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For me Christmas is a time of celebration and recollection, while also it is about making new memories to cherish and gladden my heart on dark days.
Our Christmas starts with Advent and the lighting of the 1st Advent Candle on the last Sunday of November. That was also Pudding day in our house when after Sunday dinner the table was cleared and the process began. That honour has now passed to the next generation and I live on the memory and magic of stirring and wishing. When my BFF (Best Friend Forever) Deirdre Sullivan sent me a photo of her stirring her pudding mix in a baby bath with the caption “that time of year again” and a comment saying “OMG are you feeding the 5000”, I was pleased to be getting a gift of our pudding.
First task is to get the Christmas cards and stamps. It no longer rankles with me when the girl in the Post office says “sorry did you say 4 books of stamps and how many for abroad”, I just smile and repeat my request. We added a couple of new addresses to our list this year with Eoghan my eldest grandson living in Bruges and a brother-in-law living in Washington DC. The challenge was adding the EirCodes to the Irish addresses, so I diligently searched https://finder.eircode.ie/#/ . I felt like a detective searching, particularly the country addresses where their address was just a village and county. Pinpointing the house from an aerial map made me realise the importance of individual eircodes especially for the emergency services.
The doors of our Advent Calendar begin the countdown; each door brings you a step nearer to the Nativity. Day 5’s quote said “The Angel of the Lord appeared unto Joseph” Matthew 1:20 so I picked up the phone and asked Joseph, my one and only brother, what did he say? Upon which Joseph replied that he was told not to be afraid. I thought that our Joseph was always fearless, we availed of the opportunity to have a long conversation until his young granddaughter Hazel began calling for attention from her crib.
I had an introduction to An Post’s Chief Elves Ruth and Feargal via grandson Dylan sending his Santa letter to our house so that we would forward it to Santa Claus, North Pole. It is very important to 5 year old Dylan that there will be no mix up. The letter arrived with an accompanying note from my daughter it went “It is not long to go before Dylan and I will be with you and Dad. This is just to forward you Dylan’s letter to Santa. He’s in the bath now (Dylan not Santa Claus)”. How could you not smile!!!
I believe every moment we spend with family is special. Sometimes there are extra special moments, like on Saturday when I received a What’s App photo message of “Bernie Co Pilot” and there was my Aunt Bernie pictured with the Aer Lingus pilot who had just landed a flight from Birmingham in Dublin. I knew then that I was in for a treat, a couple of hours spent in the company of my aunt. Talking with Bernie will take you on a saunter through the streets of Dublin pausing here and there to take a glimpse behind a hall door or a peep through net curtains. The Viking street names of Arbour Hill, Sitric, Olaf, Malachi, Norseman and Harold slip off her tongue joined by Chicken Lane (who needs imagination) then round by the Brunner to Georges Hill School, next Arran Quay and across Grattan/Capel Street Bridge to Dollards, we pause here because this is where she spent many of her early working years. Oh so much information gained while chatting and laughing with Aunt Bernie and my cousins Anthony, Pauline and Rosaleen. The evening was rounded off by a fine rendition of the Dublin Saunter, indeed there really was magic in the air.
There are some days yet to go before Christmas and the Birth of Jesus, we will continue to open the doors of the Advent calendar, delight as the Christmas Cards drop through the letter box, buy the turkey and ham, make sure we have the Brussels sprouts, keep the candle lighting in the window and tidy away those bags of wool and papers I have a habit of accumulating.
We’ll pay a visit to town and attend the lunchtime sing-a-long in the GPO; we’ll admire the Christmas lights and maybe pay a visit to the Little Museum of Dublin. As darkness falls on Dublin I know we’ll see people settling down to sleep in doorways and archways, some we might recognise and wish we could help. These are the times that I feel so futile, so helpless for I know not what to do save say hello and offer up a heartfelt prayer that there will be a bed for them soon.
As I look up at the night sky and the stars I think about all I have to be thankful for, in particular I thank God for my family who accept me as I am.
I find great inspiration in the words of John O’Donohue and I use his words to portray my hope for my family, friends and neighbours in 2017:
“May dawn find you awake and alert,
approaching your new day with dreams, possibilities and promises;
May evening find you gracious and fulfilled;
May you go into the night blessed, sheltered and protected;
May your soul calm, console and renew you.”
Mgm. December 2016