We always travel in early December, so we get a feel for how Christmas is for other folks. Over the years, many pre-Christmas trips have produced fine memories and given us new perspectives on the holiday season. Above, that’s Siena, Italy, heading toward the beautiful shell-shaped central square. The lights are modest by American more-is-more standards, but they have a special glow in narrow medieval streets. And those streets are free of the choking crowds of summer.
What also stands out in memory is seasonal bugs. A transatlantic flight is a good place to catch one, sadly. That scarf doesn’t exactly look debonair, but it felt good around my husband’s jet-lagged sore throat. I’m sorry to report that on that trip, he came down with a fever and wore the scarf all night. But hey, we could easily be sick at home, right?
I love European store windows. They’re low-key, elegant but not gaudy. Always tempting, of course.
In Assisi one year, we attended a ceremony and procession for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. It refers to Mary’s conception, and it is a national holiday in Italy. We just barely understood what was going on, but we felt welcome.
Who knew that Hieronymus Bosch painted a nativity scene around 1515? It hangs in the fine art gallery in England’s Petworth House. I just enjoy the weirdness, but it’s part of Britain’s national heritage, and the National Trust provides a helpful scholarly summary at http://www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk/object/486154
I especially liked the nativity scene in stained glass in the beautiful chapel at Castle Howard near York, England. It was designed by Edward Burne-Jones and no doubt he used his artistic friends as models.
Castle Howard’s chapel, refurnished in the later 1800s, is a feast for admirers of William Morris.
William Morris was a close friend of the 9th Earl, who got to redecorate even before he inherited the title and the castle itself.
British pubs are especially cozy in winter.
One of my favorite post-nativity scenes is in the Glyptotek in Copenhagen. It’s Maurice Denis’s “Mary with the Christ Child and the Infant St. John,” 1898.
Of course Copenhagen’s Tivoli Gardens is the place to be in early December. It’s covered by the Museum Pass and it’s right in the middle of town, so the thing to do is to brave the crowds and pop in daily.
So is it a letdown to be back at home at Christmas? Oh, no! There’s snow, and family and friends.
One of our neighborhood moose paid us a visit today. Seeing these magnificent animals up close never gets old.
Moose and elk look docile, but they’re not. They’re welcome to munch on our shrubs and trees, but we watch them from safely inside.
The Christmas hymn “Silent Night” was written in Austria exactly 200 years ago. There’s an article about it at https://home.snu.edu/~hculbert/silent.htm
Our Christmas Eve service always ends with candles and “Silent Night.” I wish every place in the world could be as “calm and bright” as my mountain home. Merry Christmas and hopeful wishes for a peaceful New Year!