'The Strangest of Christmases' - SHORTLIST
Crashing into Christmas
Did it happen?
Maybe not ......
Santa Claus came to Tyneside, one Christmas night.
Snow had fallen. The stars were bright.
Sipping sherry, merrily, he made his way ...
Crashed into a church, with reindeer and sleigh.
Fast from the Hospital, Paramedics dashed,
Over the moon, when they saw who had crashed.
At Casualty, the patients were greeted with glee,
Sympathy, X-rays, mince-pies and tea.
The nurses told Santa, "Cheer up, do,
Your reindeer are fine and so are you."
They were discharged, out in the snow,
With a robin to show them where to go.
The police at the scene helped Santa into his sleigh,
Saddled his reindeer and waved him away,
Into South Shields, for his Christmas Eve date,
Hurrying, because he was rather late.
In the sky, there appeared an age-old light.
All was now well on Christmas Night.
“Mum Mum your hair….."
Join us for one of our most memorable Christmas lunches
Picture the scene – my family gathered around the dining table turkey barely dented awaiting the arrival, with anticipation, of mum with the “Piece de la resistance” the flaming Christmas pudding. Duly mum rejoined us placing the “flaming” pudding down and stood back. It was now that the aroma of brandy was joined by an unknown “aroma” It took us all but a few seconds to realise our mother had flambéed her fringe which was still on fire!! After what felt like eternity we managed to stop mum talking, no mean fete, and enlightened her of the situation –MUM YOUR HAIR IS ON FIRE. !!
Calmly she picked up her strategically placed oven gloves using them to extinguish her burning locks. Then, as if flambéing her hair was a daily occurrence she, luckily in no way hurt, served us Christmas Pudding.!
A 2020 Diary
I wake up on 1st December to be greeted by another gloomy, grey day. Radio 4’s Covid headlines are depressing and Radio 2’s jolly Christmas music just accentuates my gloom.
I open my diary to check what time the Sainsbury’s delivery is due. It’s a highlight of my week, along with an occasional zoom meeting and wet walk in the park.
This time last year my diary was full: bridge, yoga, babysitting, coffee mornings, drinks parties, lunches, dinners, shopping, concerts and pantos. I tell myself to stop living in the past but there’s not much to look forward to now.
The postman arrives and I’m about to put all the usual junk mail in the bin when a more interesting envelope catches my eye. My first Christmas card.
‘Merry Christmas Mum. Look forward to seeing you on Christmas Day.’
‘What shall I wear? What about my hair?’
I grab my diary.
Less than convincing disguise
In December 1960, at the age of seven, I was living with my parents, on a tiny island up the Niger delta. Of the thirty Europeans there, I was the only child. The adults decided that as it was Christmas I should have a surprise visit from Santa.
One afternoon I was taken to the wharf and watched a small boat chugging through barracuda and crocodile infested mangrove swamps. An old man, wearing a full Santa suit and beard in the searing heat, was almost carried off the boat and held by both arms as he stumbled up the pontoon. He had to be helped to hand me my present. A small doll’s pushchair.
“That’s not Father Christmas. It’s Mr King.”
“ He’s wearing Arthur King’s rings”.
So much organisation all for my benefit. Even removed his bottle bottom glasses, but hadn’t accounted for a mini Miss Marple.
I’ve never forgotten that day.
We are visiting the House of the Virgin Mary near Ephesus. Despite painkillers, I have had a pounding headache for two days, but this unassuming little abode/chapel set in an olive grove has a calming effect. We absorb, reflect and light a candle. Have we visited the nearby Holy Spring? My headache will not go and I only want a Panadol. The priest urges us toward the spring, housed in an alcove containing abandoned crutches, its surrounding walls covered in the prayers and tokens of gratitude for apparent cures. I am not a believer and I am smug with amusement as I open my water to take another pill. Why not drink the Holy Water, suggests my fiancé. Why not? And I cup my hands to drink. Something inside me shifts. As I consider this, I notice that my headache has gone.
Santa of 2020
It was the strangest of Christmases, Santa thought to himself.
The sleigh was idle in the shed. The reindeer were out to pasture, except Rudolf. He was kept on duty as his nose would flash red if a virus approached.
The elves were on furlough. Banta, the Chief Elf, lugubrious as ever, said it would all be over by next Christmas.
Presents were mountainous in the workshop, unable to be delivered whilst Santa was isolating.
The most popular one was a board game called Who’s the Daddy? in which the loser won a baby. There was another where you had to reach a castle while blindfolded. Banta said there was a problem because the guidelines had been changed. Santa sighed.
Even the grotto was shut because children could not sit on his knee, and cried when he wore his mask.
What a terrible shame!
A Father's Defence
I was a young mother with two small boys and had found out that my husband had been having an affair.
I desperately wanted to go home for Christmas but the timing was unfortunate. My sister, and family were already camping out with my parents awaiting completion of their new house. However, it was agreed that I could stay for Christmas week. My brother-in-law undertook the two-hundred-mile return journey to pick up the three of us.
It was a really tight squeeze in the small house. My youngest slept very badly and kept the others awake. The adults found a bed wherever they could! Mum got a bad cold and Dad was already unwell.
The Christmas from hell ended when my husband came to pick us up with his girlfriend with him! My dad was so incensed he hit him and broke his glasses!
Christmas in New Zealand
“What an unusual activity for Christmas Eve”, I thought as I climbed into Peter's rowboat. The water was calm as we penetrated deep into the Waitomo Glowworm Caves in New Zealand’s North Island. Peter had promised to show me something unbelievably extraordinary but I didn’t believe him as he rowed into the inky blackness.
“Have you got a torch?” I asked, “I can’t see a thing”.
“No” he replied, “That would spoil everything”.
Silence reigned, all the tourists were long gone and it was approaching midnight.
As my eyes adjusted to the darkness I became aware of millions of pinpoints of light emitted by these little glowworms (Latin name Arachnocampa Luminosa).
My luminous watch showed the time as midnight and the myriad of lights began to move. I saw it, but you won’t believe me. The little lights formed into words. “Christ is born”.
It was wonderful, living in a house with no central heating and single glazing because beautiful frost ferns grew on the bedroom windows. We used to warm big pennies in our hands and melt peepholes through the frozen forest. On Christmas Eve, wrapped in pyjamas and a jersey, I melted a miniature window to look for a flying sleigh, drawn by reindeer, with a fat and jolly Father Christmas searching for chimneys.
I saw him.
Outlined against a murkily orange sky, lit from below by street lamps, a sleigh, twinkling as if covered in tinsel, drawn by four white, sparkling, reindeer. A rotund Santa, with a beard as white as cotton wool spilling down his scarlet jacket, his conical hat as upright as a dunce's cap, was waving. At me.
As quick as a flick, he was gone. He was as real as the decoration on our mantlepiece.
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