The magic of Christmas
I saw a quote just the other day which made me think, “The magic of Christmas that you remember from your childhood was because you had a mother who loved you”. While I realize that this may not be true for some people, it made me stop & pause.
I do believe that this was true for myself & my brothers, when we were very young my mother was a wonderful caregiver, it was not until some years later that I believe she sunk into a deep depression, which all those years ago was not treated in the same way it would be today.
However, during those early childhood years although we were not well off, she & my dad did their best to give us a good life & make the most of the season. We grew excited as December approached, advent calendars were positioned carefully on top of the old piano in the living room, activities at school kept us busy with nativity plays & “helping” mum with the pre-Christmas baking. Mince pies, sausage rolls, small finger food, buying & putting out the Christmas crackers on the table next to the tree. Christmas parties & a trip to London on the train to see the lights & to visit Father Christmas at one of the big department stores, always a long line of excited but nervous children ready to ask for a special toy or a miracle.
The three of us were so excited when the day to finally get our tree arrived, my dad refused to bring home a tree any earlier than December 21st, sometimes even a day or two later, as you can imagine, by that time we were almost bursting with excitement. We would pull back the curtains to peep out of the window to check if Dad was home yet, when finally, he arrived with our Christmas tree on top of the car we were jumping up & down shrieking with delight, desperate to be the first to help with the decorating. (This may be why I prefer to get our tree the first weekend in December, making the season of lights last as long as possible)
Probably to keep his sanity Dad would take the tree inside & position it near the window where the sparkling lights could be seen from outside. The door to the living room would be closed until the tree was up & the lights were hung & plugged in, which seemed as if it took an eternity.
Meanwhile my mum would give us an early supper, doing her best to distract us from our excitement. There would be the inevitable fight or two between three tired children, bath time followed, then dressed in our pajamas we were finally allowed into the room.
I can still remember running up to the tree & gazing up at it with awe, how beautiful it was, I could almost taste the magic of the season as I gazed into the dark green branches with tiny colored lights that seemed to glimmer in the darkness. I can remember lying on my back & shuffling my body underneath the tree as far as I could get, the room would be dark apart from the tree lights, I lay there for what seemed like ages staring up through the branches, every fiber of my being believing in the magic of the season.
The three of us were allowed to help with the decorating, carefully hanging the glass baubles onto the lower branches (there were no plastic ornaments in those days) my parents reaching the higher branches, being the girl, I got to put the angel on the top of the tree, I loved her & wished I was as pretty with her delicate silvery wings & long glittery gown. My dad would lift me up as high as he could reach as I unceremoniously balanced the angel on the treetop. When I saw her again the next day she would be perfectly positioned, apparently, she had flown down in the night to do her magic & flown back to a perfectly straight position.
Christmas Eve was a day full of excitement, in the afternoon we would go to the early nativity service held especially for young families. The children were allowed to gather in close to look at the baby Jesus in the manger, the scene was lit from behind & to a child’s eyes it really did look magical, as we all sang “Away in a Manger” together I am sure we all believed that the little scene was real & could come to life at any moment. How much simpler life would be if we could keep the awe & wonder of a child.
Mince pies would be served in the church hall afterwards, tea or coffee for the adults & juice for the children, we had to be on our best behavior to ensure that Father Christmas would still visit us later that night & fill our stockings.
Later that evening, all bathed & ready for bed we would kneel & say our prayers before getting into bed, hoping that we had been good enough over the past year to pass the test & to not get coal in our stocking, that was for those children who had been very bad. I knew I had been naughty many times but surely not bad enough to get coal in my stocking? We were tucked in, our stockings laid out at the end of the bed & tried to both sleep & stay awake at the same time. Knowing that if we woke early, which was a given we were allowed to open our stockings before waking up our parents & could go into each other’s rooms but were not allowed downstairs until they were both up. I would force myself to stay awake as long as possible, hoping to catch a glimpse of Santa or his reindeer as they did their rounds.
Needless to say, we must have woken before dawn, excited whispers & muffled shrieks of joy as we opened our wrapped gifts, always a clementine & a sugar mouse at the bottom of the stocking, the healthy & not so healthy. I doubt our parents got much of a lie in as we all bundled downstairs at some point a few hours later & were allowed into the living room, underneath the tree were small piles of gifts from our grandparents & other relatives. Father Christmas filled the stocking, but the adults had worked hard to pay for under the tree gifts.
These are just a few of my magical memories from Christmases past.
The photo below shows one of the few wooden ornaments that remain from those days, I think they were hand painted & came from Scandinavia, I still have five or six of them. My mum always liked to have something unique, I am glad that somehow, they survived our various moves & continue to bring back such happy memories when I unpack them each year.
The picture below is of one of just a few surviving ornaments from my childhood days, a hand painted wooden bird from Scandinavia, my mother always liked to have something different from what was available in the local stores, they certainly are pretty & bring back happy memories when I unpack them each holiday season.
© Rachel Baer