One thing makes my Christmas most magic

The best Christmas ever? Ah, well that depends on how many you’ve seen.

Was it the one where I got the beautiful, longed-for doll with the china head? Probably not because before the day was out I’d dropped it and the head smashed.

Shirley Tart

The day, which started so happily, ended on the lowest note. I wasn’t in trouble but I was broken-hearted.

Could the best Christmas be the one when we were snowed in at our remote, rural home? With no street lights to pollute, the night sky was awesome. My dad knew the constellations so well and I remember him identifying them (again) beyond gently falling snowflakes as Christmas supper simmered indoors.

In my early grammar school days, two very special memories stand out in one year. I was chosen to read a lesson at the school carol service in the church up the valley to which we walked briskly with deep breaths and long strides. And inside the church sat my mother. She was expecting my youngest sister but made the significant journey, tackling the steep hill from the bus stop without complaint.

Secondly, we had a school Christmas dance evening and gave small gifts to favourite friends and all promised each other not to open them before Christmas Day. The pleasure of the parcels after stockings had been raided and chocolates eaten before breakfast, was multiplied by fond notes looking forward to us meeting again in the new year. It stirs a little frisson of happy memories even now.

Later, there was the boyfriend who came to lunch on the big day, a sure sign of a real, grown-up courtship. He later joined the Army because he wanted to ‘go out seriously’ and I wasn’t ready for that. Goodness, I had barely left school for a cub reporter’s job.

Great family and friends Christmases were, and still are, the best.

In my parents’ later years, I hosted some memorable ones, following in their warm and generous footsteps, while the Christmas night I spent on Samaritan duty was sobering.

Every year there are cribs and carols, special friends, shared lives, dodgy gifts, old films, memories of yesterday . . . so many blessings. But the magic of midnight in church, a baby and a promise wraps up Christmas for me. And there my answer lies.