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Christmas has always held a special place in my heart and my home. It is that time of year when friendship is allowed to come in from the cold and be renewed in the warmth of forgiveness. It is that occasion where the harshest of hearts soften and neighbour who stopped speaking to neighbour begins to wish each other good tidings once more. There is no other place to be that is as solemn or as peaceful and reflective as is Midnight Mass; particularly as 'Silent Night' is being sweetly sung by the church choir.
As a father, the season of Christmas has always held a special place in my heart as I recall erecting the pine Christmas tree in the weeks running up to the special day. Then on Christmas morning, my children opening their presents beneath the tree in the corner of the room, followed by the many visits and visitors who go to make the day all the more festive and special for us. Helping with the Christmas dinner and sharing the meal around the table with one's loved ones is all one could ask for from such a day.
As a Probation Officer for over twenty five years and worker with the bereaved, psychiatrically ill and those separated from their loved ones for over thirty five years, I can tell you that Christmas time is often the worst possible time of year and represents nothing, but heartache and sad recollection of hurtful memories for so many people. It is a time when many people in the depths of depression seek to end their lives; a time when many more hope will quickly pass by as the pages of the calendar turn into the New Year once more.
It was this marked contrast between people who loved and the people who hated Christmas, which inspired this story. 'The Woman Who Hated Christmas' tells the story of one such person, Beth Malone.
As a child of ten years around Christmas Day Beth’s mother dies in childbirth along with the stillborn infant. Sickened with grief, her father becomes emotionally unstable, is committed to the psychiatric ward of a local hospital and commits suicide. Left on her own with two younger sisters, Beth and her sisters are taken into Care of the Local Authority. The family is forcibly separated and do not see each other again. Beth rebels. Her foster homes are firstly resented by her and then come to be gravely feared by her.
The story follows Beth through her life, first in Ireland, then in the mills of West Yorkshire, then on the streets of Manchester and finally back in Ireland where the story ends. For Beth, the experiences of Christmas are ones she would prefer to forget.