My earliest memory of Christmas was in Banagher when I was about six. I remember getting from Santa, a big red toy double - decker bus. In my young years I had never seen a red double-decker bus. The one that came to Banagher from Dublin was a green single-decker.
But of Dublin my memories are a little clearer. One of my tasks a few days before Christmas was to travel into Busaras to collect a goose from the Banagher bus.
My loving Granny would send us one every year without fail.
Our Christmas dinner was always a goose as big as a child, never a turkey.
The most enjoyable part of Christmas for me was Christmas Eve.
I think it was the anticipation of Santa’s visit later that night.
Also, that was the that night we all sat around the fire listening to my father’s stories while he drank a bottle of stout heated by the fire, waiting for the cork stopper to pop like a bottle of champagne while my mother drank her small Jameson, because after all it was Christmas, the time of good cheer.
I was very religious when I was a young boy and I loved the first Christmas story and indeed I still do, although it now seems to be lost to commercialism.
On Christmas morning we would head of to nine o’clock mass in Donnybrook.
It was the job of my father to fry up the breakfast that morning and oh! The beautiful smell of bacon, eggs and sausages as we walked up the street was enough to make the goose jump out of the oven.
After breakfast, the presents.
For some reason I always got socks knitted by my mother, never the lead soldiers I wanted or a castle or an airplane, but I did get a clockwork train once that whirred around in circles at three o’clock on the morning of Christmas day, much to my parents’ displeasure
But once I got two cowboy guns and holsters and was disgusted when I found that one gun was smaller than the other and would fall through the holster.
I was a stickler for perfection, everything had to be right. I think I was a bit O.C D.
But the goose made up for everything.
At dinner I drank my raspberry cordial, imagining it was a glass of wine and once when I was sixteen my brother gave me a Churchman’s cigarette, because I was sixteen. My mother disapproved of this and cut him dead with a look that would freeze the goose.
After dinner we kids would do the washing up while my mother took a well-earned rest.
Later that night we would gather around the fireplace again and talk and sing and Tom would play the accordion, and the craic was good. Then television came and spoiled it all.
But one Christmas he wasn’t there, instead, spending the day with his intended wife and her family.
The next year they married and emigrated to America and that was the last Christmas he spent with us.
We were always allowed stay up late that night, but eventually I would make my way upstairs with my toys and socks.
In bed I would feel somewhat sad, because Christmas day was gone for another year and Santa was back at the North Pole, sleeping, after a busy night making children happy.
I’d shout down “Thanks” to my mum and dad, I’d look under the bed, just in case, say my prayers put out the light and peacefully fall asleep.
Happy Christmas and good health to all and as Tiny Tim said “God bless us everyone!”
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