ROWAN MAN­TELL

My fam­ily has never had a Nor­folk Christ­mas and it’s a fam­ily joke that we are not com­pletely sure it hap­pens here. But this year we will all be­come believ­ers

EDP Norfolk - - News - Rowan Man­tell

“Not be­ing a Nor­folk na­tive, our Christ­mas tra­di­tion was to leave the county to take the chil­dren on a grand tour of grand­par­ents in our child­hood homes of Devon and Wales. But this year we are con­tem­plat­ing a Nor­folk Christ­mas”

“I adore Christ­mas, col­lect crib scenes, make brandy but­ter, sing car­ols year­round, think pri­mary schools should be legally obliged to stage Na­tiv­ity plays, have de­vel­oped enough fam­ily tra­di­tions to fill an ad­vent cal­en­dar and keep my dec­o­ra­tions up un­til Jan­uary 6”

I BELIEVE in Fa­ther Christ­mas (and so would you if he had left you a stock­ing packed with presents for a full 50 years).

I believe in the birth of a baby in a Beth­le­hem sta­ble who so changed the world that we still celebrate more than 2,000 years later.

I believe in real Christ­mas trees cov­ered in sparkling lights, in piles of presents un­der­neath, in tur­key din­ners, mulled wine, mince pies and mistle­toe.

I adore Christ­mas, col­lect crib scenes, make brandy but­ter, sing car­ols year-round, think pri­mary schools should be legally obliged to stage Na­tiv­ity plays, have de­vel­oped enough fam­ily tra­di­tions to fill an Ad­vent cal­en­dar and keep my dec­o­ra­tions up un­til Jan­uary 6.

But I have never quite be­lieved that Christ­mas Day takes place in Nor­folk.

Friends and col­leagues as­sure me that they spend De­cem­ber 25 in the county, and that Christ­mas oc­curs on sched­ule. Through­out my work­ing life I have writ­ten about the in­gre­di­ents which make up a Nor­folk Christ­mas, and even ex­pe­ri­enced many of them. I’ve mar­velled at the magic of Thurs­ford, taken trains to see Santa, skated on ice rinks, wept through Na­tiv­ity plays, en­joyed fes­tive af­ter­noon tea at The As­sem­bly House, shouted at pan­tomimes and sung at carol ser­vices.

But I have never stayed for the day it­self. Not be­ing a Nor­folk na­tive, our Christ­mas tra­di­tion was to leave the county to take the chil­dren on a grand tour of grand­par­ents in our child­hood homes of Devon and Wales. It meant sleigh-loads of presents for them, min­i­mal cook­ing for us, and two, yes two, vis­its from Santa, firstly in Wales then, the fol­low­ing night, to a line of hope­fully hung stock­ings in Devon.

But this year we are con­tem­plat­ing a Nor­folk Christ­mas.

And just as I was won­der­ing how to repli­cate the car­ols of Christ­mas Eve evening un­der a starry sky in the Welsh hills, or the big Box­ing Day walk on Dart­moor, Nor­wich weighed in with 50,000 pul­sat­ing lights and a mis­sion to bring the wonder of the Aurora Bo­re­alis to the city cen­tre. This Christ­mas, the first im­mer­sive tun­nel of light in the coun­try will be joined by spe­cially com­mis­sioned fes­tive films, set to mu­sic and pro­jected on to City Hall and the Cas­tle. I’m hop­ing it will be like Lynn Lu­miere; I’m hop­ing it will be like the beau­ti­ful pro­jec­tion on to the Cas­tle when the Olympic Torch Re­lay came through Nor­wich; I’m hop­ing it might even heal the 17 years of hurt since the lame lasers of Mil­len­nium night.

Yes, our first Nor­folk Christ­mas could be mag­i­cal, with new tra­di­tions il­lu­mi­nat­ing the same starry story.

Is it nearly Christ­mas? I can hardly wait.

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