There are a large number of posts and articles circulating at this time of year, with gift guides for this, that, and the other person in your life. This is not one of those posts. Today we look at a different kind of giving: giving to those who actually need it.
Some traditions say the 12 Days of Christmas are those from the 25th of December to the 5th of January; others say the 26th of December to the 6th of January – aka Epiphany or Twelfth Night. You can choose either, or you can pretend to be a baker and have your “12” Days run from the 25th to the 6th.
Since this coming Sunday marks the beginning of Advent, the fast that leads up to the feast of Christmas, this post could be construed as a little premature. But it never hurts to have time to mull over things. These days the “fast” of Advent seems to be more about the speed of the frenziedly busy days whizzing by, rather than abstaining from something.
(You’ve probably heard of the tradition of giving something up for Lent; perhaps we could consider choosing the least life-giving/most soul-destroying part of the December hustle and bustle and announce to the world that we have given it up for Advent.)
But back to the 12 Days of Christmas Giving. The idea is that for each day, one chooses a charity to make a donation to. You might have favourite charities all lined up, or you might want to choose a number of charities working in an area you are passionate about. Or – and this is my personal favourite – you could actually choose Christmas-themed charities.
Humility tends to be eyed askance these days, given a certain degree of lip service but little enthusiasm. It seems like the kind of virtue other people might want us to have, for their benefit rather than ours.
But there are a great many misunderstandings about humility.
Humility is not humiliation. Humility is something you choose for yourself; humiliation is something others force on you.
Humility is not hypocrisy. The reason why it has that reputation is due to the aforementioned lip service. Humble people don’t need to tell you they are.
Humility isn’t grovelling upsuckery, a pretence carried out to manipulate others into doing what you want. (Looking at you, Uriah Heep.)
Humility isn’t even running yourself down. That is more accurately known as false humility. False because it isn’t what you really think, and false because it isn’t really humility, either.
The French adjective biscornu means wonky, skewed, irregular, or – if taken literally – twice-horned. The English adjective biscornu doesn’t exist, because English is totally unreliable in its use of the vocabulary it has filched from other languages. Like an overconfident teenager with an unfamiliar appliance, we are certain we can get it to work somehow, without bothering to listen to the instructions from those who’ve been using it longer.
English uses biscornu as a noun, meaning a small pincushion made from two squares of material – or, according to Wikipedia, “the boundary of a unique convex polyhedron….a flattened square antiprism”. (And if you understand that, I’m very happy for you.)
They’re usually made from Aida cloth or embroidery linen, with a counted-thread design, but it turns out you can make them from two squares of ordinary cloth. This is a very useful time to employ what quilters call English Paper Piecing.