How to stay in the Christmas spirit all year round

Published on: 17 December 2020

It's never fun when the time comes to take the tree down, pack the baubles and holly away and start planning the year ahead. A Miracle on Ebenezer Street author Catherine Doyle shares her top tips on how to feel festive the whole year round...

Christmas has always been my favourite holiday of the year, a time of togetherness and joy and hope. Writing The Miracle on Ebenezer Street, my modern reimagining of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, has given me a precious opportunity to distill these wondrous elements into a Christmas adventure for children (and any adults in search of a little enchantment). While the book has just been released in the lead up to Christmas, I spent much of last year writing it.

In order to make sure I was thoroughly in the Christmas spirit while writing this book, I made a few changes in my life.

Prepare your festive playlist

I started with music. Last August, when I sat down at my desk to bring this Christmas tale to life, the first thing I did was change my writing playlist. The sky outside was still cloudless and blue, but my office was full of lilting Christmas Carols – everything from Bing Crosby and Michael Bublé, to the entire A Muppets’ Christmas Carol soundtrack (which is a classic, in my humble opinion). At first, it was a little jarring – hearing these tell-tale Christmas jingles chiming away in the background but after a few days, I grew to like it. It helped me to slip seamlessly into the festive spirit and added a certain sprightliness to my writing. The character of George Bishop (a glum ten-year-old who has recently lost his mother) and his father Hugo (a scrooge-like man who, in his grief, has banished Christmas for good) quickly came to life, and so, too, did young George’s mission – it was time to bring Christmas back to the Bishop household for good.

I was off to a good start.

Follow your nose

For my next burst of festive inspiration, I turned to scented candles. For me, scent and nostalgia have always been closely linked, so this was the next logical step in my full festive immersion. I ordered twenty giant candles to ensure every inch of my house would smell like cinnamon and pine needles at all times of the day. And it worked! I would write late into the evenings, my little desk surrounded by jars of candles bearing names like ‘All is Bright’, ‘Angels' Wings’, ‘Christmas Cookie’ and ‘Snow in Love’.

I still don’t have the faintest idea what ingredients combine to make an Angel’s wing… all I can tell you is that they smell delicious!

Get the baubles ready

When October rolled around, it was time to put up the Christmas tree. My partner (who, thankfully, shares my enthusiasm for Christmas) helped me bedeck our house in tinsel and glitter, and many, many floating snow-flakes. We adorned our tree with all manner of baubles and twinkling lights. I even bought a tiny choo-choo train to run around the bottom of it – which proved to be thunderingly noisy! Still, the spirit of our house was quickly transforming, and mine was, too. My story was taking shape. I wrote the opening chapters of The Miracle on Ebenezer Street, which take place in Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park, where George wanders into a little shop called Marley’s Christmas Curiosities. Once inside the peculiar cabin, which is brimming with magic and mystery, George stumbles upon an enchanted snow-globe that will change his world forever.

By the end of October, it was officially cosy-pyjamas-season (although I usually advocate for this all year round). Thankfully, Ireland’s relentlessly rainy weather made it easy to curl up in a pair of stripy fleece pyjamas and Christmassy slipper socks, which quickly became my unofficial author uniform during those increasingly wintry days. I was racing towards the end of my story now, The Miracle on Ebenezer Street taking shape like a snow-man on Christmas morning.

It just needed a dash of heart and a sprinkle of festive humour.

Snuggle down with a Christmas story

Once November arrived, I began dipping in and out of my favourite classic Christmas stories. I found the most helpful (and indeed the most festive) to be The Polar Express by Chris Van Allburg, How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss, How Winston Delivered Christmas by Alex T. Smith, and of course, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, which, as the underlying inspiration for my book, was always close at hand.

I indulged in some of my favourite Christmas movies, too, like, Elf, Home Alone, The Muppets' Christmas Carol, Miracle on 34th Street and Klaus (which is a recent festive discovery, and is absolutely brilliant fun). These wondrous tales helped inspire some of my own whimsical characters like Tricksie, a plucky elf-on-the-shelf with a keen nose for adventure (and mayhem), and Randolph, the companionable purple reindeer (who also happens to be the estranged brother of Rudolph, though it’s best we don’t speak about that.)

Magical Christmas memories

At last, with glitter spilling into my house (and my every waking thought), I turned my attention to old family photo albums. Christmas is such a nostalgic time for me, and I think often of how my wonderful grandparents made the festive season so special for my brothers and me as children – and how no Christmas dinner would be complete without them. As an ode to my grandparents, I decided to give George the fiercest ally in the world – a generous and spirited Irish grandmother. Her name is Nana Flo, and with her addition to the story, I knew I had managed to gather together all the right ingredients for my magical Christmas adventure, and The Miracle on Ebenezer Street was officially born. It came into the world surrounded by carols and candles and glitter and tinsel and pine needles and one very noisy choo-choo train.

This year, I look ahead to Christmas with particular longing.

Now, more than any other year, we need to hold tightly to the inimitable sense of hope that the season brings, and believe that next year will be better, and brighter. In the meantime, I hope readers of The Miracle on Ebenezer Street will find a little sprinkle of magic and optimism within its pages.

The Miracle on Ebenezer Street is out now. Follow Catherine on Twitter.

Topics: Christmas, Features

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