Christmas is partly defined by music. For years it meant an annual pilgrimage to listen to the Tallis Scholars and then Handel’s Messiah at St. John’s Church in Smith Square, London. In keeping with new traditions on this small rock we heralded the holiday season last weekend with Carols By Candlelight on the grounds of the Prime Minister’s official residence, Illaro Court. This year’s concert featured top musicians like the jazz artiste André Woodvine and several very talented young people including about a hundred kids from the Mustard Seed drama club. But the music and dance were merely nice background scenery for a carefully planned picnic with friends. And as darkness descended the park was transformed into a place of pure magic lit by a sea of candlelight. When you are sitting on the grass on a warm night in mid December, with candles and stars to light your way, it is obvious this is paradise.
This holiday season we are also lucky to have live music at home. Our two budding guitarists have been serenading us with precisely three-quarters of Silent Night. Several times. Every day. I am hoping that both St. Cecilia, the patroness of musicians, and their tutor, the extremely patient Paco, will take pity on us and teach them the last bit before the Christmas break so that we may all finally take the song to its logical conclusion and Sleep in Heavenly Peace, Sleep in Heavenly Peace.
This rock is however anything but silent as businesses gear up for the season. There is little sign of the restraint and fear that characterized last Christmas. The day I collected visiting relatives there were seven full flights from the UK at Grantley Adams International. Add to that visitors from Canada and the USA and you can see why it feels like the population has doubled almost overnight. And the shops are heaving. All my presents were bought to the song track of click, click, click. But there is always one forgotten person who I will have to find a gift for at 3pm on Christmas Eve. Can’t remember who that is but I’m sure all will be revealed at the appointed hour.
I have actually, by instruction, opened one of my presents already – a gift from our helper who knows my fondness for kitsch. This treasure is a Santa beyond anything I could have hoped for. Once fed three AA batteries, the ten-inch plastic doll does some pelvis thrusting that in real life would get him arrested for disturbing the peace while belting out a Katrina and The Waves song,
Now I don't want u back for the weekend,
Not back for a day,
No, No, No,
I said baby I just want you back,
And I want you to stay.
Put it this way: I have already had to replace the batteries as no one can resist this totally ridiculous object. The national health service should distribute them to anyone in need of a bit of laughter therapy. And clearly I am not alone in loving Fat Boy Red because when I went to the little Chinese shop on Swan Street that Diane had found him, his clones were all sold out.
While my Fat Boy Red and the Christmas tree are our household’s most prominent signs of the season, First and Second Born are increasingly curious about the true meaning of Christmas. At nine and a third years they have no trouble with the cultural precedents of gift giving, or more precisely, gift receiving. They appreciate the atmosphere of plenty with special food and decorations in the house as well as the numerous party invitations. But they are puzzled by our insistence that they participate in the religious activities of their Anglican school.
‘I still don’t want to go to the Carol Service.’ said First Born.
‘Everyone will be there. You have to go because you are a member of that community.’I replied.
‘No. It’s a Christian thing and I’m not Christian.’
‘Mom, what am I again? A humanist?’
It had been a long day and I did not want to rehearse the whole Dwarkins God Delusion arguments but he was unyielding.
‘So basically we don’t believe in a God up in heaven?’
‘So why do I have to sing all those songs and say all those prayers to God?’
‘Because that is part of your education and it is good to understand all religions so later on you can decide if you still want to be a humanist.’
‘I’m fine with being a humanist mom. Really. And I don’t want to do any of that church stuff.’
‘You will go to church services with your classmates. No more discussion please.’
‘I don’t have to go if you send a note to my teacher.’
‘I’m not sending a note son.’
‘But you don’t go to church.’
‘I’m bigger than you and I don’t need a note from my mother.’
‘Grandma goes to church.’
‘Look I don’t need a note to get out of church. I stopped asking my mom for one when I hit forty.’
We settled into silence for about thirty seconds while I tried to find the page of a novel I was longing to continue reading.
‘But I am still getting an electric scooter for Christmas? Okay lovely mama?
‘Only if you are a very good, humanist boy and tidy your room.’
Don’t you just love Christmas?