Thursday, December 4, 2008

Keeping a simple Christmas

The Boar's Head Carol has been sung at Queen's College, Oxford, since the seventeenth century, as the celebrated dish is borne into the dining hall. An early version of a similar carol was first printed in 1521 by Wynkyn de Worde.

The boar's head in hand bear I
Bedecked with bays and rosemary
I pray you, my masters, be merry
Quot estis in convivio (so many as are in the feast)

CHORUS: Caput apri defero, Reddens laudes domino (the boar's head I bring, giving praises to God)

The boar's head, as I understand,
Is the rarest dish in all this land,
Which thus bedecked with a gay garland
Let us servire cantico. (let us serve with a song)


Our steward hath provided this
In honor of the King of bliss
Which, on this day to be served is
In Reginensi atrio: (in the Queen's hall)

This video of the Christmas carol The Boar's Head by Lakelandvoices pleased me no end. This is how he describes the video at You Tube:
The story goes that some time in the middle ages a student from Queen's College in Oxford was walking in the grounds when a wild boar came crashing towards him. He ran as far as he could until his back was against the wall. the boars was pounding towards him, death was imminent - until the student pulled out a copy of Aristotle's philosophy and rammed it into the boar's mouth, killing it instantly. It's head was served in the Queen Hall that night - and every Christmas night up to the present time.

Some say this was a metaphor for what the students wanted to do to their philosophy professors who they thought of as crushing bores!

Lakelandvoices captures here the peace and simplicity that I strive to achieve during the holidays. I've done much better in the last few years, having fairly well stripped commercialism from my own December celebration. I don't feel pushed to shop and I don't feel pulled to conform. I don't need anything, so the few simple gifts I receive are enough and sometimes too much.

We've given charitable contributions in the names of the majority of people on our list instead of personal gifts for the past two years, and some have, in turn, begun to reciprocate in a like manner. Our youngest niece and nephews have doting parents and grandparents who have given them blessed lives. Our "gifts" to them have been to ensure that they are blessings to the future of nature, by "adopting" various animals in their names for meaningful causes. Symbolically adopting an animal from
WWF (World Wide Fund) makes a wonderful gift for children and adults alike. WWF has 90 species from which to choose for gift adoptions. Categories include the most popular, threat level, and region. Symbolic gift adoption kits start at $25 and include photos, adoption certificates, gift boxes, gift bags, and 8"-30" plush animals depending upon the Adoption Kit you select.

Here are links to the adoption pages for
WWF's most threatened that you can adopt symbolically:
And here's the list taking you to adoption pages of the popular top ten:
(In the U.K. the link for WWF gift adoptions is at

A few years ago I bought one of those Wrapsacks reusable gift bags for my sister's gift and now she and I pass it back and forth. It saves so much time in wrapping - not to mention the original intent of saving trees. The Wrapsacks website is great and can get you started on the adventure of Track-a-Sack, whereby after registering your purchased sack online you can track the Wrapsack's travels delivering gifts for years to come. This year I'm going to buy several more and use them exclusively for the few gifts we buy.

Keeping it simple is, for me, the only way to enjoy the holidays. If that's true for you also I'd love to hear about your "green" practices, simplicity/serenity tips, and special traditions.


Buddha said...

I just heard on the news a guy was stampede to death in a Wal-Mart store because of a sale event. That sums up the American holiday spirit.
My secret for a merry Christmas; We get out of town for a short vacation and come back after the madness is over.

Angela said...

Moving to Montana from Georgia went a long way towards simplifying my holidays! I still buy gifts for everyone I want to, but I spend very little and I often make gifts, or buy home-made gifts (this year soap from a friend of mine who started a business), or at the very least buy locally and from friends. I think that this year in particular it's important to support our local businesses and community. Animal adoption is a great idea and so are the wrapsacks - love it!

Lydia said...

I agree about the whole Wal-Mart affair. First the megacompany trampled over thousands of privately-owned small stores across the nation, causing them to fail and forever changing the landscape in this country.....and now this stampede. I've been at Wal-Mart twice, purchasing one item for the yard that I feel guilty about when I look at it. I hate that store.

Montana has such a mystique to it. One of my cousins and his wife moved there to raise their boys decades ago and since then two other families in the family have joined them!
I agree 100% about shopping locally and see my comments above to Buddha regarding Wal-Mart. It's cool that you even buy from friends, very special.

Melinda said...

Lol, Lydia--I think I had a philosophy professor that I would have loved to have stuff Aristotle in his mouth.

Regarding what you wrote about having a simple holiday--I could not agree with you more. Perhaps it is because I have gotten older--but I just feel no need for more possessions. I have really learned that possessions just don't lead to real happiness (and often detract from it).

This year, because the economy is in such bad shape, my husband and I are buying gifts--but we are donating them to 'Toys for Tots' and other such charitable organizations that can help small children (who should always have a gift at the Holidays) have a Christmas to remember. I figure the most patriotic thing I can do is to spend money--but I choose to spend it on people I don't know this year. My husband and I sent out cards to our family members requesting that rather than giving us gifts, they do the same for those who are not so fortunate as we are.

What a lovely message--Take care,


Wayfaring Wanderer said...

I have decided to boycott giving store bought gifts, instead my photos! haha Or maybe it's because I'm cheap.

I started joking with everyone this year....and I tell me what did I get you for Christmas last year.....I could barely remember what I was given last year much less what I gave anyone else.....although I always write it down, so I do know.

But, that's not the point, the point was that gifts aren't that important and it's a tradition based upon who gets what material possession that most likely won't make a difference.

These are much better ideas! I have picked out the organizations I am going to contribute to.....Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation, Nature Conservancy, Appalachian Voices.....I should 'stick' an animal in there though....thanks for the suggestions.

Carlos Lorenzo said...

How much truth together in one solid post. I enjoyed the peaceful sound of the water while I listened to the man singing...really soothing. You managed to transmit the real spirit of a comfortable Christmas with no shopping or excess of any kind. The animal adoption seems like a great idea. I hope that serves to save some of them.

Lydia said...

I have some catching up to do this weekend at your blog....and I look forward to it!

I love your idea about shopping for gifts for people (kids) you don't know. Toys for Tots has a solid reputation. Our dentist does a toy drive (this reminds me I must buy my gift next week) and his entire lobby fills up with new unwrapped gifts for children from his patients. His receptionist asks the general price of our gifts and he, bless him, matches the total. It all goes to Salvation Army.
I'm getting all goosebumpy thinking about these things.

Wayfaring Wanderer,
Good point! What DID I give and what DID I receive any given year? My cousin in Duluth gave me 1-2 books each Christmas and she stunned me a few years ago when she asked me to send her a list with all the titles so she wouldn't begin duplicating them! That was an impossible task (many books on many shelves and in storage) and it was then that we decided to do the charitable gift exchange forevermore.
Your selected organizations are extremely deserving of your holiday sharing.

Thank you for your appreciative comments. I'm glad it struck a good note with you.
I am looking forward to more shots at your blog of Barcelona around the holiday season. At dinner tonight I described for my husband your shot of the elderly beggar woman in an upscale area of the city......

Jennifer said...

Lydia -- Oh, a simple Christmas, which is a lovely idea. I wish that my extended family would pick up on this one! I have been donating money to various causes for some birthdays for a while now. For Christmas I'm trying to either make things, buy handmade things (Etsy), or get very simple things such as books, with a goal to make subsequent years more "homemade."

I love the Wrapsack and will have to buy some. My husband often uses old magazine covers and ads, in addition to other various interesting paper he finds and saves throughout the year, as wrapping paper. Such is the power of a certain pair of family members and their xmas obsession that I am afraid they would take the gift of a Wrapsack as a commentary on their blind consumption. It would be on one level.

I think the boar was slain by the intensity of Aristotle's rhetoric! :)

Citizen of Earth said...

Thanks for this
Even the echo of something traditional is appreciated, and something I really needed
In the light of recent events

Good show on the WWF adoption info
This is something my family has been taking part in since the 80’s

distracted by shiny objects said...

Ever since the kids were in grade school we've been donating to the Heifer project as our gift to the teachers and the school. They got the gift of giving chicks and ducks and bunnies to families wh could then start their own businesses. They seemed to like that more than more apple ornaments or hand lotions and seemed more in keeping with the philosophy of the school. I made cookies most years, but as a gift those are debatable:>)

rachael said...

keeping things simple during the holidays is definitely easier said than done, but so rewarding. i've always prefered small, token gifts over big and expensive things.
this post reminded me of a blog i wish i had more time to keep up with, called "think simple now"
here's the link, i think it's something you'll enjoy reading (:

Lydia said...

O, I really like the idea of charitable donations as birthday gifts too. The family members you described sound a bit like my mother, who always went way overboard with x-mas purchases and loved reciprocation. She was childlike in that way and it was more fun to give to her than to be the recipient of WAY too much. The handmade items and also items from Etsy sound like winners to me for everyone else!

Citizen of Earth,
I'm glad you enjoyed the traditional slant here. When you speak about "recent events" I assume you mean the economy (?)
Your family has been giving wildlife adoptions since the 1980! That tells me a lot about your family: wonderful.

Once again, I think you're advanced beyond your years in preferring small token gifts! I checked out the link you suggested, then followed on to her Facebook page. She's quite an innovator and I bookmarked the site (mainly for my Clutterquake blog motivation). Thanks.

Lydia said...

That Heifer project is phenomenal. My sister gave bees in my name last year along with the novel, The Secret Life of Bees. It was a great gift. I think it's wonderful that your family has supported Heifer. (Cookies are good too; I give them to the neighbors.)



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