Anne here, wishing everyone the fruits of the festive season. In my case I'm being literal, having just picked a pile of peaches from a tree in the garden of a friend of mine. She texted to say she and her family were away on holidays and the peach tree was laden and to please help myself.
The tree surely was laden — when I got there the ground was scattered with fallen peaches, I picked a pile, and there's still heaps on the tree. So for the next day or so I'll be making peach jam, and possibly some chutney and maybe even brandied peaches if I can find a good recipe. And in between I'm eating fresh peaches. There's nothing like eating peaches sun-warmed and juicy, straight off the tree.
But that's not what I planned to blog about today. We're still in our Wenchly Christmastide period, so I thought I'd talk about the Australian Christmas tradition of Carols By Candlelight. It's a kind of mass evening picnic, where people gather, with food and kids and candles, and sing carols. Christmas being in summer here, the weather is usually warm and balmy, so being outside at night is generally a treat, not a chilly ordeal. (The photo below was taken last week by my friend Carol.)
According to Wikipedia, Carols By Candlelight started in Melbourne, my home town. How it began is a lovely story, I think. A popular Melbourne radio announcer, Norman Banks, was walking home from his night-time radio shift on Christmas Eve when he passed a window and saw an elderly woman inside, sitting up in bed, her face lit by candlelight as she sang along to Away in a Manger being played on the radio.
Wondering how many others spent Christmas alone, he had the idea to gather a large group of people to sing Christmas carols together by candlelight. The idea took off, and this year's Carols By Candlelight celebrated its 80th anniversary, and has spread all over Australia and to other parts of the world. (Paraphrased from Wikipedia.)
These days big versions are held in every state capital city, where local and international stars of stage and screen perform, and the audience sings along, but there also smaller and more intimate suburban and country gatherings. Tickets are sold and the money raised goes to charity.
It's not a religious gathering, more a cultural thing, and the sight of families gathered on picnic rugs with hundreds of candles twinkling peacefully in the warm, dark night is a lovely sight.
The two solemn little angels above are my nephews, taken many years ago at Carols By Candlelight in a country town. They were singing away, completely unaware they were being photographed. The second photo shows them after they'd noticed. Quite a change.
So what about you — do you go carol singing at all? Do you enjoy carols, or are they not for you? And which one is your favorite? (I always choke up in The Little Drummer Boy.)