I love the magic of Christmas. But like anything magical it’s impossible to predict or prescribe. We can decorate the house and garden with glittery ornaments and twinkling lights but we can’t make the magic appear. Yet sometime during the heady season of panic, when there is more to do than there are hours in the day, there’s a special moment when something seen or said or done ignites the wonder, the magic, of Christmas.
Of course expectations are high. Christmas is formed through family traditions, heavily seasoned with memories and nostalgia. No wonder the magic is elusive. And it’s sparked by something different every year, despite the careful rituals, tangled inside the busy bustle obligatory to the season, between shopping and wrapping presents and writing cards and making lists and checking them twice.
It’s also my experience that magic manifests itself through means which might, to others, appear mundane; a scene in a movie not seen for years; a forgotten piece of music; words from a song; an unexpected phone call, or letter, from a friend. If I could explain what triggered the magic I might know how to attract it. All I know is that something wonderful happens when the sparkle of magic ignites into Christmas.
My first experience of spine-tingling magic happened when I made my debut in pantomime. At the age of eight I was memorably cast as a Christmas pudding. All the role required was to walk on stage as a big, round pudding then tug a cord which allowed the top to open and reveal the pudding had been magically transformed into a little girl. I’m not sure how the cord got knotted, it always ran smoothly during rehearsals, but I wriggled and shook until I managed to squeeze out through the bottom, to tumultuous applause (and my one and only encore).
Later, as an apathetic art student, it was ‘cool’ to deny the sense of anticipation as the final week of winter term exploded into ‘Xmas’ parties. But I remember walking home by moonlight on Christmas Eve, in the wee small hours, and it began to snow for the first time in years. Soon big, white flakes lay thick on the ground and silhouetted against a window I caught sight of a small child jumping up and down with sheer delight. In that moment I realised it doesn’t matter what or where or when or how, you just have to believe, whether you are eight or eighty.
I hope the magic of Christmas stays with me forever. I accept remembrance of past happiness weighs heavily upon the present, and the coming together of family and friends also brings sadness for those no longer here to share our celebrations, but we hold them in our hearts as part of our collective memory of what Christmas means. And now I’m a grandmother I’ve discovered nothing can be more magical than seeing Christmas through my grandchildren’s eyes.