Childhood Christmas

Last night we went to our church carol service. It was a wonderful, cosy evening of Christmas celebration. The newly-formed gospel choir sang a number of contemporary gospel songs, intertwined with old favourites that we sang along with them. Each time I sing those well-known carols, I am transported through years and countries to Christmases I have known and loved.

I think of my childhood in Zambia and going to a Christmas party at the sports club in Lusaka. The tall and kind-eyed clown took a keen interest in four-year-old me and kept coming over to chat to me, and ask me if I was having fun. I was always nervous of strangers and my wide eyes stared anxiously up at this plastic-nosed giant. I kind of liked him but wished he would leave me alone. It was only years later that I discovered that that clown was my Dad.

I remember being picked to be Mary in the nativity play at our church in Mazabuka. The boy I’d had a crush on was going to be Joseph; at the very moment he was picked, my crush ended. We had to walk gruellingly arm-in-arm down the aisle to the awaiting nativity scene; I can’t tell you how awkward and uncomfortable I felt with the closeness of the boy I clearly preferred to admire from a distance.

Wherever we lived, church was our constant Christmas Day companion. I loved the carols but can remember longing for the singing to end so we could go home and open our presents and begin the long, exciting day of celebrations. I can remember countless “carols by candlelight” services where I hoped, in equal measure, that I would and wouldn’t set light to the brown paper bag hosting my candle.

My sons’ Christmas concerts in Cape Town were a delight. My younger son made a fleeting first appearance at his play-school concert as an angel. He walked on stage and immediately thought it would be better to observe from the safety of his mother’s lap, so he came down off the stage – in his white slip and silver tinsel halo –and sat on my lap for the rest of the concert.

He watched his older brother play the role of messenger, bringing scrolled news to the people of Israel. Dressed in a plastic shield and very short trousers, my older son recited his part and then began to torment the girl sitting next to him. She had a long, blonde plait and, when she stood up for her moment in the spotlight, he couldn’t resist pulling her plait. She turned round, glared at him and made a fist in his general direction. He couldn’t stop giggling for the rest of the concert. To be honest, nor could we.

That same year, the boy playing the part of the innkeeper was quite overcome after voicing his “no room!” lines. He proceeded to put both hands on his head and pant like a dog until Joseph and Mary found alternative accommodation.

When my younger son was about four years old, he asked me one Christmas evening to play the piano. We went and sat together on the piano stool and I asked him what he wanted me to play. “The piano, Mommy,” he said. I asked him what tune, and he insisted that he just wanted me to play the piano. I suggested I play “Away in a manger”, to which he agreed effusively.

I began to play and he began to sing, at the top of his voice, “We three kings of Orientare!” He clearly just needed accompaniment. Any accompaniment.

Snowy London town today feels a lifetime away from summer-time Christmas in Africa. I kind of love the wintry charm of Christmas in the north, but I would trade anything to celebrate this special holiday with my family. There’s always next year.

Sunshine signing off for today!

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40 thoughts on “Childhood Christmas

  1. I love the story of your son needing any accompaniment for his “We Three Kings of Orient Are”–even “Away in a Manger”–too cute! Children are so delightful at about that age–3-5 years! Great post!
    Christmas blessings to you,
    Kathy

  2. What a glorious post for this Monday morning, Sunshine. I know you miss your family terribly and I hope sharing memories like these make being apart a little easier for you. Merry Christmas and many blessings to you and your family. Big hugs, Diane

  3. That’s a lovely post, Sunshine, hope your family here get to read it.
    (I once spent a Christmas at Siavonga and it was a charmed place in the ‘old days’. I expect we may well know some of the same people.)

    1. Thanks, Cindy! We had holidays at Siavonga – I have such fond memories of those days! Although we never went there at Christmas, I’ve no doubt we know some of the same people. This is a small world, remember? xx

  4. Lovely memories, Sunshine. And now I feel wistful and nostalgic on your behalf. May 2011 be filled with long and fun-filled visits from family and friends. Happy Monday to you!

  5. Yes… I know the feeling. Christmas here in OZ will never be the same as our African Christmases, just because the strong family connection isn’t here. We have found ourselves being called more towards the nativity and carols as I do both the school and church nativities each year, and Dave is involved in organising Carols by Candlelight in the local park. These events have become our Christmas traditions, and on Christmas day we just have a family fun day at our favourite picnic spot. So when I am feeling a little nostalgic about the lack of family, I will spare my thoughts for you who will be the same… and we’ll connect that way. I hope you have a very blessed Christmas.xox Fi

  6. Good morning, Sunshine! (Well, it’s morning here in the States.) This was another lovely post, and I especially liked the story of the kind clown who kept asking whether you were OK. That’s really sweet.

  7. Beautiful, funny post, Sunshine…as someone who’s lived “away” from home for all of her adult life, I can relate to your wistfulness at this time of year…it’s been 19 years since I’ve been home to Ohio, and I haven’t seen members of my extended family since my brother’s wedding in 1993. I am thankful to have my dad here with me, and Jim’s family, which has accepted me with open arms…

    Sending you hugs across the water…
    Wendy

    1. Thank you so much, lovely Wendy! I’m so glad you can relate and understand what I’m feeling. It’s wonderful that you have your children and your “new” family there now, must make such a difference.
      Hugs right back at you across the pond!
      Sunshine xx

  8. Yes I Do. I am in Tennessee,My sister is in Chicago, my mother is in Missouri and I will be in Alabama with my step-daughter on Christmas. I also think the older you get the more you think about family.

  9. Beautiful post. I guess the magic of the clown kept you from seeing your dad. Your son’s request for the piano is priceless…and he obviously has a lot of confidence to belt out his song that way!

    Merry Christmas.

  10. Lovely stories again . . . I’m always amazed at the details – I can’t remember much that far back! 😉

    Even though this week is difficult for you, I think you’ll be telling funny stories about your frozen English Christmas soon.

    1. Thanks, Lisa. My husband says I have the memory of an elephant … which he thinks is a good thing and a bad thing!
      Oh dear, I’m so predictable, aren’t I? But you’re quite right 🙂 xx

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