Best selling author Michael Harding recalls some of his festive memories including his favourite Christmas, in 1992, when he was snowed in deep in bog country with just his heavily pregnant wife for company, and a roaring fire to keep them both safe and warm.
Michael Harding sees Christmas as a beacon of light in the bleakness of darkest winter. He also sees it as a metaphor for family life, and has the fondest of memories of his own childhood growing up in Cavan.
“The Christmas meal was a big deal, as we always got a lovely leg of turkey,” he recalls. “You would get white meat on occasion during the rest of the year but the turkey was special. It was also tricky to cook and I have a lot of memories of the turkey going wrong.
“In recent years we have moved away from the tradition of turkey at Christmas as the novelty has kind of worn off. We had Indian food one year, and steak another. I’m not sure what we’ll have this year.”
Michael also embraces the religious side of Christmas, and is particularly drawn to the story of Mary and Joseph, struck by the lack of welcome they received when they arrived in Bethlehem.
“One of my most special memories of Christmas as a child was the Christmas crib,” he says. “Someone else in the family got the job of putting up the tree but I set up the crib, at the bottom of the stairs, and I became very engaged with the story. I was intrigued by this family of outcasts and how they had to sleep in the byre.
“I think of the crib today when I hear stories of the immigrants in Ireland and how they have to live in direct provision centres, at times up to six or seven years or longer, and how difficult a time it must be for them before they are free to fully integrate into our society.
“I remember setting a light up at the back of the crib and pretending it was a stage and shining a spotlight on the different characters in it as I made up stories using the figurines.”