Magic remembered

Christmas 2014 005_FotoSketcher

Graeme Cumming started me thinking with his article about the Christmas spirit. I can recall a lot of my childhood Christmas gifts, including the four foot golly my mother bought me when I was fourteen. I never knew why, just that it was wholly inappropriate on every possible level… I remember the Britain’s zoo and its garden … and the great big board my grandfather made for me to lay it out, complete with plaster mountains, that doubled as a battle ground for the knights. A prophetic mix. But the ones that ‘meant’ Christmas were the family traditions of handknitted jumpers, hand embroidered handkies, tins of toffee (the ones that came with a hammer) and the yearly diary with its key.

It was the little things that have stuck and resurface first when I think back. With my own children it is the family gifts that stand out… the ones we bought so that we could all play together. Like the snooker table. Christmas always started with the carols in the market square, organised by the local Rotary Club. Townspeople gathered with their children to sing in an atmosphere of friendliness so palpable it typified the Christmas spirit and always brought tears to my eyes. Mince pies, soup and mulled wine were shared and Santa arrived on his sleigh with little gifts for every single child and a chance to tell him their Christmas wish.

I never wrote a Christmas list… after all, it shouldn’t be up to the recipient to choose, but the giver… and anyway, I always liked surprises. Although I have no doubt at all there were many things I desperately hoped for but didn’t get, I don’t remember either them or disappointment. That in itself says a good deal…both about the inherent lessons of children not getting everything they want, but also about what it is that sticks in the memory.

What I do remember is visiting the grandparents and collecting great grandma before we gathered for lunch. The feeling of magic and anticipation, the corny jokes in crackers that we all read out anyway and memories shared of childhoods and Christmases older than mine.

I remember too the feeling of going Christmas shopping with carefully hoarded (and usually supplemented) pocket money, in darkened streets with lights that seemed magical to young eyes. The living nativity under the portico of the Town Hall, Christmas carols in every shop, the market dripping holly and mistletoe and smelling of pine… and a feeling of friendly excitement everywhere.

Not so now when Christmas starts midway through the year in the shops, when people are stressed by the credit still hanging over them from the Christmas before and decision makers are so fearful of being seen as politically incorrect that the traditional Christmas has almost disappeared from our towns.

Even with the tensions, the commercialism, the heavy handed bullying of advertisements, I don’t think the spirit of Christmas can be wholly undone, even by the PC brigade. Christians will still celebrate the birth of Jesus, for pagans it is an older rite, for many, regardless of faith, it is a time for the gathering of families and friends; and for those who keep Christmas whatever their reason, at its heart is always an underlying vision of shared joy and peace.

There will always be the Christmas argument between Great Aunt Maud and Uncle Harry… or whichever faction decides to glare over the turkey. There will always be the child who prefers to play in the box rather than with its contents. And it will always be the little things, the human things, that remain in memory. Or at least, that is my wish for Christmas.

About Sue Vincent

Sue Vincent is a Yorkshire-born writer and one of the Directors of The Silent Eye, a modern Mystery School. She writes alone and with Stuart France, exploring ancient myths, the mysterious landscape of Albion and the inner journey of the soul. Find out more at France and Vincent. She is owned by a small dog who also blogs. Follow her at and on Twitter @SCVincent. Find her books on Goodreads and follow her on Amazon worldwide to find out about new releases and offers. Email:
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24 Responses to Magic remembered

  1. And those are the Christmases that I envied as a girl who didn’t have Christmas. And the big sparkly tree.


  2. Eliza Waters says:

    It’s the excitement of children that I love best about Christmas. They make it truly magical!


  3. Your wish is a mighty fine wish.


  4. reocochran says:

    The four foot golly is mysterious to me, Sue. The family memories and lovely town ones really made this a special Christmas spirit post, Sue.


  5. Reblogged this on graemecummingdotnet and commented:
    Having started the ball rolling by the sound of it, I was delighted to read this post from Sue Vincent. Maybe it will trigger some memories for you too. I certainly hope so…


  6. Mary Smith says:

    Oh, yes, I remember the boxed embroidered handkerchiefs from various aunts. And bath cubes. We did make wish lists but they were short (and looking back, the items on them were probably guided by what the parents had already hidden away) and once written we let them fly up the chimney. We believed totally in this magic. On Christmas morning, my sister and I climbed into mum and dad’s bed. Dad went to make coffee for mum and brought it to her, along with our stockings, which we’d hung up the night before at the same time as we put out shortbread and milk for Santa. At the bottom of our stocking was always an apple, a tangerine and a sixpence wrapped in Christmas paper. The main present opening was only done AFTER breakfast, by which time our excitement was at fever pitch. If there were books for me I was happy.
    Boxing Day was thank you letter writing day to all the aunts, uncles, grandparents…


  7. Aquileana says:

    …I never wrote a Christmas list… after all, it shouldn’t be up to the recipient to choose, but the giver… and anyway, I always liked surprises….

    Well I could relate with that paragraph as well..
    I enjoyed reading your memories and remembrances…
    Furthermore, your thoughts with regard to our consumerist Christmas nowadays are certainly accurate… you made me think about Santa Claus and original byproduct cretaed by the Coca Cola Company…. well, I think that´s an interesting precedent, so as to speak…
    Thanks for dropping by my blog… all my best wishes. Aquileana ⭐ .


  8. A lovely wish is yours, Sue. All that I remember about Christmas has nothing to do with the gifts. Interesting. 🎅


  9. noelleg44 says:

    What wonderful memories, Sue. I don’t remember making a Christmas list after reached age 1 or so., just waited for surprises. We always had Christmas at my grandmother’s house, two states away. Some of the best memories are of when we were picked up by my parents after school in a car filled with luggage and Christmas presents, and sang Christmas carols for hours on our way.
    I think the spirit of Christmas will never by tamped out by commercialism and the politics of political correctness in the hearts of true Christians. I have to ask – what’s a golly?


    • Sue Vincent says:

      It is those family times and human moments that make the best memories, isn’t it?
      The golly is a controversial toy, leftover from Victorian books/


      • noelleg44 says:

        I am constantly learning stuff from you! I’m afraid the golly would never be sold here in the US because it would be considered politically incorrect, a microaggression, racist, and would require a “safe space” for people to recover from having seen it!


        • Sue Vincent says:

          Same here, these days and the toy has caused a lot of grief over the past few decades…that’s why I could never understand the gift… though it originated from Florence Kate Upton, born in New York to English parents who brought them to popularity with her illustrated book in 1895.

          Liked by 1 person

  10. Great remembrance piece, Sue. I remember that if my dad was scheduled to work on Christmas Day (fire department), we’d all get up about 4 am so he could watch me opden my gifts before he went to work. 😀 — Suzanne


    • Sue Vincent says:

      We all used to get up around that time anyway… like it or not, we’d be wide awake 🙂 When my sons were younger they took to sleeping in… I’d be stomping around the house to try and wake them by six 🙂


  11. Love it, and although we live across the pond the feeling of the memories are the same. Wonderful warm memory that I can relate to with joy.


  12. Helen Jones says:

    This is a lovely post, Sue, and exactly what I remember of Christmas as well. Family, lights and coming together as a community. I don’t really remember any gifts specifically – rather the sense of magic and anticipation on Christmas morning. As you say, it is an older festival than its Christian roots, and I now celebrate it as a time of light, love and peace, hope for the year ahead.


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