There is something special about Christmas time in the country. You know when it hits. The air chills creep into your bones and the heating is switched on a little more than normal. The smell of cinnamon and cloves seem to follow wherever you go. Wet muddy boots replace pretty dainty shoes, and lie waiting at back doors and on front steps for the next time you need to pop outside to let the dog out for a wee.
Christmas in Beaminster is a truly beautiful season. And for me, slowly making that mental shift from the scenes on the Christmas cards, to the reality of a stone-built town filled with narrow streets and smoking chimneys is becoming a little more comfortable. The whistling Robin that sits on a snow-covered hedge is now the one sitting in my front garden. The Christmas wreath glistening with dew, is now the one hanging on my front door. The quaint country lanes that lead to town centres bubbling with warmth and fires and bakeries and pleasure, are now the ones that lead to our town square.
I remember the first Christmas I experienced in Beaminster. Slightly overwhelmed by the picture-perfectness of it all, you couldn’t blame me for being completely oblivious to the fact that this was, in fact, a new kind of reality for me. The entire thing felt like a movie set – I’d stepped into a picture-book of quintessential English traditions – and even a roasted Chestnut wouldn’t break my idyllic state of mind. It was blissful. Picture-postcard perfection.
This past Christmas was not very different. Except for one small thing – this was now my reality. No longer the drawing on a foreign Christmas letter, but a traffic-jam, soggy-leaking-boot, pothole-ridden reality. And it was ok. The Christmas lights still flickered, the chimneys still whispered puffs of steam as heating and fires warmed homes decorated with icicle lights, flashing Christmas trees and garden signs that read, “Santa – please stop here”.
This was the 3rd Christmas we have spent in our little town and no different to before, we ventured down to the town square to be part of the annual Christmas Lights Festival. The Christmas ‘edge’ had perhaps been taken off due to familiarity, but we were happy to feel part of a community that celebrates, and enjoys the triumph of another year completed. Poetically looking back at what has been, and triumphantly looking ahead to what may still be, we ate, drank and were merry.
Nibbling on melting marshmallows straight from the fire and bumping into familiar faces, this year I felt a little more ownership for my Christmas festival, and I felt proud. Englishman and I took a moment to just be quiet and absorb our surroundings. Christmas lights flickered from shop windows and pubs, overwhelming laughter and chatter emulated from every corner of our precious town square. Carol singers lifted the clouds away, and as 7pm struck the dark corner of our Town Square was immediately illuminated by the magical Christmas lights officially turned on for 2013’s Christmas season.
Delirious with orange and cinnamon Christmas scents and a satisfaction of feeling welcomed, we grabbed a hot chocolate from a local vendor and joined in with verse 2 of Hark the Herald Angels Sing.