12 Days of Christmas – Sophie Masson

Today, for our third 12 Days of Christmas we have the delightful Sophie Masson with her lovely Christmas Tree and Nativity memory. It’s a little like ours today!

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A favourite Christmas memory

When I was a child, my French parents, especially my father, made Christmas very special for us. It was a truly magical time of year, and one of the things that made it so very wonderful was the preparations of the tree and the Nativity scene, which is the memory I want to share with you.

The Christmas tree would be brought home two days before Christmas, and we would be allowed to decorate it with father—or at least, we could hand him the decorations while he dressed the tree. How we loved getting out those amazing boxes of fragile treasures–the crystal balls, the satin stars, the little wooden figurines, the little birds with silky feathers and sequinned eyes, the tin soldiers, the long strings of tinsel! Dad placed them carefully and artistically, so that the tree looked even more beautiful than the ones you saw sparkling in the city when you went with Maman on shopping trips. And it smelled so good, filling the house with that glorious scent of Christmas! We couldn’t wait till Christmas Eve, when we’d be woken late for Midnight Mass, and be allowed a peep at the night-time Christmas tree, sparkling with lights, with the dreamy piles of presents under it..

But what was even more artistic and magical was the preparation of the Nativity scene. First my father chose large pebbles or rather small rocks, which he arranged in the form of a cave—his theory being that the stable was actually in a cave. These were placed on the mantelpiece and then twigs and dried leaves were arranged around it to represent the landscape. The little clay figures of Mary and Joseph were put at one end of the mantelpiece, to represent the fact they were journeying towards Bethlehem; at the opposite end of the mantelpiece were placed the clay figures of three kings or wise men, as they’d be studying the skies before the birth of Jesus, and a little closer, the clay shepherds would be minding their clay flocks on a rock which represented a hillside near Bethlehem. Every day, May and Joseph got closer to the cave; but baby Jesus stayed hidden in tissue-paper in the box till very late on Christmas Eve when he would suddenly appear between his parents, now firmly settled in the stable-cave. At this moment too the shepherds had come close, two angels appeared on top of the cave, and in their eastern corner the three kings began their long journey which would only end the day of the Fête des Rois, or Feast day of the Kings, January 6, when they would arrive before the cave to to give their gifts of gold and perfumes to baby Jesus.

(That’s another story–a day we celebrated with le Gâteau des Rois, the King-cake, where there was always a broad bean hidden—whoever found the broad bean was king or queen for the day, and excused from chores such as the washing-up!)

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Sophie Masson is the award-winning author of over 60 books for children, young adults, and adults. She lives in Armidale in northern NSW. Her most recent novels are The Crystal Heart (Random House Australia, 2014); 1914 (Scholastic Australia, 2014). You can uncover more about Sophie here.

This is an edited piece from Sophie’s collection Once Upon A Christmas, published by Christmas Press. You can purchase the book here.

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