In terms of pure magic and excitement, nothing will ever beat Christmas Eve for us. From putting out a carrot for Rudolph and Sherry for Santa, to going to bed with an old pair of Mama Jones' chopped tights on the end of the bed and waking up with the stocking filled with gifts, this charade was the most magical of our childhood, as I'm sure it is for most children.
Although, now nearly 30 years on, some things have changed, (Mama Jones now expects us to take our own stockings to our bedrooms when we merrily hit the hay after too much festive food and mulled wine!), but with our huge family, we can always expect a tribe of small excited children, eagerly awaiting the big man's arrival; and so the magic continues...
One year, a nephew of mine (I won't embarrass by naming) had to sit down and write a serious note to Father Christmas, explaining a big conundrum - "I just wanted to let you know that I have to stay in my Uncle Ru's bedroom tonight and he likes Arsenal. Please don't think that I do too - I still 100% support Tottenham!"
As this anecdote shows, this is the night that brings out a childish naivety and trust like no other. It's the night that you can stand back and realise that your kids are in fact still children, a fact which in the modern day seems to get lost in amongst the YouTube videos and iPhones. It's just one of the reasons we all partake in this festive tradition - an excuse to keep our little ones, 'little' for as long as we can! And as their faces beam with happiness on Christmas morning, I can completely understand why parents do it. Why we all keep up this mystical Christmas story.
But when do we have to grab the bull by the horns and burst this bubble? How long should they keep believing?
This is coming from someone who was too old when the cat was out the bag! Thanks to one older brother, one Father Christmas costume and one clumsy drink aided fall; I genuinely believed in Santa until I was 12 - yep! After seeing 'him', actually in my bedroom, delivering presents, that was me signed, sealed delivered, all the way to never-never land. A fully signed up member of the Father Christmas cheerleading squad...
Now whether that's enchanting or completely sad I don't know. On one hand, when I did find out, I was at that stage of thinking I was a bit over it all anyway (or so I thought I had people believe), but on the other, my unwavering belief must've made all my school friends think I was nuts!
All children are different when they find out the truth. My first instinct was to go and ruin the fun for my little sister - the lash out - when the only thing to stop yourself feeling that you've been taken for a ride is to go and do it to someone else so you're in it together. A year or so on, when little sis discovered the secret, there were tears. And finally the youngest of the clan, my little bro, actually smiled and danced around with joy, having always been petrified of the boss man Father C.
It's a conversation I know I will dread - how to you tell your child that this is all, in fact, a lie, especially when lying and telling tales are on the top 5 'what not to do list'? It's moments like this when the power of the parenting community is at it's most crucial. I encourage you all to post your advice and stories if only so I can store them up for the future!
And to all those, still taking a starring role in this Christmas role-play... we're wishing you all the love, luck and best wishes for another Christmas packed full of beautiful memories to treasure forever.