“The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar plums danced in their heads”
So here we are, my last column of 2016. I have often felt a bit melancholy at this time of the year; whether it’s been a sort of sentimentality for Christmases past or simply end-of-year burnout I am not really sure, but this year it’s all different: I am buzzing right now – and it’s not just because I got up at 5.45am and am fuelled by vats of Earl Grey tea.
Christmas is magical for children, and now there is a child in my life to give succour and company to my own inner child who has been waiting all these years to really get her Christmas on again. One of the best jobs I have had – and there have been a few – was as a Christmas elf at Hamley’s. I was part of the entertainments team, and probably the oldest elf in the festive squad, surrounded by lovely, bubbly drama students. Each morning we would layer up, and I mean really layer up, don our costumes then stand on boxes on freezing Regent Street singing carols and throwing peppermint humbugs to children. It was truly marvellous! The most stress-free job I have ever had, worth all the hours of feeling chilled to the bone. Many of the children honestly thought we were real elves that knew Father Christmas. Now that I have Luther this concept seems even more darling!
I find it incredible that every day Luther experiences something new. He has no idea what Christmas is, nor what it will be like for him in the years to come. This past week we were outside our local Post Office, having paused to adjust blankets after a vigorous game of ‘Where’s the baby?’ when eight elves appeared. I know what you are thinking, that I am delirious from lack of sleep, but they were real (well, really dressed as elves, anyway..). They looked marvellous: red circle cheeks, bright festive colours, hats, bells, the works; they were laden with presents that they were stacking into a large estate car, not quite a reindeer-drawn sleigh but I don’t think he noticed. Luther stared at them as if they were magical, the look he gives when the Thomas the Tank Engine theme tune comes on (and mystified delight like that would sell at a high price if bottled). They stood in a row and waved at him whilst he remained uncharacteristically bashful, then off they went to deliver presents to The Alex, Brighton’s children’s hospital.
The wonder of Christmas has really been highlighted for me having Luther. I am more aware of the biblical element this year, in that we celebrate the birth of a baby, a baby that was going to show us how to live a better life. Whether you are religious or not the story of the birth of Jesus is a powerful one, and in my own small world, Luther is undoubtedly making me a better person; being a mother is making me a better person.
The purity and joy in children is educational. Having a little one really does open your eyes to the wonders and simple pleasures in life. Whether that be running water, strawberry yoghurt or the sound of a blackbird. I feel so lucky to be the one to introduce Luther to so many things in life and this festive period feels extra precious. He is mesmerised by the decorated tree and I have been burning a gorgeous candle that smells of Christmas, with hints of cinnamon, clove and orange, the sum of which transports me back to the Christmases of my own childhood.
I’ve felt quite nostalgic over the past few weeks and extremely grateful. Traditions are important to me and I am keen to create some for our new family. Small things that my mother used to do for me will certainly be repeated for Luther. My memories of festive reading are vivid: I can still recite “A Visit from St. Nicholas” – more commonly known as “Twas the Night Before Christmas” – by Clement Clarke Moore. I even sewed all the reindeer out of felt one year (I am an only child).
Raymond Briggs’ classic The Snowman was also wheeled out annually and I loved it! Penwizard has sent Luther a personalised copy of The Snowman and the Snow Dog. It’s so sweet! I nearly cried when I opened it. Luther is name-checked on the cover and throughout the book, having high times and adventures with the Snow Dog.
As an early Christmas gift, Usborne has sent Luther some Christmas books to get him in the yuletide spirit! He’s enjoying the ‘Baby’s First Christmas’ cloth book which has beautiful, bright depictions of festive scenes, rabbits and pandas asleep in bed with their stockings at the ready. I think I am enjoying it as much as he is! We have also been reading ‘That’s Not My Snowman’ at least 12 times a day, and it has caused rollicking mirth on almost every occasion. I’m not sure that misplacing your snowman should be quite such a laughing matter, but heigh-ho!
Polar Post create a Baby’s First Christmas letter, handwritten by Father Christmas. I have ordered one and can’t wait to see it. It will be addressed to Master Luther, The Cot, Mummy and Daddy’s Bedroom, By the Seaside, Snowy Sussex. I’ve created a memory box for Luther of all sorts of things from his first year, including a newspaper from the day he was born, and this letter will be such a sweet addition. I know I am silly and sentimental, but I love it!
Luther will also get to enjoy a Little Tikes 3-in-1 Walker. He’s desperate to be on the move and has so far managed just one very tentative step on his own. With this walker he’ll be able to bomb around on two feet and hopefully also entertain himself so that I can get on with some work. With over seventy activities, songs, lights and sounds he should be pretty happy!
I have ordered our turkey, and the foodie in me is extremely pleased that Luther has progressed with weaning to the point where he will get to try pretty much everything on Christmas Day, brandy excluded (until nap time, at least). We’ll have a full house with nine of us, including Luther, on the day itself; and I think that hyperactivity levels will go through the roof – and that’s just his daddy.
I don’t think I’m going to be able to sit through a carol service without crying this year. The husband and I used to enjoy going to the Salvation Army carols when we lived just round the corner from Trafalgar Square. I am taking Luther to a toddlers carol service and he will get to dress up. I don’t think life gets much better! I feel extremely grateful for my little family and Christmas has only served to highlight this feeling. For some reason my mind is already jumping ahead to when Luther, and any siblings he may have, are grown up, I really hope they want to come home at Christmastime and bring friends or partners. I’m determined to make our home a relaxed, open and fun place for all of us to grow and develop.
Merry Christmas – I’ll raise an egg nog to you all!
Oh, and I did finish sewing Luther’s stocking…with a little help from his granny.
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight—
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”