OPINION: A simple Christmas can be simply the best Christmas

 Wells-next-the-sea on a winters morning.

Editor David Powles says he feels incredibly fortunate to report on life in this wonderful region - Credit: citizenside.com

Walking past a newsagent on a recent morning., headlines screamed out ‘Christmas to be cancelled second year running …!’

And I nearly laughed out loud at the absurdity of it all. For one thing it is simply not possible to ‘cancel Christmas.’ Christmas has seen more than 2,000 years of persecution, plague, hunger and warfare, no less than in the horrors of the two world wars.

I hardly think our 18 months battling Covid will bring it down now!

But what about the “excesses” of Christmas? Well yes, it is perfectly possible a good number of those will need to be cancelled … or postponed, for this year anyway.

And when it comes to seeing adored family members already separated far too long by the effects of the pandemic …. the elderly, new-born babes, those with life limiting diseases, it is heart-breaking indeed.

But if Covid has taught us anything at all it, it is this: we don’t need the glitz, the conspicuous spending, the loud office parties, the cheap plastic toys, the endless, mindless excesses in order to celebrate Christmas.

In fact, these really have nothing to do with Christmas at all. Instead, I suggest, we need to connect with Christmases of the past, simpler times; and find there the solace needed to restore our equilibrium, and the space, glorious space, wherein to take stock, and look forward.

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My telephone rang as I was writing these last few words.

A farmer near Aylsham offering me 300 double yolk eggs for anyone who needs them?

One quick phone call and they are on their way to the Larder at Aylsham Community Church.

Fellow farmers, he tells me, will be bringing in an abundance of potatoes and onions from early in the New Year. My heart swells with gratitude. Norfolk at its most practical, generous and typically understated best. Christmas on-going all year round.

For some, the next few days will undoubtedly be the hardest of the year. As Ben Garrod evocatively reminds in ‘Norfolk at its Best’ (selling now in aid of Norfolk Community Foundation) ‘We come from a realm of flatlands latticed with meandering waterways, set beneath huge expanses of sky which has given us an iron-strong resolve …. but central to all that is our sense of community.’ How right he is.

Here in Norfolk, we have communities like few others, communities that are the lifeblood of our county, the glue to society, absolute lifelines to the most vulnerable amongst us.

With impending levels of virus soaring yet again, this year we need to watch out ever more for the lonely, for the cold and for the despairing; and bring them into the warmth, as generation upon generation have quietly done before us.

The sights and smells of Christmas are the sights and smells of childhood. Treasured tree decorations unpacked for the umpteenth year. The lopsided angel atop the tree created by one of our children who now has similarly aged children of his own. Four-year-old Jack was a ‘wild shepherd’ (no explanation offered) in his school nativity last week, as I’m sure were countless other four-year-olds right across the county.

And so, the magic of childhood continues. Nothing to do with riches, glitz or celebrity. Churches are filling with those determined, masked or not, to sing out the familiar Christmas Carols and hear those eternal words of hope. And so “Let me be a child again, just for Christmas Eve. Let me know the simple truths that little ones believe.”

I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas wherever you are. And please remember, you are never be too old to search the skies on Christmas Eve!

The Lady Dannatt MBE is HM Lord-Lieutenant of Norfolk

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