If you are looking for inspiration this holiday season, I highly recommend reading the stories below. The third edition of our Christmas stories series (Read chapters one and two here!), this piece is full of nostalgic memories of wonderful childhoods. They are guaranteed to bring you all the Christmas cheer you are looking for.
I never believed in Father Christmas. I always thought that it was my grandfather in disguise. My grandparents owned a toy shop in the South of France, so each Christmas I would help them prepare and deliver gifts to the families in our city, I felt like Santa’s little helper. Every holiday season of my childhood was its very own Christmas fairytale. Being the son of a toy merchant, I got all the toys I could ever have wanted - most children saw me as the luckiest kid in the world. Little did they know that my most coveted Christmas present was a white paper block, paintbrushes, and watercolours, which I would eventually use to create my own fairytale work. This is the present that awakened my creative spirit.
All my childhood Christmas memories are delicious, filled with the nostalgic scent of home-cooked holiday dishes that my brother and I would watch our parents prepare, filled with great excitement knowing that on December 25th we would all be sitting down at the table to eat as a family. Believing in Santa Claus is another one of my favourite Christmas memories. That magic feeling that only children can experience is something truly special. I feel blessed that I get a glimpse of that magic again through the eyes of my children.
This Christmas memory is very near and dear to my heart. Next year will be the 10th anniversary of my mother’s passing. One of my favourite memories to look back on when I think of her is our yearly tradition of decorating the Christmas tree together. My mother, my sister and I would get out all of our sparky ornaments and hang them on the tree, laughing joyfully as we did so. I will never forget that one time we were stringing the lights around the tree and she told us to squint when we looked at them. This was her secret way of making sure that the lights were evenly distributed around the tree, creating the perfect shimmer. Is this where my fascination for sparkles comes from? Who knows. What I do know for sure is that my mother’s natural talent and keen eye for detail, along with her passion for finding beauty in life, is something I am very proud to have inherited.
Christmas time in the rural west of Ireland in the 80s was always a very religious experience and while my family were not traditionally rigorous about going to church, I do remember going to Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve every year. Midnight Mass is a particularly late-night ceremony, where the lights are turned out in the church and the congregation holds candles throughout the ceremony. It is a truly beautiful experience. However, I remember one year, when I was about seven years old, being very confused about what was happening and when the lights were switched off in the church, I loudly questioned: "Has the church not paid its electrical bill"? To the huge embarrassment of my parents and brothers. Thirty years later, they still like to remind me of this hilarious incident. Midnight Mass has never been the same again.
I grew up in Macau, so I never had a snowy white Christmas when I was young. The first sign of the Christmas season approaching would be the arrival of our Christmas tree. Together, my sister and I were in charge of decorating it. My favourite childhood Christmas memory is when my sister and I would sneak out of our beds on Christmas Eve when we were supposed to be asleep. We would go to the sparkling Christmas tree to stare at the brightly coloured presents underneath and guess what was hidden within. This late-night adventure became our Christmas ritual.
When I was a child, Christmas was the highlight of my year. I would impatiently look forward to our family traditions. Enjoying family feasts, spending fun-filled days in my father's jewellery store, cooking traditional dishes with my mother, and running around being naughty with my brother and cousins. I would spend hours drawing and sketching elaborate greeting cards for each of my family members, something I still do today. Although Christmas now is a much busier period for me, I still seek to recreate those same feelings of love, warmth, and family bonding.
Growing up, it was customary in my family to lock the door to the living room 14 days before Christmas Eve. My brother and I were told that the Christ Child was working inside and was not to be disturbed. The closer Christmas came, the more excited we were to see what the Christ Child had in store for us. After two weeks of waiting, the big day would eventually arrive and with shining eyes, my brother and I were finally allowed to enter the colourfully decorated living room. I can still smell the fresh Christmas cookies and fern branches. After we had unwrapped our presents, my family and I would then finish the evening with a delicious Christmas dinner and a cosy, contemplative get-together. For me, Christmas is the festival of joy, charity, family and security.
I hope these stories remind you, amongst the hustle and bustle of gift buying and giving, that the most important part of Christmas is to spend time with the ones you love, to remember those you miss, and to celebrate traditions, both old and new, with a festive and merry spirit. My team and I wish you all a very merry holiday season.