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From our Archives - Celebrating Christmas

Christmas - You've Got to Love It
by Tony Brown

It’s my time of year. I always think of Christmas as midnight on the annual clock, then it’s followed by New Year when everything starts again.

get the tree

But for a whole week, everyone shares the same celebrations and I love it when we share. I love community spirit. For me, Christmas is a world community thing. I suppose I’m just a big softy but there’s no harm in being a little off centre. I can handle that. I`m known to stifle a sob just watching This is Your Life. Even the Eclipse had me in tears for the same reason. Here in Cornwall, it was a community thing. We were all subject to the same natural phenomena and it brought a huge spontaneous reaction from the cosmopolitan community that lives here. We were cheering and clapping and hugging and kissing like it was the last day on earth. If only it were always like that. Forget the commercial angle and the cynicism. Christmas is what you make it and we mustn't ignore its magic or its art.

People say Christmas is for children. Bah! Humbug! When I was a kid it was the adults who had all the fun in our house. They were far too busy for me. I was sent to bed too early. I`d sit at the top of the stairs and listen to the music and the voices singing and talking rubbish. The grown-ups would dance and stumble against the furniture and the men would declare undying love to anyone that caught their eye then drop their drinks on the carpet. I couldn’t wait to grow up.

There’s always fun at Christmastime. It all starts when the pubs close and you get invited round to some strangers` house to enjoy all their drinks. We have quite a wide circle of friends here in Falmouth who got to know each other from working in a local bar/restaurant together.

We developed the same brand of humour and loved the sense of theatre that you always find in a well-run pub. It was such delightful nonsense. Now we meet all too little but at Christmas, we reunite after doing whatever we've been doing that has kept us apart throughout the year and just that "getting together" takes priority over most other things.

One of our crowd came back from running away to sea and, during a bout of delirium, actually married a local Tory councillor. So every year on December 18th (or the nearest Saturday), the season really kicks in when we are reluctantly summoned to his afternoon birthday party. He sends a coach to collect and deliver us to his stately pile overlooking Helston Creek. Leaning on his mantelpiece one year, I happened to notice amongst their countless Christmas cards, one from our sentimental couple to their rabbit. I thought that was a little weird until I noticed it was next to one from their rabbit to them. Then I discovered the rabbit had its own room - and it was larger than my bed-sit. The room itself was carpeted in - yes, you guessed it, green shag and the only piece of furniture in there was a basket filled with straw. That party is not the hottest ticket in town but it has spawned a new game. For a whole week before it happens, you can tell the members of our gang because we’re the idiots walking round half dressed hoping to catch a mystery virus that might prevent us from going to the party. We’re the loonies crossing roads blindfold. We’re the nutters who point and openly mock those overweight shaven-headed bouncers outside pubs. We’re the strangers during the football match catcalling and laughing out loud at the visiting supporters. We’re the dozy ones in the front of the queue at traffic lights reading a dictionary when the lights change to green. Yes, first one with a cast-iron excuse for not going to the party wins a magnum of Buck`s Fizz.

Last year, as our coach pulled away, leaving a dozen gently swaying merrymakers confused but happy outside Falmouth parish church preparing to make their various ways home to bed, I remember my surprise when the clock chimed a startling six p.m. as we warmly wished each other a jolly goodnight.

The next lunchtime was busy as usual in the bar and the excitement of the build-up to Christmas was almost palpable. Only a couple of days earlier my girlfriend had returned to Stratford-on-Avon to be within the bosom of her family and I was missing her terribly. She was so far away and how I wished she would phone. Then she did, and I told her how I wouldn't bother with decorations or a tree because there didn't seem to be much point. She did her best to cheer me up but just the sound of her voice in all that hubbub made me miss her more. By the time I put the receiver down I was pretty depressed. But I almost fainted with delight when two minutes later she walked through the doors struggling with a real tree, lights, tinsel, baubles, lametta and an angel peeping over the top. Christmas had returned. She`d phoned from the booth outside to surprise me. She drove back to Stratford on Christmas Eve.

So now, if the children want to whisper, then I give them my attention because they're the only ones who can tell me the secrets of the Universe. One other thing, at Christmas I listen to myself and always make a wish and try to look at Christmas with the innocence and enthusiasm of childhood because there's the only sense in being here at all.

So enjoy yourself everyone and be kind to one another. It's up to you.
Make a wish and have a Happy Christmas.

© Tony Brown 2001
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