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CHRISTMAS PRESENTS

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What a world of kindly thought goes into the delightful old custom of christmas present gift giving at christmas ! And what a world of pleasure is derived from choosing that christmas present...if only you can "take your time, "and be sure of ample selection.

Don’t ruin Christmas
Christmas-time, mistletoe and wine? Maybe for us, but there are places in the world that aren't as lucky as us. We expect and get presents from our parents but our parents have the money to do that.

Some kids don't and they're just glad to be alive which in some ways is good because it shows presents aren't the be-all and end-all of Christmas.Even if you expect presents, it doesn't mean to say you're actually going to receive them.

We should remember how lucky we are and be thankful for spending Christmas with our families.


Sparing a thought
For me Christmas is nothing special, but I would not say that for a little child. Children see Christmas as a chance to nag their mothers to take them to see Father Christmas in town.

One thing I do like is the fact I tend to get everything I want! I think I'm very lucky as I always get great presents and I get to spend time with people who want me.

I think it's important to celebrate Christmas as it's a festive time of the year when families should get together. To think that there are people unhappy at Christmas without any family or homeless is sad.

A lot of people today forget the true meaning of Christmas, the birth of Jesus Christ. I also think of all the charities that try and work for kids at this time of the year.

People should spare a thought for Third World countries where some children haven't got any family. A lot of these children have lost their parents and other family members through war and violence. While young people in this country want the latest and the most expensive presents, those children in the war-torn countries only want peace.


Help for abroad
When I was younger Christmas was a time to get new presents but now I tend to think about less fortunate kids, like young people who live on the streets who won't see any presents this Christmas, even clothes or proper food. There are plenty of people who will be cold and lonely this winter despite all the flash adverts telling you otherwise. The government have also suggested that people don't give money to the homeless this year, but to charities instead. Fair enough, but it might come too late for some young people.

I'd like to see presents being collected up so that they can be sent abroad so that others could at least experience 'Christmas'. I know this happens most years but there's not been much publicity this time round.

In Jamaica they celebrate Christmas but differently from Britain. Jamaicans normally have big dances, parties, go to clubs and enjoy themselves for who and what they are, rather than simply families meeting up and stuffing their faces with the same old plain boring turkey, carrots, roast potatoes etc.

Christmas for me is a pleasure with the presents I get, but you can't avoid the homeless. I really have feelings for them because Christmas is a great day for us, but for people without a roof over their heads they must feel nothing. They must feel worse than nothing because Christmas is thrown in their faces all the time.

Decoration time
Christmas is a festive part of the year when families should be together, a time of the year for celebrating. Most people have parties, some don't. Homeless people have nothing, no presents, no Christmas dinner, no nothing.. I feel for these young people. I feel for young people in hospital over the Christmas period. I can see their faces when they're thinking about Christmas, and what their brothers and sisters are doing.

The thing I love most about Christmas is seeing the decorations going up. It's really nice to drive past houses in your car and see them all lit up. It gives me a really warm feeling inside.

Fun for the family
To me, Christmas is not just about giving each other presents. It's about spending time with your family and having fun, and thinking about other people.

The time before Christmas is fun, hanging up decorations, decorating Christmas trees, and wrapping presents.

But if Christmas is about family, what about those people who don't have one, or who have suffered a loss ? How do the parents of missing children feel, with Christmas coming up?


I write to you in a much happier frame of mind because something wonderful has just happened that I must tell you about at once. We were all standing to in our trenches yesterday morning, Christmas morning. It was crisp and quiet all about, as beautiful a morning as I've ever seen, as cold and frosty as a Christmas morning should be.

I should like to be able to tell you that we began it. But the truth, I'm ashamed to say, is that Fritz began it. First someone saw a white flag waving from the trenches opposite. Then they were calling out to us from across no man's land, "Happy Christmas Tommy! Happy Christmas!" When we had got over the surprise some of us shouted back. "Same to you Fritz! Same to you!" I thought that would be that. We all did. But then suddenly one of them was up there in his grey greatcoat and waving a white flag. "Don't shoot, lads!" someone shouted. And no one did. Then there was another Fritz up on the parapet, and another. "Keep your heads down," I told the men. "It's a trick." But it wasn't.

One of the Germans was waving a bottle above his head. "It is Christmas Day, Tommy. We have schnapps. We have sausage. We meet you? Yes?" By this time there were dozens of them walking towards us across no man's land and not a rifle between them. Little Private Morris was the first up. "Come on, boys. What are we waiting for?" And then there was no stopping them. I was the officer. I should have stopped them there and then, I suppose, but the truth is that it never even occurred to me I should. All along their line and ours I could see men walking slowly towards one another, grey coats, khaki coats meeting in the middle. And I was one of them. I was part of this. In the middle of the war we were making peace.

You cannot imagine, dearest Connie, my feelings as I looked into the eyes of the Fritz officer, who approached me, hand outstretched. "Hans Wolf," he said, gripping my hand warmly and holding it. "I am from Düsseldorf. I play the cello in the orchestra. Happy Christmas."

"Captain Jim Macpherson," I replied. "And a Happy Christmas to you too. I'm a school teacher from Dorset, in the west of England."

"Ah, Dorset," he smiled. "I know this place. I know it very well." We shared my rum ration and his excellent sausage. And we talked, Connie, how we talked. He spoke almost perfect English. But it turned out that he had never set foot in Dorset, never even been to England. He had learned all he knew of England from school, and from reading books in English. His favourite writer was Thomas Hardy, his favourite book Far from the Madding Crowd. So out there in no man's land we talked of Bathsheba and Gabriel Oak and Sergeant Troy and Dorset. He had a wife and one son, born just six months ago. As I looked about me there were huddles of khaki and grey everywhere, all over no man's land, smoking, laughing, talking, drinking, eating. Hans Wolf and I shared what was left of your wonderful Christmas cake, Connie. He thought the marzipan was the best he had ever tasted. I agreed. We agreed about everything, and he was my enemy. There never was a Christmas party like it, Connie.

Then someone, I don't know who, brought out a football. Greatcoats were dumped in piles to make goalposts, and the next thing we knew it was Tommy against Fritz out in the middle of no man's land. Hans Wolf and I looked on and cheered, clapping our hands and stamping our feet, to keep out the cold as much as anything. There was a moment when I noticed our breaths mingling in the air between us. He saw it too and smiled. "Jim Macpherson," he said after a while, "I think this is how we should resolve this war. A football match. No one dies in a football match. No children are orphaned. No wives become widows."

"I'd prefer cricket," I told him. "Then we Tommies could be sure of winning, probably." We laughed at that, and together we watched the game. Sad to say, Connie, Fritz won, two goals to one. But as Hans Wolf generously said, our goal was wider than theirs, so it wasn't quite fair.

The time came, and all too soon, when the game was finished, the schnapps and the rum and the sausage had long since run out, and we knew it was all over. I wished Hans well and told him I hoped he would see his family again soon, that the fighting would end and we could all go home.

"I think that is what every soldier wants, on both sides," Hans Wolf said. "Take care, Jim Macpherson. I shall never forget this moment, nor you." He saluted and walked away from me slowly, unwillingly, I felt. He turned to wave just once and then became one of the hundreds of grey-coated men drifting back towards their trenches.

That night, back in our dugouts, we heard them singing a carol, and singing it quite beautifully. It was Stille Nacht, Silent Night. Our boys gave them a rousing chorus of While Shepherds Watched. We exchanged carols for a while and then we all fell silent. We had had our time of peace and goodwill, a time I will treasure as long as I live.

Dearest Connie, by Christmas time next year, this war will be nothing but a distant and terrible memory. I know from all that happened today how much both armies long for peace. We shall be together again soon, I'm sure of it.

Your loving Jim.

I folded the letter again and slipped it carefully back into its envelope. I told no one about my find, but kept my shameful intrusion to myself. It was this guilt I think that kept me awake all night. By morning I knew what I had to do. I made an excuse and did not go to church with the others. Instead, I drove into Bridport, just a few miles away. I asked a boy walking his dog where Copper Beeches was. No 12 turned out to be nothing but a burned-out shell, the roof gaping, the windows boarded-up. I knocked at the house next door and asked if anyone knew the whereabouts of a Mrs Macpherson. Oh yes, said the old man in his slippers, he knew her well. A lovely old lady, he told me, a bit muddled-headed, but at her age she was entitled to be, wasn't she? 101 years old. She had been in the house when it caught fire. No one really knew how the fire had started, but it could well have been candles. She used candles rather than electricity, because she always thought electricity was too expensive. The fireman had got her out just in time. She was in a nursing home now, he told me, Burlington House, on the Dorchester road, on the other side of town.

I found Burlington House Nursing Home easily enough. There were paperchains up in the hallway and a lighted Christmas tree stood in the corner with a lopsided angel on top. I said I was a friend come to visit Mrs Macpherson to bring her a Christmas present. I could see through into the dining room where everyone was wearing a paper hat and singing along to Good King Wenceslas. The matron had a hat on too and seemed happy enough to see me. She even offered me a mince pie. She walked me along the corridor. "Mrs Macpherson is not in with the others," she told me. "She's rather confused today so we thought it best if she had a good rest. She's no family you know, no one visits. So I'm sure she'll be only too pleased to see you." She took me into a conservatory with wicker chairs and potted plants all around and left me.

The old lady was sitting in a wheelchair, her hands folded in her lap. She had silver white hair pinned into a wispy bun. She was gazing out at the garden. "Hello," I said. She turned and looked up at me vacantly. "Happy Christmas, Connie," I went on. "I found this. I think it's yours." As I was speaking her eyes never left my face. I opened the tin box and gave it to her. That was the moment her eyes lit up with recognition and her face became suffused with a sudden glow of happiness. I explained about the desk, about how I had found it, but I don't think she was listening. For a while she said nothing, but stroked the letter tenderly with her fingertips.

Suddenly she reached out and took my hand. Her eyes were filled with tears. "You told me you'd come home by Christmas, dearest," she said. "And here you are, the best Christmas present in the world. Come closer, Jim dear, sit down."

I sat down beside her, and she kissed my cheek. "I read your letter so often Jim, every day. I wanted to hear your voice in my head. It always made me feel you were with me. And now you are. Now you're back you can read it to me yourself. Would you do that for me, Jim dear? I just want to hear your voice again. I'd love that so much. And then perhaps we'll have some tea. I've made you a nice Christmas cake, marzipan all around. I know how much you love marzipan."

 

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