Hello, and welcome to those who have joined up since our last newsletter.
Well, we’re deep into Advent now – only ten days to go until Christmas. The Blue Peter team will have lit the first candle on their tinsel-draped coathanger crown last Monday (yes, they’re still making them!) – or rather, they would have done if they still used candles. In these safety-conscious days, the instructions on the BBC website invite children to hang a bauble on each corner instead.
It really doesn’t feel very Christmassy where we are! Thailand is overwhelmingly Buddhist, and we don’t live in a tightly-knit British community, so there’s nothing on any of our neighbours’ houses to show that Christmas is on the way. Signs that it is have been limited to displays in the major supermarkets where expats shop, decorations in the bars, and hawkers trying to flog Santa hats with flashing lights. And the weather has been sunny and warm for the last month or so. We can safely guarantee that there won’t be a white Christmas here!
What kind of tree do you have? Last time we were in London we had a pot-grown spruce which we brought into the house each December for a month or so. Luckily for the tree’s well-being, this only went on for a couple of years as we then moved to India. Earlier, when we lived in Bangladesh, everyone used a juniper tree as a substitute for the usual fir or spruce.
Our gardening expert, Mike Clark, has strong feelings about the whole custom of Christmas trees:
“I’m afraid I have a thing about Christmas trees. They are grown specifically to satisfy a consumer demand. If they were allowed to develop, and grow to maturity, these Nordmann Firs and others of the ilk would absorb their share of CO₂ and ultimately produce valuable timber, and in a sustainable regime they would be succeeded by continuous replanting.
“But harvested as Christmas trees they have no time to do anything for our environment, and obviously do nothing for the built environment.
“To buy a live tree for Christmas is to contribute to the rape of our planet, and to line the pockets of those who take without giving.
“Our pagan ancestors, who brought in a bough for this December festival, took one branch without killing a tree.
“But if you must, at least buy a container-grown one (not a potted one), and give it its life back after you’ve sucked it dry for your own ephemeral pleasure.”
We’re going to ask Mike to write an article for BE about how to look after Christmas trees for those who have a live one.
On a lighter note, the BBC has been investigating the psychology of Christmas trees on their website. Predictably, the White House tree is “clearly a demonstration of immense wealth and resources”, while the one at the BBC’s stage door at Television Centre is a “sparse looking, scruffy and emotionless tree. It has a corporate ‘budget’ look”. They’ve invited the public to send in pictures of their own trees for psychoanalysis, but so far (0840 GMT on 15 December) no-one’s dared…! Here’s the article: BBC News, 14 December 2004: "What’s ‘behind’ the Christmas tree?"
Just a couple of suggestions if you have a little time to spare:
Stuck for a gift for someone special? Why not try giving a goat for Christmas? Not personally, you understand – many of us wouldn’t be that chuffed to have one in the garden. But a scheme by Goodgifts offers giftbuyers the chance to put the money to charitable use; £15 will buy a goat for a community in Rwanda, given in the name of the person who would otherwise have had a possibly unwanted present instead.
BBC News – A goat’s not just for Christmas
[Obsolete snacks and links deleted]
Some strange search terms which led people to visit British Expat recently:
Till next time…
British Expat Magazine
“Christmas is a time when everybody wants his past forgotten and his present remembered. What I don’t like about office Christmas parties is looking for a job the next day.”
Phyllis Diller, US comedienne (1917- )
One year, Santa was getting ready for his annual trip… but there were problems everywhere.
Four of his elves were sick. The trainees made the toys more slowly, so Santa was beginning to fall behind schedule.
Then Mrs. Claus told Santa that her mother was coming to visit. This stressed Santa even more.
When he went to harness the reindeer, he found that three of them were about to give birth and two had jumped the fence and were out, heaven knows where. More stress. Then when he began to load the sleigh, the toysack fell to the ground and scattered the toys.
So, frustrated, Santa went into the kitchen for a cup of coffee and a whisky. When he looked in the cupboard, he found the elves had hidden the whisky bottle. In his exasperation, he dropped the coffee pot on the floor, where it broke into hundreds of pieces. He went to get the broom and found that mice had eaten its straw bristles.
Just then the doorbell rang and Santa went to answer it, cursing all the way. At the door was a little angel with a great big Christmas tree. The angel said: “Where would you like to put this tree, Santa?”
And that, my friends, is how the little angel came to be on top of the Christmas tree.
Kay has been an expat for 25 years. She set up the British Expat website more than 15 years ago, whilst living in London and missing the expat life. These days she spends much of her time lugging computers and cameras around the world. (Dave gets to deal with all the really heavy stuff.)