It is always the tree that I remember most clearly. In our terraced house, the tiny front room was overwhelmed by this magnificent specimen, standing proudly by the window. The unmistakeable fragrance of pine scenting the precious decorations which, to my child’s eyes, shone like jewels in the multi-coloured lights. I would stand and wonder about which was my favourite, marvelling at my reflection, in blue, green or gold. Paper lanterns decked the branches and two much-loved fairies in tinselled dresses of mauve and orange, nestled within the branches. Many years later, I would recall them in a Christmas tale for another generation of children.

Christmas Day. Waking in the half-light and feeling the weight of the pillow case at the foot of the bed. Creeping from under the covers to peer at the mysterious packages, then sitting wrapped in my blankets, in the grey dawn  until my parents called out, “Well? Has he been?” I would then sit between them, in the warmth of their bed, unwrapping each treasure, in silent wonder.

Family visits were always part of Christmas morning tradition. Gathered in Auntie Alice and Uncle Harry’s sunlit living room, the ladies and children at one end, the men at the other. Mum and my aunts sipping sherry, while  the smell of cigars and the whisky glasses were swirling gold for Dad and the uncles. Then it was to Auntie Elsie’s and sitting listening to grown-up chatter in my new Christmas dress, watching the glass peacocks with their feathery tails, among the fairy lights of yet another tree.

Gran’s house was where we spent the rest of the day. The front room, with its fire burning brightly on this special day, the goose-feather Christmas tree  twinkling in the window. Another memory to recall and write about many years later… 

There are other memories. When I was older, the thrill of going to the Midnight service, especially with my Dad’s family, in the old village church high in the Cumbrian fells. The ancient building proudly dressed in greenery of holly and ivy, the familiar carols sung lustily by young and old alike.  Leaving church at the end of the service to find it had started to snow…  Memories. Even as a student, after the riotous end of term celebrations it was good to get home to the traditions. The overwhelming sensory delights of Christmas which, for just those few heady days, is everything. 

Since then, I have built memories for my own children and the traditions remain intact. As I sit in the glow of another tree decked in twinkling lights and favourite decorations, Christmas can work its magic once again.