Harmonising - thats me, far left!
Harmonising – thats me, far left!
      What were your childhood Christmases like?
       I’m so lucky. For me, Christmas was the most magical, enchanting time.
       We spent every Christmas with my Mum’s sister’s family – the Nel’s. There were four daughters in their family, Anne, Margaret, Karen and Judith, plus Liz, Megan and me in ours. Is it any wonder that my brother, Patrick was spoiled rotten! It was a case of finishing lunch and “Girls, would you clear the table!”
       “What about Patch? He must also help.”
       “No, leave him. This is girls work!”
       Can you frigging well believe it? This was during the 70’s. At that time, feminism had not reared it’s wonderful and necessary head in the Young and Nel households. I find it so amusing that now in each us “children’s” families the kids clear the table, female AND male alike! The only children that are excused are my children, Perdita and Spencer. A dog and a bird are not all that au fait with clearing the table!
       Those Christmases are filled with memories for me…..
       The girls would take it in turns making the mince pies. We would turn the record player on and sing along. The house was filled with records of Christmas carols. Yeah, records not CD’s. Something that the younger generation have no knowledge of! Records of Bing Crosby crooning White Christmas, and Winter Wonderland, Oh Holy Night, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Please Daddy don’t get drunk this Christmas.Our favourite though, was definitely Boney M!
       Mum, Libby and we girls loved to sing. And we did. Many an evening was spent with Anne, Margs and on guitars singing. It was so wonderful because we were taught to harmonise and let me tell you we made a pretty good singing group.
Joseph aka my sister Liz & heavily cushioned Mary, my cousin Kari
Joseph aka my sister Liz & heavily cushioned Mary, my cousin Kari
       Every Christmas would involve the Christmas nativity play performed by us eight children. Patrick was naturally cast as Joseph which he endured for a few years but finally he had had enough of playing “the namby-pampby Joseph”! He had a far better idea. He would play a rough and tumble innkeeper instead and…he would set up a star that moved all the way across the lounge! And so complete with washing line and pulleys the star finally hopped and jumped haphazardly setting the path for Mary and Joseph. Elizabeth and Kari played Mary and Joseph. And what a Mary Kari was! She was about fourteen months pregnant and this Jesus was a large boy! She was stuffed  cushions which slipped and slid, fell out and were re-pushed back in as she and ‘Joseph’  followed the star. They finally reached the stable where they were allowed to spend the night. Joseph set about delivering Mary’s baby. Libby’s maid, Josie, had had a baby in October. His name was Bonsela, which is Zulu for “present” and he made the perfect Jesus! Kari lay there saying things like: “Oh, Joseph, he’s coming now and he feels great!”
       Joseph in turn declared: “You’re looking a little pale. I shall go and get you some water!” (Thoughtful husband, huh!) and Liz then scurried out and returned with Bonsela carried beneath a towel. Kari then threw away the third or was it the fourth cushion saying: “Oh, much better!”
       At which Liz said: “And you’ve had a son and you shall call him Jesus!”
       Bonsela’s black face grinned happily at us.
I am the king with the 'black' face & fetching orange towel crown!
I am the king with the ‘black’ face & fetching orange towel crown!
       Anne, Margs and I were always the three kings. Libby had wonderful clothes in which we adorned ourselves. Every year we would have the same argument over who was to wear the beautiful embroidered jacket! (I still lust over that jacket!) Margs said: “Let us follow yonder star. It will lead us to the baby, the Saviour of the world!” We three kings then set off across the lounge following Patrick’s star singing “We three kings of Orient are…” The star was meant to move to above Mary, Joseph and Jesus but instead it  got half way there then stopped. And refused to budge another inch! We three kings were meant to finish our song and say: “Look, the star has stopped over the stable…” Let me tell you the star was nowhere near the stable. It was stuck just past the piano and refused to budge! Patch said: “Hold on, just let me adjust the…”

Me and the angel-fairy-shepherd!
Me and the angel-fairy-shepherd!
       At that moment, Megan who was meant to be an angel-shepherd and was dressed in a little ballet tutu, a straw hat and carrying a walking stick came flouncing past us in her own little four year world:”I’m a fairy shepherd, I’m a fairy shepherd!” she cried. “Look at me dancing…”
       “The Angel is showing us the way,” cried Anne desperately.
       We literally fled across the lounge till we reached a shed made up of draped towels. There, with Megs “fairy-shepherding” in and out, the rest of us sang “Away in a Manger” with gusto. A rainbow nativity scene in the 70’s! Joy to the World!!!
         We had no fireplace so we used to arrange our Christmas stockings under the Christmas tree knowing that Father Christmas would find them there and we would wake in the morning to  bulging Christmas stockings at the end of our beds! We also put out mince pies for Father Christmas to fortify himself with. Dad suggested a beer as well, to give him extra strength because he had a long way to go that night. Dad is always full of good ideas!
       Eight highly excited children went upstairs to bed. I hugged myself when I lay in bed that night. I just loved Christmas. At 5.30 on Christmas morning we were all awake but we couldn’t get downstairs because the adults had locked the gate. So we sat on the stairs and sang Christmas carols and generally made a noise until at 6.30 the adults unlocked the gate. They opened the lounge doors and we gasped in awestruck delight. There were mounds of presents everywhere! Each person had their own little pile. Eight children, four adults and Gran. As I say, the lounge was teeming with brightly wrapped gifts!
       And playing on the hi-fi was “God rest you merry gentlemen, let nothing you dismay, Remember Christ our Saviour was born on Christmas Day….”
       I am so blessed to have such joy filled Christmas memories.Today I watch my nieces and nephew in their nativity plays and I smile at the enthrallment they carry with them. Family is the enchantment giver! Of that there can be no doubt.
       So to all of you, may this festive season be filled with enchantment, family, laughter, friendship and most of all – Love!