Team Rector: Rev. Margaret Sherwin
Kingstone WI had been looking forward to a very special evening at their November meeting – and it certainly lived up to expectations.
There was a happy, celebratory atmosphere from the very beginning, when Joy Sutton, an extremely popular member, greeted members and guests with a glass of wine or a non-alcoholic drink. Everyone was delighted to raise their glasses in a very sincere toast to Joy for her 90th birthday. Plates were soon being filled from the most delicious buffet which Joy, with a little help from her daughter, Ann, had prepared. What a treat it was! Fortunately for him, the speaker for the evening, Dr Michael Leach, had arrived early and was able to join in!
When the last mouthfuls of cake had been eaten, he was introduced.
‘Last time you were here you were going to Russia the next day’, he was reminded. ‘You are not off anywhere tomorrow, are you?’.
‘Yes; to the Seychelles,’ he replied! How heart-warming that he was happy to fit in a small village WI.
Michael’s subject on this occasion was ‘The Natural History of Christmas’. This was based on one of his books, which gives an insight into how and why plants, animals and the environment feature strongly in Yuletide celebrations. He began by explaining that the exact date of Jesus’ birth is not known, so the early Christians made a choice to celebrate it on December 25th. For thousands of years cultures in the northern hemisphere had marked the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. Their festivities welcomed the return of the sun; longer and warmer days bringing new life and hope. What better symbolic time could there be to situate the birth date of a religion? Also, at a time when early Christians were still subject to persecution, what better place to hide the forbidden celebration of Jesus’ birth than during a time when the whole known world was celebrating?
The rest of this fascinating talk shed light on why we choose gifts, decorate the house, pick out a tree, stock the pantry, make cakes, puddings and pastries in preparation for Christmas. Where do these customs come from? Michael uncovered the origins of the holly and the ivy, the pre-Christian roots of hanging mistletoe and made it clear that turkeys never did come from Turkey! He explained why the robin is our favourite Christmas bird and looked at the origin of the Yule log, plum pudding and Santa’s dapper wardrobe.
There was not enough time to tell all that is revealed in his book, so it was no wonder that there was a queue for signed copies when this exceptional talk had to finish. What a wonderful evening!
Next month’s meeting would, also, be a special one, with the return of another favourite speaker and demonstrator, Anita Wright with ‘Christmas Flowers’. Visitors are always welcome.
For information on Kingstone WI, please contact Bronwen Dodd (Tel: 01889 500397)