How on earth does one begin to encompass Christmas memories?
Mine are like a huge tapestry; threads of different colours crossing and criss-crossing each other in a jumble which turns into a glorious picture when you stand far enough away......but because these are my memories, I can't show you the big picture, just some of the gossamer threads of my past.
As a small child, aged about seven, I suppose, I remember drowsing peacefully in my dark bedroom, half awake and wondering what the time was. Would I get Christmas presents ?
Had I been good enough ? Like in most families of my generation, the parents kept the worst of the over-excited children's excesses in check by stern warnings that Father Christmas would not come to badly behaved children who were disobedient or cheeky.......
I heard a step on the staircase, and huddled under the blankets, pretending to be deeply asleep for fear that Father Christmas would find me awake and not leave anything at all ! I felt the thwump of something heavy landing on the blankets perilously close to my feet, and managed to stay still. As I heard the footsteps retreating, I opened my eyes a tiny fraction and saw that the gift bringer had been my mother, and not the elusive Father Christmas.
Was I disappointed ? Not in the slightest. For the "thwump" had been a Christmas stocking, filled with goodies, which by tradition I was allowed to explore as soon as I was awake on Christmas morning as long as I did not disturb the rest of the family.....
Right at the top of the stocking was a big, beautiful rag doll, with embroidered blue eyes and multicoloured yarn hair. She was wonderful, wearing a long delicate flower-print dress and bloomers, and it was love at first sight.I gathered her into my arms with a hugely contented sigh, pulled the blankets around my shoulders and went straight back to sleep without bothering to touch a single thing more until the light was dawning and my mother came into my room to wake me up, smiling when she saw the doll already in my arms.
Pregnant with my first child, on Christmas Day 1985, my then husband and I went to early morning service at our Church at 8am. It was a cold and crisp morning, which made a change from the normal heavy rain we get at this time of year here in South Wales. There were a handful of families with children at the service amidst the larger number of older couples and elderly folk, and the little ones were clutching tightly to presents which they couldn't bear to leave at home even for the half hour long service.
Early pregnancy sickness had worn off and I was starting to feel really well again, and thoroughly enjoying the pregnancy. I sang the hymns and carols with gusto, only to fall silent with wonder as I felt an unmistakable flutter, like that of a butterfly held within a cupped hand, several times in quick succession, which was the first movements of my unborn oldest child. And that was undoubtedly the most wonderful Christmas present I ever had.