Poinsettia: The Christmas Plant

Every year, my family attend a special Christmas service held in a small village Church. During the service, carols (Christmas songs and religious hymns) are sung and stories about the birth of Lord Jesus Christ told. The Church had been beautifully decorated, as always, with candles,holly, ivy and a huge Christmas tree stood next to the altar.

church christmas

christmas tree

Christmas tree 2014!

 

Here is the Church font, a font is usually full of holy water which is used to Christen babies (I was actually christened in this font when I was a baby!)

Here is the Church font, a font is usually full of holy water which is used to Christen babies (I was actually christened in this font when I was a baby!)

During the service, between the carol singing, the rector (priest) took some time to tell us about the poinsettia plant and it’s significance at Christmas. This plant with it’s striking red leaves is always sold in supermarkets and florists during Christmas, featured in Christmas cards and decorations; and I’ve never known why. I just assumed it was because their amazing red colour was so, well, Christmasy. Just before I left India, I was surprised to see poinsettia for sale in a garden shop! They are everywhere!

Here is my retelling of the story of the Christmas plant…

The legend of a small girl called Maria has been told in Mexico since the 16th century. Maria was too poor to give a gift to the Church to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, this distressed her so much she wept for days. A beautiful angel wearing golden robes came down from heaven to comfort the weeping child,’The most precious gift you can give is your love”. Maria smiled through her tears and lovingly gathered the small weeds around her, she tied them together as neatly as she could and ran to the Church. The child placed the weeds on the altar and squeezed her eyes tightly together in prayer, when she opened them, to her amazement she saw her weeds had spouted crimson leaves in the shape of the star of Bethlehem. The star of Bethlehem is the Christmas star, the star which appeared when Jesus Christ was born. A gift given with love is the most beautiful of all. 

Source: wikipedia

Singing in Church is a form of worship, and going to the Christmas service was delightful and nostaglic. Christmas is a magical time of the year, I thought it would be nice to share a video of one of the Christmas carols we sang on Sunday, Merry Christmas

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him”

-Romans 15 v 13

P.S. I just had to share the photo I took two years ago at the same service, I think this photo is particularly beautiful because the sun hadn’t set, so you can see the beautiful stained glass window next to the Christmas tree!

Christmas 2012

Christmas 2012

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Christmas time in London

A surprising number of people have asked me, ‘why would you go back to England during winter?’. Well, that famous song from the 1960’s answers that question perfectly, ‘it’s the most wonderful time of the year’. Yes, the weather can be miserable and it’s freezing, but with the fairy lights, little girls dressed as angels and trees full of enchanting ornaments, winter in England is beautiful! It’s Christmas!

I travelled to London for two days to see some of my dear friends, I had such a wonderful time! The naked trees full of mistletoe and the English countryside flashed passed my window before my train reached the bustle of London! Arriving in London, the smell of the cold air in the city, the distant sound of Christmas carols, everyone rushing around and I stood in the middle of it with a huge grin on my face. 

The London Underground (source: BBC)

The London Underground (source: BBC)

I have a passion for the London Underground (and the Paris Metro!), there is something about underground tunnels which link the entire city together, I love it! I have written about my unusual passion in a past post, but when I found myself looking at the map, seeing which line to take to meet my friend- I had a complete mental blank. My grin faded into a kind of gormless expression, I stood there for a long five minutes. I wanted to get from London Paddington to Waterloo, I knew it was a simple journey but being faced with this familiar map, I felt like I had never seen it before. Once the what would have been obvious twelve months ago dawned on me, I started walking in the direction of the Bakerloo line, towards Waterloo (clue is in the name, Lauren). I then had trouble with the automated ticket barriers, I was trying to put my ticket in where it should come out. My brain was behaving like a plate full of jelly, thankfully I soon got back into the groove of things!

london eye ferris wheel

London Eye

St. Pauls

St. Pauls

Seeing my old friend’s again was overwhelming and emotional, I have missed them so much. The huge disadvantage about living abroad is that you are far away from so many people you care about, so much has changed since I last saw them! I met a gorgeous little girl, who is now six months old, last time I saw her she was a tiny bean in her Mummy’s belly. Gorgeous babies have been welcomed into the world, new careers, fresh relationships, failed relationships- and I was so far away to be able to be there for them.

I was also so lucky to be able see some wonderful new friends, Hanna and M, who both write great blogs about their intercultural relationships! I was so happy to meet them, and I am hoping to see those two lovely girls again before I return to India, unfortunately they also bore witness to my jelly brain!

st pauls river dusk colourful

There was a beautiful Christmas tree on the banks of the Thames, decorated with personal Christmas messages, a beautiful idea from Macmillan, a cancer support charity. Two of my friends and I donated some money and wrote messages and hung them on the tree. Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ, it’s a time for receiving presents and eating too much food, but most importantly it’s a time for giving and charity.

“In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive'”

Acts 20:35, The Holy Bible

macmillian tree london eye christmasmacmillan tree messages

london eye blue lights

london eye light

Just before I left London, I had some time alone, my train wasn’t due to leave for another two hours (my time management skills are awful). I found myself retracing some of the steps I took with my husband when we first met in person, nearly two years ago. Walking those streets made me miss him more, I wish he was able to come to England with me to experience ‘the most wonderful time of the year’.

big benbig ben treetree

I walked from the London eye, passed Big Ben, to Leicester square and finally, I found myself in Piccadilly circus. Piccadilly circus is where my husband and I arrived first when we took our short trip into central London, we walked up from the underground and into the outside world and saw Anteros, the Greek god of requited love, pointing his bow straight at us. I stood there alone, surrounded by Christmas shoppers, and looked up at Anteros, now decorated for the festive season.

nelson red bus

Leichester Square

Leicester Square

piccadilly presents

Anteros, the view from one of the Piccadilly Circus underground exits

anteros

My train from London arrived at my station at around ten o’clock, it was cold and dark, a white blanket covered everything outside the train. The cars parked outside the station, the road, the platform and the benches. I turned to the nearest person and said, ‘oh, look I think it’s been snowing!’. The middle-aged gentleman to my right looked offended that I spoke to him and didn’t reply.

It hadn’t been snowing, it was actually frost. Frost makes everything glisten, as if it were covered in glitter. I walked from the train station to the bus stop, a short walk on the sparkling pavements, the world had been sprinkled with fairy dust. Walking through the dark park and over the bridge, I watched swans silently glide through the black icey water. I looked up and gasped, the stars were shining so bright, brighter than I can remember. As I stood with my face to the universe above, a star fell out of the sky, a shooting star, and I made a wish.

English Life, Indian Wife

I expected to have all of those ‘repatriation’ culture shocks, but coming back to England was like slipping back in time, into the warm slippers of my comfort zone. England is just the same as it always was, have I just woken up from a complex and life changing dream? The changes I feel are within myself, not the world around me. I feel stronger and calmer, more stable. Last time I stood on English soil, I was suffering with anxiety disorder and depression, life was difficult, looking back I am surprised I managed the journey to India in my condition! Returning to England has revealed to me how much I have changed.

India forced me face my fears head on, I was thousands of miles away from my definition of normal. Along with discovering more about my own spirituality, that push, however stressful, has given me strength that those little white pills never could (I’m talking about antidepressants)! I am pretty proud of myself and so grateful to my fabulous husband for being so supportive during my first year in India (I miss him so much!).

England is cold and Christmasy! After having a year-long summer (by English standards), that first blast of icy air when I left Heathrow airport was refreshing, it didn’t take more than a couple of second for ‘refreshing’ to become unbearable, but I did savour that moment while it lasted!

I must have eaten my weight in cheese products and already have several Christmas songs stuck in my head. Whilst I absolutely love celebrating Hindu festivals, they do not hold the magical nostalgia that Christmas has. That extra spark that I am sure my husband feels for Diwali, childhood memories and familiar traditions. It’s such a relief to see my family again and I’m feeling so excited to see some of my dear friends later this week!

So here I am, feeling like an Indian wife living an English life, wearing cosy slippers! 

(The header image, for those who do not know, is of the birth of Jesus Christ and the reason for celebrating Christmas. I am planning on writing several posts about Christmas and Christmas traditions before the big event itself. Picture credit: fellowshipofminds.com)