Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tinny reindeer.

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

“Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid! on, on Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!”

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler, just opening his pack.

His eyes-how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself!
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose!

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!”

A very Merry Christmas to all my readers, and see you all in the New Year.

I don’t often write letters to the papers, but I have sent the following letter to the press, including some of the nationals. Tell me what you think.

Sir,

We are now reaching that time of year when Christmas lights are switched on across the country – but some councils choose to keep the Christian basis of December 25th shrouded in darkness. While other cultural festivals are celebrated with local authority support throughout the year, an eerie silence descends on some town halls at the approach of Christmas.

As a council leader, I think the public are now heartily weary of local authorities who believe they are striking a blow for diversity by watering down Christmas. Council tax payers do not want to see their money going to subsidise anodyne “winterval” style events which set the gold standard for politically correct blandness.

In Harlow, we are supporting a traditional nativity play in the town; arranging for local schools to sing carols in the town centre and providing the civic centre for a special carol service. I don’t believe this constitutes a sleight to residents from different backgrounds. It is patronising to suppose that minority faiths will be offended by the celebration of a festival which lies at the heart of this country’s national identity. Those of different traditions have no problem with that; it is craven local authorities that appear not to grasp it.

Councils exist to provide value for money services and give a lead to regeneration in these economically challenging times. Celebrating the Christian basis of Christmas is something I believe our residents want us to do; the undermining of a celebration enjoyed by most of the country on the grounds it might give offence is a piece of town hall idiocy they can do without.

Merry Christmas!

Cllr Andrew Johnson
Leader, Harlow Council