Thursday October 22nd 2020

The Ghost of Christmas Past

Spiritual author and writer Jane Cranmer poses some interesting questions and conundrums for seekers – and non-seekers.
It’s that time of year again, chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost nipping at your nose and all that…and my isn’t he nipping at the moment if you happen to live in Britain.
We’ve been living in near blizzard conditions for the best part of a week now, the roads have been jammed with commuters struggling to get to work, or back from work, or just to the corner shop. Some have had to sleep in their cars, stuck for up to eighteen hours at a time it said on the news. (If these were the same folk heading to the corner shop more fool them I say!). Thousands of schools have been closed, folk have been stranded in airports, at train stations, on trains, camping out in Church Halls and School Halls…it has been utter mayhem for days and days.
We’re not used to it you see, in this country. Ok, last year was pretty bad, and the year before that held a shade of the things yet to come…but prior to this we’ve had a good twenty years of exceptionally mild winters. My children didn’t get to see a lot of snow growing up, even in Yorkshire, despite the fact it is reputedly “grim up North”, it was in fact somewhat spring-like from the year my firstborn arrived, up to these past couple of years.
The song “I’m dreaming of a White Christmas” was particularly apt, as dreaming of one was as close as you were likely to get. We hadn’t seen a white christmas in years…theres a film of Christmas morning from about four years ago where we all get very excited as we unwrap our presents.
“Look kids it’s snowing!” Mark declares, and everyone rushes to the window (the camera man is almost trampled in the rush), to see about ten flakes drifting down to vanish on the green carpet below. That constituted our white christmas that year!
I don’t wish to sound old (though undoubtedly I am…my children tell me so frequently), but it wasn’t like that when I was a lass. Winters were winters and summers were summers, and there was a clear definition between the two. I recall once climbing up the side of the hill to my cousins flat, not realising the snow had drifted, and what appeared to be solid ground suddenly gave way beneath me, plummeting me down through packed snow up to my chest! Good job my little cousin Heath and my brother, Lee were on hand to drag me out or I may have had to stay there for the night!
There was an advantage to living in a block of flats, I was five stories up with an uninterrupted view of the surrounding area for miles around. Never was this more spectacular than when the snow was falling thick and fast. I recall it starting around four o’clock one Sunday afternoon in 1981, and carrying on straight through to morning. I got up with the sort of smile you have on your face when you know you are definitely not going to school that day..or possibly for days to come. My upper school was the other side of Bradford, it was too far to walk (assuming I’d had the inclination,and lets assume I didn’t), and buses never made it off our estate.
Aunty Mary appeared with two cups of hot chocolate and we both stood at the window for an hour or so. Our estate was in a valley, and there were steep roads running down to it in all directions, the four blocks of flats stood in a vantage point on a hill in the middle of this. Aunty Mary and I stood chuckling as car after car appeared, tried to get off the estate up one hill, rolled back down, valiantly tried again, and failed once again, then proceeded to try the three other escape routes, all to the same effect. Before long upwards of thirty cars were all doing the same circuititous route, all to no avail. A couple of buses appeared to join the fun, and naturally they too got stuck. Eventually all the vehicles were abandoned, and we watched as everyone trudged home, fortunately they would most likely have been locals anyway, apart from the buses, it was not the sort of estate you just happened to drive through on your way to somewhere else.
I have always loved Christmas, and I feel very sorry for those poor souls who didn’t have a happy childhood, and cannot share such joyous memories. I was blessed by being born into a very large and loving family, and getting together every Christmas wasn’t just an optional extra, it was the law!
Certain things about Christmas puzzled me though,some carols and christmas songs made me ponder for a while…for instance I thought “I saw Mummy kissing Santa Claus” was not generally fitting as a song for children, at such a tender age you don’t want to discover your mother has loose morals and gets all giddy over an old chap with a white beard…to the extent she felt compelled to tickle him under it! What was that all about? And, I really wanted to know, why did Good King Wencas LAST look out on the feast of Stephen. Clearly some foul play was instigated, and my suspicions lay firmly with that beggar chap he went to help…but it never did reveal what befell this chivalrous king. Do you think the page was in on it too? Or did the beggar, the page and the King all freeze to death as they were trying to journey ” a good league hence” back to the peasants hovel…a bit silly really with a perfectly good palace close at hand, but it never said he was a bright KIng did it, good yes, but obviously a bit of a dolt!
So, aside from these yuletide ponderings and merry gatherings, what did Christmas mean to me?
There’s something magical about Christmas isn’t there. I suspect if you are religious, and you may recall we weren’t, it has a different kind of magic. Not that I wasn’t party to that, in First School I was very excited to be cast as an Angel. I knew all about Angels, I had been hearing them sing for years (I was a very strange little girl). I loved my white dress (that looked suspiciously like a pillow slip with holes in it) and my tinsel wings and halo. I looked almost as well decked out as the little boys with tea towels round their heads, or the ones with the splendid paper crowns. I was a bit puzzled as to why the baby Jesus got gifts of gold, myrhh and Frankenstein, but the teacher said it was so, so who was I to argue?
Unfortunately on the day of my starring role, I got over excited and leapt off a chair straight onto a nail, that went into my toe, and stuck there! I spent the afternoon in casualty having the foreign object removed, and then to cap it all off I had to have a tetanus jab in my posterior! My parents consoled me with a new doll, so all was well that ended well I suppose.
A couple of days later I was in the car with Mum, Dad, Uncle Jim and my brother Lee. Lee was regaling Uncle Jim with the tale of my recent misfortune. “…and do you know what they did after they’d got the nail out?” he asked the rapt audience “They stuck a needle right up her ars…”
“WHAT?” my Dad bellowed…
“…elbow” Lee hurriedly concluded.
“Well, you know, some people really can’t tell the difference.” Uncle Jim winked at us.
The thing I really thought was magical about Christmas (and indeed still do) was discovering it really is more blessed to give than to recieve. I really appreciate every gift I am given, no matter how small or inexpensive, it is the thought that counts. But nothing gives me that warm glow inside, than getting something for somebody else that they have really been wishing for. The generosity I saw within my family taught me that, and I hope it is something I have in turn passed on to my own children.
You know, it’s not all about presents though, sometimes you can give wonderful gifts without opening your purse. Something as simple as a smile or a kind word can make a persons day. Clearing the path for, or checking on an elderly neighbour can be priceless, sharing your table with someone who is lonely, or hungry, donating old clothes to the homeless…there are endless ways to make a difference in the world, you may be as creative as you like.
In case you were wondering, there are no Ghosts in my Christmas Past…but there is a warm and enduring Spirit of warmth, and love, and laughter.
What will your legacy be?

2 Comments for “The Ghost of Christmas Past”

  • Nikos says:

    Congratulations Given & Wandile!What a wedding! A bride benimag with joy and a groom charming as ever!May your marriage be filled wuth heaps of love, humour, romance, respect and understanding and the love and affection that surrounded you on this day be with you throughout.Thank you for allowing us to be witnesses to your wonderful union.God bless,Pusetso


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