The Family Christmas

John’s brother Llewelyn’s descriptions of the Powys family Christmas can be magical: old traditions lit with a fireside glow; the contrast with the austere rural landscape.

“The celebrations had their beginning on Christmas Eve with the decorating of the horns in the hall and the pictures in the dining room. All the day long my brother and I [not John, who was 12 years older than Llewelyn, but Bertie] would have been busy collecting in two large baker’s baskets, moss and fir branches for the church and holly and mistletoe for our own home…

“At midnight, with the appearance of the carol singers, the real Christmas celebrations would begin. The men – masons, farm labourers, quarrymen and gardeners – would stand with their lanterns outside the front door to sing ‘Joy to the World’…At the first notes of the concertina, flute and harmonium sounding along the dark rambling passage, we children would hasten to the dining room, and collecting on the sofa, wrapped in dressing gowns and blankets, would peer out into the darkness…How strange it was to look out upon the drive, with the tennis lawn obscurely visible beyond the wicker-work fence, and to hear the ancient strains redolent of man’s desperate hopes, rise up from the secure Victorian garden into the sky, into eternity!”

(Christmas Lore and Legend, Yuletide Essays by Llewelyn Powys)

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