Last night we went to our church carol service. It was a wonderful, cosy evening of Christmas celebration. The new gospel choir sang contemporary gospel songs, intertwined with old favourites and we sang along. Those carols transport me 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 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 now preferred to admire from a distance.
Wherever we lived, church was our 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 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 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 words 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 pulled her plait. She turned round, glared at him and made a fist at him. He giggled for the rest of the concert. So did we.
That same year, the boy playing the part of the innkeeper was quite overcome after voicing his “no room!” lines. He put both hands on his head and panted 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 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 said he just wanted me to play the piano. I suggested “Away in a manger”, and he nodded.
I began to play and he began to sing, at the top of his voice, “We three kings of Orientare!” He 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!
40 thoughts on “Childhood Christmas”
Beautiful, Sunshine. And what precious memories to have experienced the holiday in different places.
Thanks, Renee. Precious memories for sure.
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,
It was very cute, Kathy! Thanks, and Christmas blessings to you too.
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
Thanks so much, dear Diane. Yes, I’m feeling kind of wistful today …
Merry Christmas and many blessings to you and your family too xx
If you went to a church carol service then you will certainly embrace this song that’s overloading the net: “Where’s the Line to See Jesus?
I don’t know it, Carl, but I’ll check it out. Thanks!
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.)
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
First names that come to mind: Diamond, Campbell, Goodfellow, Friend …
Those names don’t ring a bell for me … maybe they will for my family. I’ll check.
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!
Thanks, Maura. I could think of nothing better than family visits in 2011. Happy Monday to you too! xx
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
Thanks so much, Fi! Glad you could relate – and let’s think of each other. That already makes me feel better! Lots of love to you three xxx
Thats one of the things about being so far apart. You would give anything to be with family.
It sounds like you know the feeling, duke? It’s tough, especially at this time of year.
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.
Thanks so much, Todd. He was a lovely clown! I can remember him so clearly, and find it so funny that I had no clue it was my Dad.
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…
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!
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.
That sounds like some kind of scattered. And you’re right about thinking about family … ahhhh…
Sweet memories you shared…sentimental and filled from top to bottom with the joy of Christmas!
Blessings to you too, jane xx
This post warmed me on a chilly winter’s night.
Thanks, hippie. Keep warm over there xx
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!
Thank you so much and Merry Christmas to you too!
Sunshine, you would rather be in your warm home, knowing exactly what is going on- then stranded at the Heathrow airport- not sure of whether you are going to have a Christmas here or in London- right? Silver lining.
Your post was beasutiful, it made me feel all gooey inside.
Yes, you’re quite right – passengers are STILL waiting at Heathrow. That would have broken my heart … silver lining for sure!
Glad you enjoyed the post, mnb xx
I can’t imagine a warm Christmas. Your beautiful stories light the whole concept up, though. Really evocative post, Sunshine 🙂
What a very lovely thing to say, Kate – thank you.
A warm Christmas is a very different one indeed – I plan to write more about it this week! xx
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.
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
I just think you’re a “glass half full” kind of person.
I am married to one of those “half’-full” women. There are times it drives me nuts!
Sorry, duke. A support group with my husband, maybe?
Amen to that one! I hear it can always be worse. I know that bit for at least a couple of minutes let me rant!