(This post first appeared as my December/January column in the Tetbury Advertiser, out now.)
Although we put so much effort into planning our festive celebrations, I often find the highlights of my Christmas are the moments that take me by surprise.
One such occasion occurred when I was a child, growing up in an outer suburb of London. When I was about 11, the age my daughter is now, I was for the first time considered old enough to go to the midnight church service on Christmas Eve. We weren’t a particularly religious family, but the small, plain church in our garden suburb had special significance for us. My parents had married there, we children had been christened, my grandfather was its choirmaster, and the small, rotund, gentle-manner vicar Mr Daniels, was a family friend.
The night was grey and drizzly as we entered the church, which seemed bright, warm and welcoming after our chilly walk from home. Though battling to stay awake, I enjoyed his service. I was especially impressed by the colourful model crib, but the most memorable moment was yet to come. When Mr Daniels threw open the heavy porch door for the congregation to leave, the churchyard before us lay covered in a perfect blanket of snow. Illuminated by the orange glow of street lamps, big flakes fell steadily as we gazed in wonder, never having guessed that the weather could change so much during the church service.
Yes, I know it didn’t really snow in Bethlehem, but that snowfall felt like a special Christmas blessing: deep and crisp and even, snow on snow. You have to admire God’s timing.
After serendipitous delights like this, I’m happy to leave much of my Christmas preparation to chance. An incurable last-minute merchant in any case, I know that nothing I could plan would ever surpass the wonder of the snowy walk home from church all those years ago.
For Your Christmas Stocking
My love of festive surprises influenced my latest book Stocking Fillers, a collection of twelve humorous short stories about the festive season.. Each tale follows a different character as they prepare for Christmas, from a small boy who tries to give Santa time management lessons, to an old lady celebrating what’s likely to be her last Christmas. Though not all the characters are loveable, I hope you’ll find them entertaining and memorable.
But you don’t have to take my word for it. Just before writing this column, I received a lovely surprise – the first official review of the book, which describes it as follows: “A delightful celebration of all things Christmas, Stocking Fillers features 12 funny, thoughtful, surprising and heartwarming tales that will get you in the festive spirit. Debbie Young’s writing is thoroughly engaging. If you’re looking to put some of the magic back into Christmas, and rediscover the reason for the season, start by treating yourself to this lovely read.” Well, that surprise has made my Christmas already.
I wish you a very Merry Christmas, and may it be filled with wonder and surprises of your own.
Stocking Fillers is now available to order as an ebook online and in paperback from good bookshops everywhere.