing;
'This night shall be the birth-time
Of Christ the Heavenly King.

He neither shall be borned
In Housen nor in hall
Not in a place of paradise
But in an ox's stall .....

And two thousand Christmases became real to us then; The houses, the halls, the places of paradise had all been visited; The stars were bright to guide the Kings through the snow; and across the farmyard we could hear the beasts in their stalls. We were given roast apples and hot mince pies, in our nostrils were spices like myrrh, and in our wooden box, as we headed back for the village, there were golden gifts for all.

"Cider with Rosie" by Laurie Lee

I don't know if anyone else finds it difficult to experience Christmas at Christmas (or indeed to experience Easter at Easter?) We all know when we do suddenly sense Christmas, that feeling of wonder, peace or joy, the sense of a connection between heaven and earth. Too often Christmas is about muscling through crowded shops, worrying because we just have too much to do, or just feeling oddly flat about the whole affair.

I love the way in the above extract that what started out with an element of schoolboy prank (that they had chosen to sing a song about the real Joseph to Joseph the famer) suddenly turns into a moment of beauty and awe, where "two thousand Christmases became real to us", and there is truly a message and a connection between earth and heaven.

Hoping you manage to feel Christmas this year!


  1. A fascinating piece of writing from a book I haven't read. Must add it to the list. I love the line "Two thousand years of Christmases....." Am hoping this is one of those that comes alive.

  2. Glad I discovered your blog! This is also one of my favourite passages. I love Cider with Rosie. Do you know Dylan Thomas's "A Child's Christmas in Wales?"

  3. Yes, I do know it. I love the bit where they sing Good King Wenceslas at the scary house and a voice sings back and they run away.

  4. Another lovely post from a fine blogger.

  5. I studied Cider with Rosie at school, but don't remember that passage; perhaps because I was studying it...