zeborah: Zebra with stripes falling off (stress and confusion)
Someone's opinion piece in the newspaper suggested that we could stop shops starting Christmas too early by inventing a Kiwi seasonal holiday to celebrate around about now instead. She then created and elaborated on one but I'd tuned out because:

a) we already have two seasonal holidays around about now: as much as I dislike the importation of Halloween it is very much a thing, and as much as I'd prefer to commemorate Parihaka on the 5th of November than celebrate Guy Fawkes, that is very much a thing too (albeit its commercial aspects are somewhat more circumscribed by law). And

b) the existence of these holidays has demonstrably done nothing to prevent shops starting with the Christmas already. The instance that particularly horrified me the other day was walking into my local supermarket through the gauntlet of Halloween, and a few minutes later walking to the checkout through the gauntlet of Advent calendars.

Halloween then Guy Fawkes then Christmas, I ragetweeted.

And then yesterday morning, when I went out to pick some lettuce for my lunch sandwiches, I discovered that the Christmas lilies are poking their weird anenome heads out of the ground among the remains of the daffodils.

So, fine. The garden has spoken. Christmas is coming.
zeborah: I believe in safe, sane, and consensual Christianity. (credo)
because when I arrived for the Christmas Eve service there was a sign saying "Welcome: please use alternate entrance" and the alternate entrance led to the back lawn where several rows of chairs were set up. Apparently the cracks in the (brick) church have widened enough that they want to get an assessment before risking having the congregation in there, especially as the cracks are in the side where the emergency exits are located. They'd managed to get the sound system in position just inside the ranch sliders of the lounge, with the piano and lectern and Advent candles, but the sun was far too bright to allow for a projector even if that system was mobile.

We had to add another row chairs as people kept arriving. (Some brought picnic blankets but we didn't have to resort to that.) It did cool a little as the evening progressed and clouds drifted across the sky, but not badly.

Sound didn't carry very well -- we kept singing either faster or slower than the piano, which at one point got so bad our minister was cracking up -- but it was surprising effective being outside with the rustle of the wind in the trees: it fit with the shepherds and the straw in the manger much better than a brick building does. It reminded me of the New Zealand carol Te Harinui, "The people gathered round upon the grassy ground to hear the preacher say 'I bring to you today Te Harinui, glad tidings of great joy.'"
zeborah: Zebra with stripes shaking (earthquake)
I speak of course not of Christmas but of a shallow mag 4.9 aftershock centred not 10 minutes walk from my parents' house (about half an hour's from mine). (This followed a lower magnitude bunch in the night and early morning, all in town. This earthquake series hasn't been very active right in town - usually it's 20km SW - but when it is this close it's quite noticeable.) Piano swaying, cupboards banging, twitter offering reports of malls closing (on Boxing Day. There goes the economy again) and people crying in the aisles and a building roof caving in (I'm presuming it was empty or there'd be much more talk of that) and power outages and such.

...Dude. Serious cracks in Ballantynes? </rumour> I hate shopping there myself: they seem to eschew signage on the grounds that if you don't know where things are you clearly don't belong at such a high class establishment, but it is a bit of an icon.

My family's tended to lose power in the bigger ones so I gave them a call: this time they kept power but lost internet (presumably their ISP has lost power). (Ah, they've just got it back now.)

There goes another siren, joy.

[ETA: Twitter news continues apace. One has to take it all with a grain of salt [ETA bis: for example, for "roof caving in" read "some ceiling tiles down"...] but it's so much faster than conventional news.]

Christmas, however, was great, with all our family traditions plus some non-traditional glorious weather; and spending Boxing Day morning watching the Doctor Who Christmas Special while sitting on the floor by an interior wall isn't really anything to complain about.

[Incidentally, there was a 7.6 near Vanuatu in the night, somewhat before our ones started waking me up. I don't know how this would have affected the areas there, it'll depend much on local geology and construction and so forth, and early reports haven't yet heard of damage or fatalities but... I'm keeping an eye on it.]
zeborah: Map of New Zealand with a zebra salient (Default)
I'm baking a fruitcake for the Midwinter Christmas we're probably going to celebrate at work. This is a couple months away yet, so it's a good time to bake the cake. I started... well, on my birthday in December, when my parents gave me some jars full of dried pineapple, mango, and papaya and I thought "Ooh!" Since then I've been gathering other dried fruits that don't normally go in Christmas cakes: apricots and cranberries, and a couple of weeks ago some guava.

A few days ago I added in some sultanas to make it up to 1.5kg(1), and then I soaked it in rather a lot of brandy.

Today I figured it was probably sufficiently sozzled, plus I'm going back to work tomorrow, so I recopied the recipe from Mum, made up the batter, lifted the gladwrap off the brandy-soaked fruit, took a whiff and promptly became quite happy indeed, mixed the lot together and put it in the (butter-paper)-and-(corrugated-cardboard)-lined tin.

(Boots helped by sitting on one of the pieces of butter-paper but fortunately Mum had given me sufficient spares. I'm not sure where she's gone off to put her buttery butt now though.)

It's now in the oven where it will cook for several hours and then get another dose of brandy. I hope this will contribute significantly to the Christmas Spirit at the party at work (and also that there are leftovers, but we're a small team and it's going to be a very solid cake).

(1) Actually I think the recipe should read "Take 1.6kg of dried fruit. Soak in brandy overnight / for a few days. Mix the batter, then add the 1.5kg of fruit."
zeborah: Map of New Zealand with a zebra salient (Default)
Christmas is traditionally a winter thing, but here in New Zealand it comes in summer. In the north the days are dark; in the south the days are long. And when our winter comes, it will be the north's turn for the long days. The earth keeps turning, and no matter how dark it is in one place, there is always light somewhere.

93 years ago, in the midst of the trenches of World War I, both German and British set down their guns and joined to celebrate Christmas together, singing carols, eating dinner, and playing football.

Even in the summer (unless one lives much farther south than I) night comes. Tonight at 11:30 my mother and I went up to a beautiful church on the hill, where all the lights had been turned off and we sang by the light of the candles we were each given. A couple of minutes before midnight we began singing "Silent Night" and as we sang "Shepherds quake at the sight / Glories stream from heaven afar" the minister lit the Christ candle in the wreath. "Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia!" And when the carol was finished, we blew out our candles as the lights were turned on again.

The closing prayer reminded us that there is yet misery in the world. That is never to be forgotten or denied. But it would be just as wrong to forget or deny that there is also joy. There is war; and there is peace. There is hatred, and there is love.

There is darkness; and here, today, is a great light.

Merry Christmas.

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