As a child I loved Christmas and the excitement of Santa and the surprises he brought. I loved decorating the house with holly and setting up the crib. We had no tree then, not until later years when it became almost obligatory. The crib always held a great fascination for me. Ours was a very simple one made by my father with a piece of plywood curved into a semi-circle and attached to a timber base. We covered the floor of it with synthetic straw and lovingly laid the figures, made by John Riordan from Clounleharde clay, into it. We covered the roof with holly and it looked like a real cave to match the story of Christmas which we had learned at school. To this day I love to sit and ponder the mystery of it all.
During my late teen years, and into my twenties, Christmas was not so exciting. I worked in Dublin at the time and it was always a rush home on Christmas Eve, do some preparations for the next day, no Santa to look forward to, just sit around reading or doing jig-saws and after a few days back on the train to the city again to face another year’s work. It was all a very boring time.
But, soon the wheel turns full circle and before long I am married and have my own children, with all the buzz and excitement which that brings. Apart from odd moments of frustration it was a lovely time. Even at four o’clock on a Christmas morning I could manage a smile when I saw my children’s eyes alive with the magic of Santa Claus. I was aware that it is only for a short few years and too soon Christmas would be quiet once more and so it was.
But now life has moved on again and I am mesmerized by the excitement in grandchildren’s eyes. True, the presents change and get more elaborate with each generation; thus the presents Santa brings now are of no comparison to those we got when we were young but the excitement stays the same.
Christmas cards are another lovely part of Christmas but again with changing times emails and Facebook messages have taken the place of cards at times. Whichever way one makes contact is good. We all make an effort to renew friendship with absent friends and faraway relations at this time. The anticipation of all the replies keeps me watching for the green van every day and is an exciting lead-up to the big day. Some are only once a year letter writers, but it is enough to keep the friendship going.
Sadly every year there is somebody who has passed on and who will be missed most at Christmas. I missed my Aunt Mary and my mother-in-law Bridie when they died some years ago. Auntie Mary always tried to make Christmas special for us when we were children. My mother-in-law Bridie used to love the season and put all her energies into the preparations. Cakes and puddings were made months in advance, gifts were bought and wrapped for each grandchild, whose numbers were growing every year. The shopping list would have catered for a small hotel, but she dare not risk not having enough in case of unforeseen emergencies. I will always remember her with affection. She was a woman with a big, generous heart. It was she who made me realise the importance of a mother in the home. A mother, I learned, has a binding effect on a family. She is the thread which holds everything securely together. All this was made clear to me as I saw how she radiated love to all the family members, including myself, I’m pleased to say. She taught me the importance of love and surely that is the greatest gift of all.
But the new generation of grandchildren will occupy our minds. Babies have the same magic effect as mothers. They are the means of uniting all members together and dish out smiles and hugs to all who enter – in the true spirit of Christmas.
Wishing all readers a very happy Christmas and Peaceful New Year.