I’ve spoken of Christmas in Cyprus surrounded by family and food but when I used to live in England, Christmas was a different story. Having close relatives faraway meant Christmas could be a lonely affair but my parents still made it enjoyable.
I remember the Christmas lights in Oxford Street and the crowds of shoppers getting their last minute presents down in central London. I remember the hot chestnuts being sold on the pavements outside the shops and the cold air enveloping me and nipping at my nose, the central heating turned on to full and our Polish neighbour helping my mum scrape off the ice from our car during the morning school run.
I remember my little sister being afraid of the Christmas tree and putting up Christmas stockings, only to find them filled with goodies on Christmas morning, together with the presents awaiting us under the Christmas tree.
We often went to a Christmas party on Christmas Day or invited people round. On New Year’s Eve however we went out to a Chinese restaurant and joined all the other customers in welcoming the new year by holding hands and singing ‘Auld Lang Syne.’ My sisters and I made friends with the Chinese waiters who allowed us behind the bar to sneakily take jelly babies from a big plastic tub.
Some Christmases were spent in Torquay. We always stayed at the same hotel surrounded by old pensioners and took walks down by the coast. We took part in a competition where we had to guess how many jelly babies there were in the jar and danced the night away in the bar with all the other guests.
The holidays passed like this and now I remember everything with warmth and nostalgia and the carefree days of being a child. It has been twenty years since our last Christmas in England, an age away but somehow the memories are still clear in the mind and will remain so.