Be like a train; go in the rain,

go in the sun, go in the storm,

go in the dark tunnels!

Be like a train;

concentrate on your road

and go with no hesitation!
~Mehmet Murat ildan

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.

It turns what we have into enough...

.........and more.

It turns denial into acceptance,
chaos to order, confusion to clarity.

It can turn a meal into a feast,

a house into a home,

a stranger into a friend.

~Melody Beattie

Don't be satisfied with stories,

how things have gone with others.

***Unfold your own myth.***

I hope you will go out and let stories,

that is life, happen to you, and that

you will work with these stories . . .

water them with your blood &

tears & your laughter till they bloom,

till you yourself burst into bloom.

~Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Christmas in Oxford

Christmas is a season for
kindling the fire for
hospitality in the hall,
the genial flame of
charity in the heart.
~Washington Irving

Illuminated bicycles fly high
over Oxford's High Street.

Oxmas Week
Christmas begins a little early in Oxford, usually by the third week of November, when the students are preparing for the end the Michaelmas Term and soon to be heading home for the Christmas holiday. The last week of the autumn term is also called "Oxmas Week", when the students condense all of their holiday merry-making into one week. Advent carol services and special Christmas dinners are repeated thirty-eight times over in each of the colleges that make up Oxford University. Christmas trees suddenly are everywhere--college quads, dining halls, junior common rooms, and the Bodleian Library.

To top it off, even the most academic and serious students will wear a Christmas jumper, each more colourful and outrageous than the next. The ironic wearing of the hideous Christmas jumper has found its spiritual home in Oxford.

It's difficult not to become infected with the spirit of Oxmas week--which is fine by me. These are traditions and customs that go back centuries and they spill out onto all of Oxford. For me, Christmas used to begin with Thanksgiving in the U.S., but now it begins with Oxmas week.

The earth has grown old
with its burden of care, 
But at Christmas it
always is young.... 
~Phillips Brooks

A Christmas tree lights the
quad of Magdalen College.

The tree lighting the main
entrance of Trinity College,

A beautiful moment just
before a carol service
was about to begin in
the chapel of New College.

The public is welcome at
most of the carol services
in the college chapels.

The Oxford 
Christmas Light Festival

Oxford's public Christmas celebrations begin at the end of November with a Christmas Light Festival. This year it was held from the 25th to the 28th of November. If you're planning a trip to Oxford next year, why not make it a Christmas holiday visit? Click on any of the links provided below to find out more. 

2013 Parade of Lights, 
High Street, Oxford
More information at: 

Oxford's Christmas Market

Broad street hosts over 75 stalls, 
selling hot drinks, festive food, gifts, arts, 
and crafts. There's also a Victorian 
carousel and a children's area
with Santa and his reindeer in
residence at certain times.

This year's schedule was:

Thursday-Saturday - 10am to 8pm
Sunday-Wednesday - 10am to 7pm
Sunday, Dec. 18th - 10am to 6pm

Broad Street


Oxford Christmas Market

The German inspired wooden huts line Broad Street, decorated with greens and lights. Every few feet there is mulled wine or cider, and good things to eat. I love that I can walk home from the grocery store or bank, and stop for a mulled wine on a chilly winter afternoon, just as the sun sets. There are handmade gifts, vintage wares and Christmas decorations. For shopping small and shopping local, a Christmas market is the perfect place.

This is the 'Jack' ornament I bought
from the market hut below. It's a
perfect likeness, so he had to
come home with me.

I don't think it's possible to walk through
a Christmas market and not feel full of
good cheer and hope for mankind.

Whatever else be lost among the years,
Let us keep Christmas still a shining
thing; Whatever doubts assail us, or
what fears, Let us hold close one day,
remembering Its poignant meaning
for the hearts of men. Let us get back
our childlike faith again. 
~Grace Noll Crowell

There are warming wool hats....

....and bright baubles full
of Christmas cheer.

There's a bustling, festive
spirit, all surrounded by
Oxford's timeless beauty.

Oxford's Covered Market

The Covered Market in Oxford, which is between Market Street & the High Street, and Cornmarket & Turl Street, has been serving Oxford continually since 1774. It still houses the butcher, the baker and even the candlestick maker, but florists, a cake shop, cafes, jewellery and charity shops have been added. Christmas is the best time of the year in the Covered Market.

A post-box for mailing letters to
Father Christmas, with the scent
of fresh Christmas trees in the air.

By the time Christmas rolls around,
the rafters are filled with turkey, duck
and geese; while venison and boar
hang by the butcher shop doors. 
Sometimes I have to pinch myself to
make sure I haven't travelled back
in time--to the time of Dickens,
Scrooge, Bob Cratchit and Tiny Tim.

"Do you know the Poulterer's, in the next street but one, at the
corner?" Scrooge inquired. 
"I should hope I did," replied the lad. 
"An intelligent boy!" said Scrooge. "A remarkable boy! Do you know whether they've sold the prize Turkey that was hanging up there? Not the little prize Turkey; the big one?" 
"What, the one as big as me?" returned the boy. 
"What a delightful boy!" said Scrooge. "It's a pleasure to talk to him. Yes, my buck!" 
"It's hanging there now," replied the boy. 
"Is it?" said Scrooge. "Go and buy it."
         ~Charles Dickens, 'A Christmas Carol'

The Cake Shop window starts filling up with
festive cakes by mid-November. Whenever
I walk by the shop, there are lots of noses,
young and old, pressed up against the glass.

Out and About in Oxford

One of the very best things about Britain
are the pubs and Oxford's pubs are as they
should be--ancient, reminiscent of another
 time, full of good cheer. A warming drink,
a good conversation, and soft lamplight
make a pub irresistible to walk past--
especially on a cold December evening.

The White Horse Pub,
Broad Street, Oxford

A cup of ale,
A merry tale
Of days of olden time, 
And Christmas good cheer 
To wind up the year 
With glad frolic, 
and fun, and glee. 
~Henry James Slack (1818–1896) 
"Winter's Song,"

Everywhere you look, from November
right through to January, there are posters
for the sublime music of Christmas. Nearly
every night there are carol concerts, Advent 
services, symphonies and the most sublime
of all, Handel's Messiah.

Walking home, even just from
grocery shopping, are sights
 like this--Trinity College
lighting up the evening,
when it's dark by 4pm.

In the right light,
at the right time,
everything is extraordinary. 
 ~Aaron Rosek

If you're lucky enough to visit Oxford
during the time of the December
Full Cold Moon,
its light will guide you home.

The moon over our neighbour New College 
and Holywell Street; and rising above
The University Church of St. Mary.

It came upon the midnight clear,
That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth,
To touch their harps of gold:
"Peace on the earth, goodwill to men
From heavens all gracious King!"
The world in solemn stillness lay
To hear the angels sing.
~Words by Edmund Hamilton Sears in 1849
Music by Richard Storrs Willis in 1859

There's so much more to an Oxford Christmas, enough to fill a book one day perhaps. There's the Christmas morning service at Christ Church Cathedral, there's the Oxford City carol-sing-along, led by the Lord Mayor at the town hall, there are the lights that hang over all the shoppers on Cornmarket, the High, and Queen Street. Then there's the Christmas panto at the Oxford Playhouse. This year's panto is 'Cinderella', and we have tickets for Friday night. We'll go to afternoon tea at the Randolph Hotel first and then walk down the block to the playhouse.

Maybe for me, that describes Christmas in Oxford best of all. It's walking through the Christmas market or the Covered Market, walking home under the full moon, Christmas music in college chapels or the Sheldonian Theatre, pubs with hot drinks and warm smiles, a special Christmas tea at the Randolph Hotel, Christmas shopping in small shops and local stores, and then carrying it all home surrounded by Oxford's beauty. 

It's a Christmas of a different sort. No malls, no traffic, no rushing, no big gift buying (since we have to carry everything home)--it's almost a Christmas from another time, but not just because of where we live. It's also the Christmas of our choosing. You don't have to fly thousands of miles to experience this--it's something you can choose. It's looking for small & meaningful gifts, it's focusing on good food and good times with loved ones, it's choosing to stop and breathe while listening to Christmas music. In essence, it's taking Christmas one breath at a time--and that can belong to anyone.

Christmas is not as much
about opening our presents
as opening our hearts.
~J.L.W. Brooks

Merry Christmas from Oxford.
Stuart and I hope to see you
in the city of dreaming spires
in the New Year~2017.