Christmas Movies

Christina here. It’s December and the countdown to Christmas has started in earnest. For my younger daughter and me, that means watching seasonal movies. It’s part of our traditions and we try to fit in at least one a day. Finding them isn’t hard – there are entire channels devoted to them here in the UK (is it the same where you are?), so there’s plenty to choose from. Some of the streaming services have their own offerings too, so the difficulty is usually agreeing which one to watch.

The knightThe quality does vary though, I have to say. We started this year’s movie marathon with The Knight Before Christmas, which starred Vanessa Hudgens (of High School Musical fame) and Josh Whitehouse. It’s about an English knight from the 1300s who is magically transported to present-day America. (Why there? Who knows!) There he meets a high school teacher who is disillusioned by love since her ex cheated on her. Their meet-cute is that she almost runs him over, so she thinks he’s hit his head and is therefore imagining himself to be a medieval knight. She takes him in until he regains his memory, and of course, they fall in love. I didn’t have very high hopes for this film, which is just as well because OMG, the anachronisms! Not least of all, the fact that he can speak to a modern woman and they understand each other (apart from the odd “egad!”). As someone who writes time travel stories, I would have liked him to be a little more surprised by some of the things he comes across in the modern world, but he takes everything in his stride. I really hope no children watch this and think it’s based on proper historical details, but apart from that, it’s a bit of harmless fun and quite charming.

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Dressing For Christmas!

TrumpetersNicola here. Every year as Christmas approaches, I try to visit one of my favourite stately homes to see it “dressed” for Christmas. This is an official term, apparently, and involves a lot of decorating which puts my own Christmas tree and lights to shame! (For a start, I don't have four model trumpeters outside my house to welcome visitors!) It hasn’t been possible to keep this visiting tradition going during the pandemic, so this year it was a real treat to be able to go to Beaulieu in the New Forest and enjoy some spectacular decorations that totally put me in the Christmas mood.

Beaulieu is probably best known for its famous Motor Museum and whilst I did pop in to have a look at an Aston Martin or two (there was a James Bond exhibition on) my main interest was in the ruins of the abbey and Beaulieu Palace itself.

There isn’t much left of the abbey, once the largest Cistercian building in England. The ruins are rather atmospheric Abbey though. Like so many other monastic buildings, the abbey’s downfall came in 1538 with Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries when it was sold into private hands and much of the stone was taken away and used for other building projects. It’s still possible to see the scale of the whole estate and imagine it surrounded by a 12 foot high wall that stretched for a mile, with the great gatehouse (which still stands) and the river and quay where boats would unload their supplies.

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The Colours of Christmas

Lightshow 2Nicola here on the third day of Christmas, talking about colours (or even colors!) For me this year, Christmas has been a very colourful occasion. White, red and gold have traditionally been the colours associated with Christmas in my home ever since I was a child and helped my grandmother decorate the tree each year. Red always reminds me of the vivid berries that you can still find in the hedgerows, feeding the birds, in the winter. Gold feels bright and regal and white is for snow, of course! White decorations arethe closest we've been to a white Christmas here in quite a while! Together they all look lovely with the green of the tree.

Before Christmas I went to a light show at my local arboretum. It was magical to stroll through the trees and watch the play of light on Gothic church 1 the bare branches, bringing out the shadows and patterns in the wood. They had recreated the Northern Lights and they rippled overhead as you walked along an avenue of huge trees. it was the most beautiful sight and quite enchanting. Meanwhile, the church in my parents' village was lit up with purple, which I discovered is the colour of advent.

GlovesFinally, my favourite Christmas present was these rather fabulous gloves with their multi-coloured trim! Overall I do feel as though I have had a beautifully-coloured and illuminated Christmas which, when it's a bit dark and cold outside, is wonderfully bright and warming. I hope your Christmas has been full of light as well.

What are your favourite colours of Christmas?

Welcome to December!

Hibernating dormouseNicola here, celebrating the month of December. I have mixed feelings about this month; on the one hand I find it hard to get out bed on these cold, dark mornings and would quite like to hibernate, but on the other hand I love the sense of anticipation about the holiday season!

December was the tenth month of the Roman calendar which is why its name is derived from the Roman WInter trees "decem" for ten rather than "duodecim" for twelve. The Anglo Saxons called the month "wintermonath" before their conversion to Christianity and "Heligbmonath," holy month, afterwards. Other ancient names refer to the winter festival of yule.

The traditional December weather here in the UK is usually fairly mild and damp, bearing little resemblance to the "white Christmas" snowy scenes on the Christmas cards. However in recent years there has been more chance of cold, frosty days in December and we are promised frost and possibly snow from the end of this week.  Elsewhere in the world, of course, Christmas can be hot and sunny. (Sighs with envy).

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