Every year we put up our tree and Christmas decorations on 1st December. As we pull our, very tatty-looking, tree from its box, which has been repaired so many times with duct tape that you cannot see much cardboard, it has very little allure. Then the magic begins. The Frank Sinatra CD goes on and we all begin singing “Jingle Bells” with enthusiasm, if not talent. There is the inevitable argument about which to put on first, after the lights. I say tinsel, Guido says baubles. James agrees with me, as always, and the tinsel gets wrapped around.
Here is a snippet from “A Whisper on the Mediterranean” about the year when James was tiny and we got the news that our offer for the sailing boat, “Whisper”, had been accepted. That was probably the best Christmas present ever!

We both love Christmas and always put our tree up so early that we have to have a fake one, because the real thing would shed its needles long before the big day. Putting up the decorations this year with James “helping” was however proving to be quite a trial, although James was blissfully unaware of the chaos he was causing and was having the most wonderful time. It was 1st December and we were immersed in tinsel and fairy lights while James helped with the baubles, seeing how high they could bounce (I had grabbed the breakable ones away from him and already stuck them at the very top of the tree!), when the phone rang.
“Can you get it?” Guido and I called simultaneously, before both charging to answer. Guido got there first and I sank down on the settee to get my breath back. All at once my man’s face changed. Every trace of tiredness vanished and he turned to me grinning. The boat was ours.
James howled loudly as he got his foot tangled up in a length of tinsel and fell over. Guido laughed and started singing loudly as he swept up both baby and me and danced us around the room. There was no turning back now. It was time for this landlubber to start learning to sail!”

So, we have the tree covered in silver tinsel and now we start on the baubles. This takes a long time. We have so many and each one reminds me of a special place or person. So many memories caught in these gaudy little gewgaws. In general I prefer quite clean lines and unfussy decor but something happens to my sense of style at Christmas. I keep every scrap of ribbon, every small glitter-painted fir cone to reuse the following year. Those ornaments that have lost their hooks or are a bit broken are used below the tree to make a shiny puddle of colour. Then the kitchen gets decked in the remaining red tinsel, fake flowers, miniature snowmen and angels while the fireplace is transformed by ivy and berries. I am not happy until the house really glows with colour.

Xmas for blog (FILEminimizer)

My personal treasures are a large glass bauble decorated in red lace that James gave me after a school trip to the northern Christmas markets one year. As I find the best place to hang it I remember the anticipation in his face as he waited for me to unwrap the gift he had so carefully chosen. “Isn’t it beautiful Mum?” he had whispered and indeed it is, but not as lovely as his expression was. I also adore the small crib he brought home from nursery school. Inside were 4 clay figures that he had made. The tiny one painted pink and shaped like a star is obviously the naked baby Jesus. A bigger green star with pink blob on top is Joseph and the blue blob Mary. Just who the other misshapen object was meant to be no one remembers but into the crib they all go, with a light positioned strategically above to shine on the little scene.
What is it about Christmas that warms the heart so much? I know there are actually people out there who do not enjoy it, who moan about how tiring it is, how stressful. I cannot understand them at all. I love every second. I choose presents with care and love, not usually expensive things but items that I know will be special for the person I love. I am happiest when I can gather all my family around me and cook an enormous roast for us all.
This year, for the first time ever, my parents will not spend Christmas with me. They cannot travel anymore and we are unable to go to them this time. This is almost heartbreaking for me and things will just not be the same. Happily my brother and his wife will be with Mum and Dad and I will have James back with me after months working in America. In fact, his being home is my present this year!
I do not follow any particular religious doctrine but find the Christmas message, of love, peace and giving to others, very beautiful. If I could ask for a gift for the world it would be that everyone could be pervaded with this same feeling, at least for a short while.
I wish all my friends and readers just that. A Christmas full of happiness, calm and joy. Also, a lot of turkey and Christmas pudding, of course. xxx