Day Two on the Advent Calendar, First Sunday in Advent,
Antique Linen and Indian Tree China
Today is the first Sunday in Advent, and we are now on the real countdown to Christmas; mornings have been crisp and white, and evenings have held sparkling stars in the dark blue firmament. Today I had friends over for Sunday Lunch, they came as the wise men did bearing gifts of wine, port and liqueurs, but no gold or frankincense. I cooked all morning and at 2pm sharp we all sat down to roast turkey crown, mini Dauphinoise potatoes (recipe to follow), spiced red cabbage with apples (recipe to follow), apricot and sausage stuffing, sprouts, carrots, parsnips and wine gravy – a bit of a test run for Christmas day. The first candle for Advent was lit, and the modern-day chocolate Advent calendar was opened, with shouts of “oooh and ahhh” as a small chocolate Santa was revealed.
The table was set with an antique linen tablecloth, and starched napkins graced the side plates. My paternal grandmother’s Indian Tree china was my dinner service choice today, (It sound like I have many dinner services! I have two, one inherited and one bought at an antique shop and both loved and enjoyed all year round) a treasured gift that I inherited, and always used with love and fond memories of tea time at my grandparents, Christmas, Easter and many other happy family gatherings. Crystal wine glasses were set out and the best cutlery was used, it all felt so special. Whilst Sunday dinner cooked, I nipped outside to decorate a few of my trees in the garden…..
……why, you may ask? Well, this weekend, the first weekend on December is Tree Dressing Day – and no, NOT Christmas trees, but the trees in your street, garden or local wood and copse. The day was instigated in 1990 by Common Ground, a wonderful organisation that promotes all things common to all of us. I did it last year and although the weather was inclement today, I still decked a couple of my trees with ornaments. Common Ground promotes Tree Dressing as a way of celebrating all of our trees, whether they be by the roadside in a town or city, or in the countryside and on the village green. They say that it highlights our responsibility for looking after trees and reminds us of their enormous cultural and environmental importance, and I agree, plus it is a rather unique and typically British sort of eccentric celebration, and why not!
Tree dressing is based on many old customs from all over the world and at different times of the year and especially Orchard tree dressing, which is common in the West Country and Kent. Common Ground suggests how to celebrate the day and how to create your own social celebration of the trees in your place. Common community expression for everyday nature could include storytelling, dance, music, hanging ribbons, shapes, shining lights, anything which draws attention to the trees we take for granted, an enjoyable first step towards taking more care of them, is what they suggest. I rather like the idea, and I intend to try to deck my trees every year, as they have not only provided me with fruit, but also beautiful foliage in autumn and shade during the summer.
Inside the turkey crown was ready, and the vegetables were steaming away; the cranberry sauce had been made and my gravy was infusing the house with an enticing wine laden scent. Dessert was a simple cheese platter with home-made bread and crackers, followed by clementines, fresh walnuts and home-made mince pies, with festive pastry stars for lids. The wine was poured and we all sat down…..it felt festive and warm, and as the fire crackled whilst we ate, we chatted about the weather, our Christmas travel plans and other such ordinary matters. But, the old linen was admired and the china provided the perfect vehicle for crisp potatoes and tender turkey, whilst the glasses glistened and shone in the pale wintry sunshine and deep clarets and ruby reds ebbed and flowed like the conversation in the glasses.
Old linen and antique china is made for sharing, and my first Sunday in Advent was a delightful day filled with good food, fine wine and friendship. Sometimes life gets you down, a harsh word or sharp glance can bring on feelings of melancholy, but on the stage that is life, it’ s always good to remember small pleasures……and so it was with my Sunday; the very act of using an old family dinner service and antique linen, coupled with smiles, gravy boats, starched napkins, fresh vegetables, Vintage Cheddar, fluffy bread rolls, candle wax, chocolate, a chat with mum and dad on the phone, sage scented stuffing, spiced red cabbage, a text message from my daughter, an e-mail from my sister, a juicy orange and not forgetting some warm mince pies, and life is peachy and everything is just fine. Have a wonderful Sunday and see you later, Karen.
(From The Shepherd’s Calendar)
While snow the window-panes bedim,
The fire curls up a sunny charm,
Where, creaming o’er the pitcher’s rim,
The flowering ale is set to warm;
Mirth, full of joy as summer bees,
Sits there, its pleasures to impart,
And children, ‘tween their parent’s knees,
Sing scraps of carols o’er by heart.
And some, to view the winter weathers,
Climb up the window-seat with glee,
Likening the snow to falling feathers,
In fancy infant ecstasy;
Laughing, with superstitious love,
O’er visions wild that youth supplies,
Of people pulling geese above,
And keeping Christmas in the skies.
As tho’ the homestead trees were drest,
In lieu of snow, with dancing leaves,
As tho’ the sun-dried martin’s nest,
Instead of ickles, hung the eaves,
The children hail the happy day –
As if the snow were April’s grass,
And pleas’d, as ‘neath the warmth of May,
Sport o’er the water froze as glass.
Call by tomorrow for my NEW Kenwood Christmas Menu and my Spiced Red Cabbage with Apples recipe:
Last week’s Kenwood Christmas Menu was: