Scent of Christmas

We started today with a fabulous Christmas tea from Germany. We’ve always had a weakness for a good Christmas tea and for a long time bought Kusmi’s version. This one has lots of orange, nutmeg, vanilla – all those good things that go into a Christmas Cake. We let it stand for a bit more than the obligatory two minutes and drank it black to catch all the fragrances and it was delightful. The orange flavour is strong, and there’s some cloves in there, and vanilla. Not everyone likes vanilla in tea but we love it. The nutmeg is subtle but it keeps the cloves in check nicely. Best of all for a flavoured black tea like this, it takes a long time to over-brew. In fact, we liked it so much that we re-used the leaves at elevenses and it still steeped fast, which is unusual on a second pass over leaves. There’s a bit left for tomorrow and we’re looking forward to finishing it up. It smells of Christmas, which just heightens the anticipation for the holiday.

Tonight we had DavidsTea’s Pomegranate Supergranade, which took longer to steep but we were using a different infuser and it’s a white tea and those are incredibly delicate, so we’ll forgive it. In fact, shockingly, it’s the first white tea of the season. This year’s calendar is markedly better balanced than last year’s, with the herbals and non-herbals distributed so that our poor unsuspecting readers don’t get two weeks of perpetual hibiscus again, but everyone always forgets white tea. It’s one of those teas that scores you a pointless answer on quiz shows, or close enough. This one is sweet and tart in a combination that reminded us why we like pomegranate so much. This is another tea that would probably benefit from being served iced, but it’s lovely served hot, too. Oh, and unlike the peanut-free Peanut Butter Cup, this one actually has pomegranate seeds in! How…novel.

No, really, it’s a soothing white tea with a fruity touch, and we liked it. We drank it while watching our beloved Christmas go-to film The Holly and the Ivy. It’s an oft-overlooked film about families and Christmas, and something about it nails our sense of what the holiday means to us.

It’s one of many traditions we observe; the Christmas Cake is another, and apparently so is baking shortbread Christmas Eve. For the record, we contest that last; we’re pretty sure that’s not so much tradition as an eleventh-hour rush to get the baking done before people arrive and our would-be-good-Anglicans-if-they-went-to-church family have now dubbed it a tradition for happening that way more than twice. We are Anglican, so can’t contest the logic there.

But anyway, here’s a poem that sifts through other minutiae that make up Christmas. We found it while trying to find a bit of poetry we hadn’t completely worn out with use in these Advent blog series we do, and we quite like it. Hopefully you do too.

Crossing the Square
Grace Schulman

Squinting through eye-slits in our balaclavas,
we lurch across Washington Square Park
hunched against the wind, two hooded figures
caught in the monochrome, carrying sacks
of fruit, as we’ve done for years. The frosted, starch-
stiff sycamores make a lean Christmas tree
seem to bulk larger, tilted under the arch
and still lit in three colors. Once in January,
we found a feather here and stuffed the quill
in twigs to recall that jay. The musical fountain
is here, its water gone, a limestone circle
now. Though rap succeeds the bluegrass strains
we’ve played in it, new praise evokes old sounds.
White branches mimic visions of past storms;
some say they’ve heard ghosts moan above this ground,
once a potter’s field. No two stones are the same,
of course: the drums, the tawny pears we hold,
are old masks for new things. Still, in a world
where fretted houses with façades are leveled
for condominiums, not much has altered
here. At least it’s faithful to imagined
views. And, after all, we know the sycamore
will screen the sky in a receding wind.
Now, trekking home through grit that’s mounting higher,
faces upturned to test the whirling snow,
in new masks, we whistle to make breath-clouds form
and disappear, and form again, and O,
my love, there’s sun in the crook of your arm.

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