The Spirit of Christmas Past

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The Spirit of Christmas Past

CHRISTMAS EVE

The one night of the year when climbing the stairs to bed was accomplished with enthusiasm and without the need of encouragement from parents.  Yet here I was tucked up securely, bursting with excited anticipation but still with not a hint of tiredness.

I could just make out the time on the big old fashioned alarm clock sitting on the bedside table, nine o-clock, an hour when all young children should be fast asleep otherwise we were told: Father Christmas might pass us by.

I lay there wide awake waiting for weariness to overtake my eager body, squeezing my eyelids tight shut and trying to force the images of the events from the magical day ahead from my over active mind.

But try as I might, the pictures that filled my head were of the stocking full of traditional fruit, nuts and sweets, and the bulging pillow case which soon would both appear before dawn as if by magic at the end of my bed.

Muffled voices from my parents in the tiny living room below drifted up to me, and the faint but distinct smell of hot cocoa wafted tantalisingly through my bedroom and only served to emphasise the late hour and the desperate need for sleep to take me.

The feel of soft clean sheets around me, snug and safe under layer upon layer of course heavy blankets – no duvets to keep us snug then – and my mother’s coat spread out on top for good measure.

The added comfort of a rubber hot water bottle at my back and a stone one at my feet, and knowing from experience to be ever so careful not to stub my toe in my tossing and turning efforts to find sleep.

Secure under the heavy blankets and warm and snug except for my nose peeking through the bed covers, and blushing pink in the chill air of the room.

Central heating to us thenwas the open coal fire in the living room, and the black paraffin stove on the landing between the two small bedrooms.

Where was sleep?  Where was tiredness? Was I the only child in the whole world who was still awake?

The glass in the metal framed window was blurred with a filigree pattern of frost inside and out, but strangely in the centre of one pane a round unfrozen aperture, formed as if the Christmas angel had breathed gently on the glass until the thin layer of ice had retreated momentarily.

And through this peep hole perfectly framed, the full Christmas moon shining brilliantly down on the world from a clear star filled sky as surely it should on this special night.  And in my childish imagination how it must surely have been on that very first Christmas Eve two thousand years before, over a small town in a far away land.

As I gazed in childish wonder and these thoughts passed in procession through my young head, I promised myself that I would remember always this perfect moment, through every Christmas and every year of my life yet to come.

Then by stealth, somehow sleep finally came to take me as it always had in years gone by and I fell into a dreamless slumber, unconsciously awaiting the faint sound of tinkling reindeer bells somewhere above the eaves of the roof and the soft tread of fur boots on floor boards.

And so it has been, with the memory of that magical childhood Christmas Eve more than six decades ago, remaining with me undimmed down the years.

Now another Christmas is upon us and the recollection of that night returns to me with untarnished clarity; the enchantment undiminished by the passage of time and my childhood pledge to always remember it fulfilled.

May your Christmas be as full of magic and may you always remember your own special night with joy and hope and love, holding dear the true spirit of Christmas.

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