A few days before Christmas my world-travelling author friend Anthony sent me a holiday greeting, and he shared a memory of his favourite Christmas.
In the Sahara desert, central Mauritania, in the early 1970s, he and a collection of about fifteen Anglicans, Catholics, Jews and Muslims built a log fire in the shape of a Christmas tree. Their camel herd snuffled and snorted in the darkness around them. In the early hours of Christmas Day, they held hands and sang carols.
In my mind’s eye, I pictured the flames and the desert sand. In my mind’s nose, I smelled the woodsmoke and the camels. In my mind’s ear, I heard the haunting echo of Christmas carols in the Sahara air.
His favourite Christmas was unconventional to be sure, and all the more meaningful for it.
This year Sainsbury’s ad tells the extraordinary story of the Christmas truce of 1914 in the trenches of war. An unconventional Christmas moment of common humanity shared, and all the more meaningful for it.
My favourite Christmas happened twenty years ago. I spent that one in hospital with our newborn daughter. By the light of a small, artificial tree and to the sound of carols played on a portable cassette player, my husband, my day-old daughter and I shared an unconventional Christmas, that was all the more meaningful for it.
Happy holidays to you all, conventional or otherwise.