Once, many hundreds of years ago, I worked in a small seaside hotel in Norfolk. I was a silver service waitress that drew a short straw and had to work on Christmas Day. Actually, it was rather nice serving lots of jolly people who filled the dining room with fun and laughter and my colleagues and I bustled around spreading seasonal magic with our patrons, and each other. It didn’t feel that Christmassy to me though. Then, there was a serendipitous moment when all of us waiting staff were in the kitchen, collecting orders, and from the radio came the opening bars of A Spaceman Came Travelling by Chris de Burgh. Without a word to each other, we all stopped and listened. To this day, those few minutes of 1982 were my Christmas and every time I hear that song, I’m transported back to that tiny island of time. But, much as I love that song, and Slade’s timeless anthem to Christmas, there is one song that I love above all others. Jona Lewie’s Stop the Cavalry runs a close second, and doesn’t it say a lot about me that both of my favourite Christmas songs are actually protest songs? Yes, my all-time top seasonal song is I Believe in Father Christmas. I was ten when this was a hit, too young you’d think to understand why Greg Lake was sitting in a desert strumming his guitar, but I wasn’t. I got it and it
chimed with something deep inside.
My family skip this song on the Chrimbo CD because it’s a bit of a dirge as far as they’re concerned but my sister knows. She understands, and when the kids are absent, she’ll put it on and whack the volume up. She feels the same way I do – and yet. And yet…
Do you remember being little? Do you remember when the nights were full of magic because Father Christmas was making his final preparations? The air positively sparked with magic – then we grew up. For many, becoming parents and recreating that magic for our offspring is how we get it all back. But, I am not a parent, I’m an auntie. I have stood out on the back doorstep, smoking my last cigarette before bed and looking up at the night sky. There’s very little light pollution here. The stars are bright and twinkly above me, and I have tried to reach out with my mind and feel the specialness of this time of year but all I come up against is the sense that the world doesn’t care. I mean the spinning rock on which we live, not the people. The flashing lights adorning the village high street, the landing lights in the homes of small children, too afraid to sleep in the dark, have a magic of their own but, to me, it’s not enough. Then, last night, I realised something. The magic of Christmas is inside. It’s inside my house – and the houses of every other family. In my house, it stems from my sister. She will not succumb to my bah humbug. She will not let Father Christmas fade away into the past, even though her children are old enough to doubt. She loves Christmas and because of this, Christmas is magic. It has nothing to do with religion. It has nothing to do with anyone or anything other than her. She works hard to share her vision, and we do. We bathe in her love and she has enough to share with those outside of her family. If you live near her, if you are alone and lonely, she will know. And she will invite you share what we have. That is Christmas in our house. That is the magic of Christmas, as far as I’m concerned. As Greg Lake said, the Christmas we get, we deserve. I agree. Thanks to my little sister, I have had my best Christmas ever, and it’s because she deserves the very best of all Christmases.
PS. I got her the chainsaw she’s always wanted. She got me… an electric sander! Cool!