Away in a manger way past bed-time

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LAST night I went to my first carol concert of the season. This was largely due to the fact my eldest child was singing in it rather than because I was feeling festive.

However, having been to see her warble her way through a number of well-known tunes, I do certainly feel that Christmas is upon us once more.

The fact I was allowed to join in with the singing without a small child telling me I was “embarrassing” as I failed to hit the high parts of Once in Royal David’s City or Hark The Herald Angels also helped enormously.

Now I have hunted out the old CDs of festive tunes and have been avidly playing them all this week in the car. This is despite the protests of all three children telling me to “stop singing mummy”.

But singing is a really therapeutic experience, I find. Especially singing songs you learned when you were young. A few blasts of Away in a Manger and I am transported back to my childhood , huddled next to my mother in church while watching my brother in his first ever nativity play.

He was a wise man. Not something he appears to have lived up to though, it has to be said. I remember him wearing a tea towel on his head secured with a belt and some kind of pillowcase or sack round him as a gown.

The following year when I was at school I was given an even greater role – that of the Angel Gabriel (again not exactly a role I lived up to!). I remember having to wear an old wedding dress my mum had found in a jumble sale for 10p and some silver tinsel in my hair. I and my helpers were told to keep very still and quiet in the pulpit while the rest of the play was ensuing. I was then expected to “pop” up at the required time and speak my hastily- learned 11 lines.

However, being a small child, keeping still and quiet was not something which came easily. And more than once our teacher had to creep in to where we were stashed with loud “shhhs” on her lips.

And now I am parent of a similar aged child I fear I have very little time for her when she fails to keep quiet and does not sit still.

Despite having been very proud to hear her singing in Sheffield Cathedral, there was part of me smarting that I could see her swivelling in her chair and whispering to her friends as other “acts” were doing their bits. That and the yawning that ensued really got on my nerves. The fact it was after 8pm on a school night and she was doing exactly the same as the other children seemed to escape my critical glare.

She has got two more concerts to do with her school choir so I will have to learn to curb my criticisms and just enjoy the whole experience. After all, it will all be over soon enough. Within just a few short years she will no doubt tell me she is “too old” to participate.

But while she is still young I am going to make the most of all the Christmas opportunities which come along. After all it might only be a relatively short period of time that she still believes in Santa.

This year we are planning to make our annual trip back to Newcastle to see relatives. One of the highlights is to go into the city centre and see Fenwick’s window.

Each year this shop, one of the biggest in the city, puts on a magical display in its shop windows, complete with life-like moving figures.

Usually it is based on a well-known story. Some of the best I have seen over the years are Alice in Wonderland, Snow White and the Snowman. Every year we stand 10 deep in the crowds as we crane our necks to try and see the displays. I remember going as a child and now it is a real pleasure for me to take my own children to see this too.

There are also some great Christmas opportunities in Sheffield city centre and this year is no exception.

A Santa’s grotto is already teeming with children at the top of Fargate, which sits at the heart of this year’s festive Christmas Market.

This coupled with late night shopping makes Sheffield a great place to visit. For more information visit Sheffield City Council’s website at