Francesca's Party
Why I Love Christmas by Patricia Scanlan
2014/11/10  |  By:   |  Features  |  

I love Christmas. For me it’s always been a time for family, relaxation and reading and if I could go back and live a part of my childhood again I’d choose Christmas time.

Pat Scan

I’ve got four brothers and a sister and my parents made Christmas the most magical time for us. By Christmas Eve our excitement knew no bounds as we sat around the kitchen table with the fire roaring. All ears would be tuned to the big old wireless as Santa’s elf read out letters from children around the country while my mother made the stuffing for the turkey. We’d listen with mounting excitement as he led us to the countdown to Santa’s departure. When the magic words ‘He’s off,’ came it was time for baths, tea and bed. We’d troop upstairs in a tizzy of anticipation to hang up our Christmas stockings.

‘Where is he now, Daddy?’ one of us would ask.

‘Greenland, I’d say – into bed now, quick,’ my Dad would urge. I still remember the sight of those limp black stockings dangling from the bedposts as we clambered into our beds.

‘Now where is he, Daddy?’ we’d ask again when we were eventually tucked in and ready for lights out.

‘Heading for Iceland – now go to sleep, he’ll be here soon.’ Dad would make sure the socks were hung securely, ready for the goodies to come, before switching off the lights.

Giddy speculation would issue forth between the bedrooms while downstairs mouth-watering smells wafted from the kitchen. Then, exhausted from excitement, we’d drift off to sleep, half-fearful of waking and finding Santa in the room, or of hearing reindeer hooves on the roof.

I can’t describe to you the heart-in-mouth experience of waking in the dark to feel a heavy weight on your feet. Had Santa come? you’d wonder and give an experimental wiggle of toes. Yes, definitely something heavy there. Happiness, exhilaration and relief that I’d had been good enough to get a present from Santa would envelop me as I pulled open my bulging stocking to get to the small round tin of toffees I knew would be there. And always among those much-desired gifts there would be a Christmas Annual -The Bunty or Judy for me, The Dandy, Hotspur, Victor and Beano for the boys – and a book. What joy! We’d plonk in front of the fire, weary and full after the excitement of the day and the Christmas dinner, and read our Annuals under the lights of the tree with the flames of the fire flickering and dancing along the walls as dusk settled.

On St Steven’s Day my reading began in earnest. We always got one of the classics. Little Women, What Katy Did, Anne of Green Gables, Wuthering Heights, Heidi, were Christmas presents I received as a child. My brothers got adventure stories that I too loved to read: Treasure Island, The Chronicles of Narnia, Black Beauty, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.  I still have those much- -read, much-loved books.

So for me, all these years later, Christmas is still my favourite time for reading.  For the Twelve Days of Christmas, I am guilt-free about sticking my nose in a book. The laptop is put away. My own characters are put into hibernation and under the glowing lights of the tree, by the fire, with wine and chocs to hand, I read other author’s creations and immerse myself in their worlds. Bliss!

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