Thursday, 24 December 2009

Christmas Landscape

It's Christmas Eve, and I'm going to share one of my favourite pieces of Christmas writing,
by Laurie Lee. His poem 'Christmas Landscape' is a classic. The YouTube video below adds some wonderfully evocative images and music to his magical words. Watch up to 2mins 35secs for the complete poem. First, though, a reading I've transcribed from a radio programme that was broadcast years ago. I've no idea where it comes from; I've never found it anywhere else. But it sums up most of what I feel about Christmas.

Christmas is two-faced of course. A great double-festival which the ages rolled into one. Part an act of bravado held in the teeth of winter, part the Christian celebration of birth. The old pagan part always seemed reasonable to me - a raising of spirits when things looked black... Eat, drink and be merry it seemed to say; the sun is extinguished and tomorrow we die. But the newer part - the festival of birth - seemed somehow to have got there by accident. Surely the spring, I thought, was the proper time for all this and not the bleak mid-winter - April or May when everything on earth was being born and life was bursting out all round us? I realise now that things are quite right as they are; that spring can look after itself; that the holy child was born in the pit of winter because it was the time of our greatest need, when the search had been longest, and all other signs of life obscured.

Others may have known all this for two-thousand years, but we each need our own personal revelation. And I am seeing it now for the first time in my life - and a long-ish life at that - because after twelve years of marriage, and a long winter of doubt, our first child has just been born.

Nothing is as remarkable as that which happens to oneself, commonplace as it may be to others. The truth of a love-story never quite makes sense until you yourself are in love. For Christmas is the family and the family is the child, and without the child the light of Christmas is blurred. And now that this light for me has suddenly been switched on I see all I'd forgotten, or never knew. For the birth of a child saves us all from extinction - is in fact almost a resurrection - still more precious perhaps, in my case, for having been so long and coldly awaited. So as a brand-new parent and in spite of all the years I've lived through, this is the first true Christmas of my life. Until now it was a feast without a blessing, a candle without a flame, and now I can see round its gaudy commercial drapes and through its stupors of over-eating, back to the original child whose feast this is, standing - smiling - at the beginning of things.

And everything now falls sparkling into place. The carols seem written for us alone, and my child stares at the tree, her eyes full of lights, and it's the first Christmas tree for us both. This moment can't last. My child will grow up and the lights of this tree will fade. But it doesn't matter. Christ is born every year and remains the point of our return: the chance to revisit this day, its star and its cradle, the miracle lying within in and to share together - mortal though we both may be - this moment of brief eternity.


Happy Christmas!


  1. Laurie Lee? cider with Rosie? Is that right?
    Were there rude bits in it? I think we giggled over that book at school.

    Happy Christmas to you and your family xxx

  2. Thanks Jenny and, yes, he's the Cider with Rosie bloke... Not sure about the rude bits, though. Perhaps I need to re-read it?

  3. Ah! Cider with Rosie! Very nice!
    Lovely post, Tim. Planning to dig out some Laurie Lee now. Have a lovely Christmas!

  4. You see, now you have LOTS of Cider with Rosie comments. Mine's a Krug of course x

  5. The reading you transcribed just summed it all up for me. Once our son was born, Christmas was transformed and it will always be special because of him. Thanks for posting it.
    (As for Cider with Rosie, yes it did have a rude bit in it somewhere, though I suspect if we were to re-read it now it will be quite tame!)
    Hope you and your family have a lovely Christmas xx

  6. Enjoy it, Rosie. And the cider!

    It's a lovely piece of writing isn't it Trish? And children make all the difference to the season. Have a lovely time, and thanks for your good wishes.

  7. Merry Christmas Tim. I will hold back on the Rosie comments!!!

    I hope that your family have a fab festive time. We are in N Yorkshire and the snow is just starting to melt with the slush that is coming down!!

  8. Thanks TMH, and the same to you. N. Yorks is a lovely place to be for Christmas, slush or not. Although I think, on reflection, I'd probably prefer not.

  9. I rarely tear up at a post, but that one got me. Thanks so much for introducing me to Laurie Lee. Just simply beautiful.

  10. You and yours have a good Christmas!

  11. Lovely lovely lovely! Laurie Lee rocks. Thanks for that. x

  12. Great poem, he has a way with words.
    Happy Christmas.

  13. I hope you had a wonderful Christmas and that 2010 is perfect for you all.

  14. My pleasure Rebecca. And you're right... it's beautiful!

    Thanks Kevin, and the very same to you!

    I think the great man would have liked that LBWM. And he played a mean fiddle, so I'm told.

    As a true poet should, Lulu. And thank you.

    Most kind, DJ. And the same to you!


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