And the pope believes we should have neither an ox nor an ass in the crib. Wonderful to see that he has the church so well sorted that he is down to these fine details.

I heard that they have cancelled the nativity play in the Da�l because they couldn't find a virgin. Couldn't find a holy Joe. Found a lot of stripped cows and no God's amount of asses. Plenty of frankincense and myrrh, but not an ounce of gold. No one even bothered to look for a wise man!

As for a flag, there was none over the stable but there was a star and if we all craned our necks a little higher than the flagpole we would find that stars shine on us all and not one of us can lay claim to any of them.

This next piece I wrote on Christmas day last year. That is two weeks after I quit writing for this paper telling the editor that I had said all that I wanted and was retiring. He believed me�.and so did I. On Christmas night I wrote this story. It had to be told as you couldn't make it up.

Christmas 2012.

I had been living away from the family home over six months and had not decided where I would be celebrating Christmas. Roisin called and asked if she came to Foxford could she have the car on Christmas evening to go visit her Dad. Jarlath being more direct and not wanting to leave his friends said, 'Mam why don't you come to Castlerea. It will probably be our last one there together. Roisin will be in New York for the next one and I hope to be in Australia.' That settled it. I didn't really care where we were as long as we were together and I knew Mam and Dad would be delighted. They had been coming to me every Christmas since I separated but, had missed the last two when the weather was bad. The fact was my mother couldn't get her head around passing Castlerea. They had been visiting me there for nearly twenty five years and she didn't want to go another forty miles. I tried to explain that it was not that difficult to get to Foxford but she was having none of it. The truth was they loved going to Mass in Castlerea where all the neighbours would meet afterwards for Irish coffees, teas and cakes before going home to make the dinner.

This year the weather couldn't have been more different than last as I drove the forty miles in sunshine two days before Christmas. Isn't it funny how you cannot remember how bad the weather has been as soon as the sun shines?

Dad and Mam was arriving from Fermanagh the next morning and Roisin from Dublin. Jarlath was already down from Galway and was staying next door with his father. I had called him the day before and said, 'Go over to the house and open all the windows. Let in a bit of air and clean up any mess you left over the summer.' He had stayed there when he was off college. I'm sure half the town did too. I didn't care as I was no longer the housekeeper. I had stayed a few nights with him but decided I no longer belonged there when the door bell rang a few different times; when I opened it they would look at me as if to say, 'Who the hell are you?' When he headed back to college in September he had said, 'No, I am not moving in with Dad, I am staying in our house' but I knew when it got cold he would have no choice but to ask for a bed in the warm house next door. He had. There had been no heat in the house for over six months so I called the oil company and asked them to put in enough to see us through the Christmas. They had, so I was happy driving up to put on the heat and finish the cleaning.

I arrived at the house and could not believe what I walked into. I had never seen anything like it. There was water running off the walls, the floors were wet and, there was even water running down the doors. 'What the hell is going on', I thought. How in God's name will I get this sorted before Dad and Mam arrive in the morning?

It was not a leak. It was condensation! Believe it or not the hot air from outside on the 22nd December had hit the cold walls, floors and doors inside and caused the problem. I could have cried but there was not much point. I have always been great in a crisis, so I set to work on heating and drying out the house. I had tried to dry the walls with a towel but it was impossible.

The heat was blasting but this was just causing more condensation. I called a friend and asked if she had a dehumidifier to collect the moisture as it was being dried out. Thankfully she did as mine was forty miles away. Nothing more I could do but leave the heat on and hope that the dehumidifier would do the trick. I then headed out to visit a friend.

A few hours later I returned and realised that there was no way I could stay in the house that night so I threw my bag in the car and went back to my friend to stay the night. I never said a word to Mam when she called, thinking I could always bring them to Foxford if the worst came to the worst, and maybe that is where we were meant to be.

With the heat and dehumidifier on all night things looked a lot better in the morning. Thankfully Dad and Mam took their time and arrived in the afternoon when all was looking good. I picked Roisin up late Christmas eve and went to bed exhausted thinking you couldn't make this up, and, what worse could possibly happen? I was about to find out.

At nine on Christmas morning my mother was up and buzzing about giving orders for the turkey to go on. I tried to say there was no need to put it on so early but to no avail. With the turkey in the oven I noticed that as soon as I switched it on the lights in the kitchen flickered. I was worried. The house needed to be rewired but I hadn't the money to do it. I said nothing. We all got dressed and headed for mass but I could not settle. I did not feel comfortable; something kept telling me that something was wrong. Jarlath was asleep in bed and I was afraid of another fire.

As the priest was giving out Holy Communion I got the keys off Dad and said, 'Stay here until I come back for you. I need to check something at home.' Coming down the street where we lived my heart was pounding. I knew if the Christmas tree lights were out then we had no electricity but as long as there wasn't a fire I didn't care. Christmas lights were out. I walked straight to the fuse box and turned all off. I removed the turkey and took it next door to cook and headed back to mass, happy, knowing that my son was ok and to hell with the electricity.

I picked up Mam and Dad. I then called Jarlath's friend, an electrician. He arrived half an hour later and told me that the main wire into the house was burnt out and there was nothing we could do. Luckily we had electricity in the basement as it was wired at a different time so I borrowed as many leads as possible from the neighbours. We then had heat, a kettle, a light and of course the TV. The toilet was set up with a candle, as were the bedrooms, ready for the early winter darkness. As I was doing this, Dad was peeling potatoes and Mam doing the veg. What does it matter about anything if you are with the people you love and all is well?' I thought as I blew out the candle to go to sleep. We'd had a great day.

This year all are coming to a beautiful new house in Foxford, that is--all that want their Christmas dinner. The Castlerea house has not been mentioned even though it has been rewired. Mam and Dad are coming by bus and time will tell if Jarlath will leave his friends to join us. That is before he heads to Australia in January.

I'd like to take this opportunity to wish you all a very happy and peaceful Christmas, and may God bless us all no matter which flag we adore.