By Lynn Moncus
Aggie and I stopped in Quay Valley to admire the beautiful tree decorated in memory of Bert Waterman. She was very pleased when she would decorate that tree and would talk about its being her major Christmas gift to herself and her friends.We would then talk about its simple decorations making it one of the most beautiful trees in the county because that simplicity said far more than all the glitter and glitz with which we are now surrounded.
Obviously, we were in the over-the-hill gang who could remember how much that simple beauty meant to us as children and how much we appreciated the small gifts we received in those days. We didn’t need a stack of presents to make us happy or to overwhelm us because materialistic ways hadn’t entered our lives then. We were just happy to be with our families and to enjoy that very special day.
I was privileged to see that same simplicity many years later when I had the opportunity to spend Christmas in Killarney. My friend and I were thrilled to see the small unlighted trees in the homes and to note the quiet beauty of the few decorations in stores and churches. At night, we saw a few candles in windows as we walked through the quiet village while listening to the carolers just ahead of us. We were experiencing an oldfashioned Christmas and enjoying every minute of it.
As we talked to children, we felt we had stepped back into our own childhoods because they were very excited about the coming holiday and were asking for so very few gifts–usually a small toy and some item of clothing.
We watched them in the stores as they looked at the limited selections and could see their eyes dancing as they looked at the offerings. Sometimes, a shop owner would give them a small piece of candy, and we could see how they savored it.
The hotel in which we were staying had much greenery arranged along the walls and on the bannister along the winding stairway. A fairly large tree was decorated as simply as is Bert’s tree and graced the lobby in which we were served afternoon tea and evening hot chocolate.
The employees would sing carols as they went about their work and always took time to visit with their foreign guests. When they discovered that we were not “ugly Americans,” they included us in their group and made us feel right at home.
They were eager to talk about their families and their plans for Christmas and told us much about their lives. They were echoing much that we had already lived and enjoyed. One can but hope that much of that simplicity still remains, and that the beautiful children are still looking forward to celebrating Christmas.
Whereas we had enjoyed being surrounded by simplicity, we were overwhelmed by the Christmas feast which began around noon and lasted into the night. Instead of using tables in the dining room, they took doors off several rooms, set them on chair backs, covered them with linen, and stacked them with more food than we could imagine.
That was my first experience at seeing a whole roasted pig as the center piece so I sort of avoided looking at his head while one of the cooks sliced off a slab of pork for my plate.
Many villagers joined in throughout the day, and the table still contained much food when we finally gave up late in the evening. The remains were taken to the elderly and to those who could not afford a Christmas feast.
Aside from the Christmases spent in the canyons of home, that was one of the most memorable ones I ever had. Simple beauty just automatically captures the spirit of the season.