There’s an ad that comes onto the radio around this time
each year. It features a father buying a train set for his children, as he nostalgically
recalls his own childhood and a train set that Santa brought for him. Most
Irish people will know the ad, which was voiced by the late Peter Caffrey.

Dad, you’ll never guess what Santa brought.

Well doesn’t that beat Banagher.

A train set, no less

Isn’t Santa the smart fella.

So last night, when I came home with the train set, Mary
couldn’t believe it.

Ah Martin, sure that’s not what they wanted at all.

Santa will bring them what they want, I said. This is from me. Put the kettle on and we’ll have a cup of tea.

Model trains were never my thing when I was young. But
Christmas? Well nothing – not holidays in sunny places; Easters full of
chocolate; nor shopping bags full of cheap Halloween sweets and monkey nuts –
could even come close to Christmas for me.

Each year it was I that wanted to put up the tree in
November. It was I who bought 3p Hunk of Chew bars as presents for my brother
and sisters, wrapped them individually, only to have eaten them myself by the
20th of December. It was I who sat in front of the TV every
Christmas Eve hoping that Scrooge, the musical version of A Christmas Carol
starring Albert Finney, would come on.

I lived for Christmas. For planning with my older brother
how we’d get downstairs in the middle of the night without being heard (until
one year he suddenly became a teenager and for some reason preferred the idea
of a lie-in than getting up at 4am). For the morning drinks party that my
parents had each Christmas Day, as friends and relatives, some of whom we saw
hardly more than once a year, came around like clockwork at 11. For the dinner
that we ate at the dining room table that for the rest of the year was covered
with a ¼ sized snooker table (these were the days of Alex Higgins and Ray
Reardon; Denis Taylor and Steve Davis).

Christmas for me meant warmth, family, security, peace. I’ve
tried to re-create this sense of closeness and peace with my own family. It
doesn’t always work of course – kids as they grow have a way of making their
own minds up about things!  But I’ll keep
on trying – this time of year was too special for me, not to try to keep that
alive for them.

I know that Christmas can be harder for some people. But wherever you are around the World and whatever beliefs you may have, if any – I hope that this Christmas can be a time of warmth and peace for you.

Happy Christmas to you all, from everyone at LIFT Ireland