Merry Christmas! This post is my entry into the Tots100/Little Tikes 12 Days of Christmas competitions. I don't normally do these things, but when I read the topic, I realised that I did have a very special favourite Christmas memory that I wanted to write about...
There is no way to describe my childhood Christmases other than 'magical'. That is truly what they were.
Christmas Eve day always started so slowly, with the last calendar door opened and the last bit of candle burned down, and then the excitement gathered momentum as it drew towards evening and we bundled into the car to make the half hour drive to our rural church. It was always bitterly cold on 24th December in Scotland, and our breath made little clouds in the frosty air as we held hands and walked up the dark road into the packed church. Inside, the warmth of old friends and familiar carols filled our hearts. On the way home, we sang some more, and looked for the lights of Santa's sleigh in the sky.
Christmas morning itself was filled with exclamations of, 'He's been!' and three children scrambling into bleary eyed parents' bed and unpacking stockings that were bulging with interesting little parcels. Afterwards, mum or dad would shuffle through in a dressing gown to put the kettle on while the rest of us happily munched chocolate for breakfast and played with our little toys.
Later there would be piles of presents under the Christmas tree - our family was not a rich one and never got into debt, yet every year the pile of gifts seemed bigger than ever. A family meal would follow - turkey with all the trimmings - and afterwards, an enforced and bracing Christmas walk. The year I got the bright red dolls' pram, I walked out proudly, imaging that everyone in our little village was looking on enviously.
Those were the years that I experienced the magic.
The years that followed, I call the between-magic years. Something changed. Something to do with being a teenager, perhaps. A bit to do with my parents' acrimonious divorce and subsequently someone missing from around the Christmas tree. I don't want to sound ungrateful, because I know that my now-single mother worked incredibly hard to make Christmas for three teenagers, and I did enjoy it, but I remember saying a little discontentedly, 'I don't feel very Christmassy'. Then there was the year that even my mum's Christmas determination couldn't fight the chemo-induced lung infection that took hold of her, and we hung around feeling scared as the cheerful doctor visited on Christmas day to prescribe heavy duty antibiotics and say that he didn't mind visiting a bit, as there was no good Christmas TV on anyway.
I grew to accept that although spending time with family and receiving thoughtful gifts is always very special, that sparkle-feeling is something that is a part of childhood, and that I had left it behind.
As a new mother, those first couple of Christmases were joyful, in a very warm, calm and content kind of way. Holding my baby on Christmas Day, I knew there was nothing in the way of Christmas magic that could ever compete with this deeper magic. I had something far more precious than anything that could be contained by pretty patterned paper.
But then.... then came the Christmas when my son was three years old. That year my wish list was totally empty, as we had been joined by baby Eilidh, my longed-for daughter, the previous January.
Christmas morning came, and when Arran, aware of the proceedings for the first time, squealed excitedly, 'He's been!' something stirred in me.
Pulling the interestingly shaped little parcels out of his stocking, he came to a rectangular one, and opened it. His face when he saw that Santa had really read his letter and brought him a harmonica - the joy in his little face - suddenly filled my whole heart and soul with the biggest sensation of Christmas magic I've ever experienced. Those few minutes are my favourite Christmas memory, and that's when I realised:
That Christmas magic you feel as a child - that's just the first part. When you're done being a magic-receiver, it doesn't mean that the Christmas magic is over, it means that it's time to switch teams and that you're ready to become a magic-maker.
I feel every little bit of excitement in my children's voices, faces and eyes and, through them, I am blessed to experience that anticipation and wonder all over again, as our home fills with the Christmas magic that I help to create for them.