Christmas Eve

I think I found the UK equivalent to A Charlie Brown Christmas. It’s the Nativity play, performed at churches on Christmas Eve. The whole thing was befitting of the story–very low budget, very DIY. The shepherds were great, with costumes made from cheap scarves and scraps of furry fabric. The angels shuffled up and down the steps of the “stage,” sort of drowning in their white sheets, tinsel halos cocked at weird angles like makeshift TV antennae. One of the shepherds was about three, accompanied by another toddler angel, who didn’t really understand that the whole thing wasn’t improv. She added some interpretive dance and antagonized the older angels between acts. A donkey on wheels rolled in and out, and the kids sang an ominous song about King Herod, who was “not nice to meet.” (Gotta love that understatement.)

Even though the play didn’t take itself too seriously, the organizers clearly put a lot of work into the production. The way I saw it, they were saying that it’s an important story, a hopeful story, but no one seemed to take it as sacred with a capital S. Of course this is just my interpretation, but it was refreshing to be without the Puritan heaviness that still hangs in the US air. Instead, I felt happy and cheered.

After the play the minister spoke over the sound system in the small room. I couldn’t see him and wasn’t sure if anyone else could, which was different than the minister delivering a message from The Pulpit. He added a simple, and humble, comment on the children’s sense of wonder, that it’s something everyone should try to maintain. A mention of the Christingle service, around midnight, with candles and carols, which sounded very pretty. Will try to catch it next year.

For some reason, maybe it was just being in a church and being reminded of all the times I’d attended services growing up, I started thinking about the States and what’s happening there right now. I’m almost guilty sometimes about how good it feels to be out from under the oppressive net of fundamentalism and the sentimental ignorance that seems to have all but taken over significant portions of the country.

Here, from what I’ve experienced, there’s a complete absence of a Christian presence. The presence of history is actually much stronger. One can feel the enormity of the Roman Empire, and we live near Anglo Saxon Way. After living in the Baptist South for the last nine years, I kind of feel like I’ve moved to the moon. There are certainly things I miss about the South–the lush beauty, the grandiose quality of the buildings and parks, and the friendliness and quirk with some folks–but I don’t miss the assumption that I must share a certain belief system.

I sometimes wondered if I’d been branded in a way that everyone witnessed but me–some sort of scarlet E, or F–and it’s nice to get away from that. However, here I feel I’m wearing a giant A, for American, and I need to disprove every misconception about Americans every time I meet someone new. Maybe I could make up a pamphlet–“No, I’m not rich, No, I never voted for Bush, No, I don’t think that Americans have the right to bomb whomever we choose, No, I don’t think that rampant greed and gluttony is acceptable….”

At some point in the near future, I’m going to just have to quit worrying about what people think. If they want to think I’m a greedy jerk who can’t find Australia on a map, there’s not much I can do about it. Maybe that’s why I enjoyed the play so much. No need to explain myself to the young thespians. Some don’t even know what an American is. Ahhh, anonymity….

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Kristine
    Jan 05, 2011 @ 23:38:53

    To your point, U.S. news of the moment is whether or not we should remove the N word from Huck Finn so our precious midgets can get literate and shit without suffering irreparable damage. Being raised by the dipshits suggesting this has probably already done them in…

    Reply

  2. Joan H
    Jan 09, 2011 @ 12:42:36

    Meredith & I have just enjoyed your Christmas blogs. We have spent a very warm & humid Christmas, the antithesis of freezing, snowbound England. Our considered opinion is that you would make a great Aussie! Here in Australia people from England are known as ‘whinging Poms”. We Aussies would never whinge, unless of course we lose The Ashes, in which case there are always extenuating circumstances.

    Love your blog, Tara.

    Joan H

    Reply

    • taramoyle
      Jan 12, 2011 @ 15:05:04

      Thanks very much for reading Joan! A very warm and humid Christmas sounds wonderful! Anything with sun sounds like heaven right now. Am glad to now know what a “whinging Pom” is. It seems ironic that Brits would be described as whinging since they’re often categorized as being very non-complaining. Just today I read this BBC magazine piece (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-12123463) with a line about how they might do well to complain a bit to bring about better customer service in the UK!

      Thanks again for reading and Happy New Year to you!

      Reply

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