I find myself getting very nostalgic around this time of year. I have thirty years of memories built up. (I’m knocking off the first two years because try as I might, there are just no memory cells age 0-2). And almost all, are lovely.
The first memory I have from Christmas is the year I got a rocking donkey. Not a rocking horse, a rocking donkey. He had long floppy ears and grey scraggly fur just like the real animal. I kept him for years, even pretending to chase him over jumps and long distance hurdle events till about the age of 11.
I knew enough about Santa Claus to know he was a rather large man with a white beard and you weren’t supposed to see him. If he saw you and you were awake, it could mean you wouldn’t get any toys.
“Please Mam, please Dad, please come down with me.”
“Seriously,” my parents muttered from their darkened, no morning light yet, bedroom. “Santa Claus is not there.”
“But how to you KNOW?” I cried.
And so, like the good parents they were, they got up and took me by the hand and brought me into our 1985 sitting-room. I peered round the door, my head coming up to just below the door handle and funnily enough, they were right; the man himself was not there!
In his place, I found the rocking donkey. I was three. He was spanking new. And that was my first Christmas memory.
Noël, aged four was very different. We’d moved from our small terraced house to a tiny granny flat, where we awaited the making safe of our brand new house we were building. My parents and my brother and I all shared a small room, but Santa knew where to find us. He delivered a My Little Pony and Tiny Tears. A day after Christmas my brother pulled the leg off Tiny Tears and forever more she was a Hopalong Cassidy. Of course, there more more tiny tears, this time from me.
Aged five, Santa Claus attempted to introduce a doll. I was having none of it. She stayed in her box, with her blonde bob while I tried to read the books he’d brought. I picked stingy pine needles out of my feet and mother decided that was the last year we’d have a real Christmas tree. Next year, came the non-deciduous type – of the shop variety.
At six, Sylanvian families appeared and my childhood was changed forever more. Christmas’ were pretty predictable after that.
The next time something notable happened at Christmas was the year I started working in a music shop. Here, I found Christmas cheer. Bustle and business, hard work and happiness. Everyone was in good form and I loved meeting all the festive shoppers and eating all the chocolates they dropped in.
After the age of 16, when the fuzzy hair had been sorted out thanks to Santa’s gift of hair straightners Christmas became synonymous with pubs and drink and good craic. There was nothing as warm or as inviting as an Irish pub packed with Guinness riddled revellers. Stephen’s day took on a whole different meaning as Stephen’s night, when I got pulled into a head lock between a group of boy and girl friends to sing AND THE BELLS WERE RINGING OUT…. FOR CHRISTMAS DAAAAAAYYYYYYY.
The first year I and my now husband were going out, he rocked up on Christmas eve with a rake of presents, all for me. There were books and CDs and jackets and boots – I felt spoilt rotten. We have continued this tradition of opening our presents on Christmas eve and two years ago, I gave him the best surprise Christmas present in all the years we’ve been going out, right before our Christmas wedding.
Here are my jumble of memories from Christmas’ past. What would yours be?
- Being babysat by my Granny, as she sat on a hard wooden chair in the kitchen watching back to back Daniel O’Donnell concerts. We were so bored, we asked to go to bed.
- Seeing my mother give my father a wrapped CD for Christmas. This was when everyone only had tapes. ‘You got a CD, by mistake,’ he said, shaking his head in disappointment. Mother produced the massive box with the ghetto blaster in it and said, ‘now you can play it on that’. Oh the joys.
- Watching my brother’s campaign to get past my mother’s decision to lock the sitting room door, due to our far too early rising of Christmas mornings past. (The record was 2.30am) He took every copy of the key he could find and buried them down the garden. On that Christmas morning he wandered in and swiped the key from my parent’s locker and opened the door anyway. No need for the spade that Christmas.
- The smell of cooking turkey on Christmas eve. My mother always cooked the turkey the night before and the smell would permeate the house as we wrapped final presents and watched telly by the fire.
- Hearing my gran-uncle sing O Holy Night at Christmas mass and having the hairs stand up on my neck. It is to this day, my favourite hymn.
- Buying my Dad a 50p aftershave in a pound shop when I was seven and asking him why he wasn’t wearing it, for all the days after Christmas.
- The years when it was cool to wear dangly sparkly Christmas earrings with every outfit
- The year I bought my boyfriend (now husband) a €400 video camera AFTER I had all his Christmas presents in the bag. I just wanted to add a little something. Two words. Celtic. Tiger.
And that’s my list folks. I’d love to hear what Christmas means to you.