Bethlehem Lights with Miceal

Brightening the house with Bethlehem Lights


For me, as a child, Christmas always began as soon as the Christmas tree and the decorations went up. Every year we wanted them to go up earlier and earlier, but my mother always resisted, insisting that we wait. There were four children in my family, and patience (especially when it came to Christmas) was not a virtue that any of us had been granted. So, every year as soon as we got into December we would hatch a cunning plan to gather together on an evening when my mother had to go out and get the house decorated for the festive season.


The Christmas decorations were stored in the attic of our little terraced house and I (being the youngest, smallest, and, by virtue of being a member of an athletics club, the most nimble) was hoisted into the dark, cramped space of the loft. This rarely visited space was a place of mystery and magic to me. The smell of old suitcases, books, perambulators and discarded tricycles was an Aladdin’s cave filled with undiscovered treasure. That said, the dark corners mixed with the eerie echo of water dripping into the cold water tank always added a frisson of dread and fear.

The Christmas tree, with its green tinsel-covered bendy wire branches, wrapped in its newspapers from the year before and the heavy gauge cardboard drum – that was once used to store industrial amounts of nutmeg and was now the home of our precious baubles and Christmas lights – were the prize for conquering my fears of being up in the attic alone. From below, on the landing, I would hear my brothers and sister calling to me “come on, what’s keeping you?”, stirring me from my wonder as my eyes adjusted to the darkness. Thus, the relay of handing down the tree and the decorations began. Staring down through the hatch in the dark attic into the bright light of the stairs and landing all I could see were eager faces and grasping hands.


Once everything was handed down, the procession down the stairs into the living room began. I could never decide what I wanted to look at first. That old nutmeg drum that housed the decorations for the tree and the ceiling as well as all the lights and Christmas cards from so many Christmases past always drew me to it. I always wanted to be the first to remove the lid and inhale the heady bouquet of tinsel, glitter, cotton wool (used for snow around the foot of the tree), old card, and, of course, nutmeg. It was an intoxicating mixture and it is, for me, the smell of Christmas. Sometimes, as an adult, I think I smell a hint of it in the air when I visit someone’s home or when I go into the Christmas department in a shop, but it is never quite there. It tantalises me, I almost smell it, I think it is about to reveal itself to me, almost like a memory or a word one can’t quite recall and you feel like you almost have it but ultimately it eludes you. Thrilling yet exasperating in equal measures.

Bethlehem Lights in Miceal's home
The Christmas tree though was always the first thing to receive our attention; all of the tree’s branches had to be unfolded and straightened as best we could. We had the same tree every year. I believe it was the only tree we ever had when I grew up. It was never upgraded or refreshed, it just got more threadbare and bent out of shape with each passing year but we loved it and thought it was the most beautiful Christmas tree there ever was. Once the branches were all in place the most magical part of the decorating process began – hanging the lights on the tree. This was always the first step in the decorating process.

Christmas lights remind me so much of cosy winter evenings curled up on the sofa, early Christmas mornings excitedly descending the stairs to see what Santa had brought, dark evenings when the room closed in around you and the only light was from the flames of the open fire as they danced a shadow ballet on the walls lit only by the twinkling of the fairy lights from the tree. I feel so nostalgic thinking back. Christmas lights make me yearn for times long gone, for days of innocence and fun, times of good wishes and cheer, of family games and gifts. I would sit for hours just staring at the lights on the tree, squinting my eyes and pulling those lights in and out of focus creating little halos around each light and dreaming endlessly of what Santa may or may not bring, what sweets I might get in my stocking, and whether or not we would get fizzy drinks and sugary breakfast cereals (treats only permitted once a year at the Christmas grocery shopping outing)!


Once all of the decorations were finally up we would all sit back and marvel at the glory of our work and wait in anticipation of our mother’s return, wondering whether she would be angry that we had decorated without her or relieved that it was one less thing she had to do!


When I was growing up we had so many traditions in my family at Christmas that I wasn’t aware at the time that they were traditions. Everyone got new shoes and clothes (same at Easter) to wear to mass on the big day. We all had to go on the Christmas grocery shopping trip and we all got to choose the ‘Christmas cereals’ (usually very sugary and unhealthy!) as well as the fizzy drinks. We all hung a sock (note: not a Christmas stocking but just one of our regular socks) from the hearth into which would be placed a satsuma, some toffees and some colouring pencils. We all visited my father’s grave and wished him a Happy Christmas. We always strung the lights on the Christmas tree before anything else. There were many others I’m sure but I have probably forgotten.



To this day I still get excited about decorating the house for Christmas; it fills me with nothing short of glee. Almost all of those traditions are gone for me now. I have tried to hold on to some, like putting the lights on the tree before any other decorating happens. For me the most important element in decorating for Christmas is the lighting. I still feel an excited fluttering in my stomach when I think about getting home at the end of the day, when it’s dark and cold outside, and I can settle into my cosy chair with all the comforting glow of my Christmas lighting around me (especially since I haven’t lived anywhere as an adult that has had an open fire).



This will be my first Christmas in my very first home I have ever owned, so more than any other year in my life so far I want this year to be full of happy memories, new traditions and the twinkle of Christmas lights that allow me to drift off thinking about what Santa might bring. So when I was asked if I would like to write a blog about my plans for my first Christmas, and whether or not I would mind decorating my home early and taking some pics, I couldn’t have been happier. Any excuse to get my fairy lights twinkling!



So here I am in mid-November decorating my Bethlehem Lights tree, draping my Bethlehem Lights Garlands and swaddling my trees by my front door in Bethlehem Lights indoor/outdoor Light Strands and I am loving every minute of it. The new neighbours may think I am a bit nuts but that doesn’t bother me one jot! Perhaps putting my Christmas decorations and lights up before any of my neighbours could be one of my new traditions!


Miceal Murphy

Happy festive decorating everyone. I hope you all enjoy it as much as I do.



Miceal. Xx




  1. Julie harris November 20, 2014 at 6:56 pm -  Reply

    How beautiful your decorations look. It has really got me in the mood to get mine out and put them up. Thank you for a wonderful blog made me have a warm glow . Merry Christmas xx

  2. Rose Gould November 21, 2014 at 1:45 pm -  Reply

    Wow Miceal
    I thimk your decorations look amazing and what a lovely story of what it was like when you were a little boy!
    I am a lot older than you (60) but i remember that excitement too,i was one of 4 and we could’t wait for the tree paper chains and sparkly tinsel and lametta to adorn our terraced house.
    I put mine up at the very start of Dec and have a tree in my lounge,hall,dining room and my 27 year old has one in her bedroom too|
    Plus all my fantastic yankee candles in various christmas holders,and good for you in doing what you want to do
    all the very best in your new house with your gorgeous decorations
    wishing you a very merry christmas and a happy healthy new year
    love Rose xxxx

  3. Dawn November 22, 2014 at 2:54 am -  Reply

    Really enjoyed your blog, Miceal, made me remember the Christmases me and my sister had when we were children, with our parents and Great Uncle who used to come and stay for Christmas and he always brought his red pyjamas to wear to look like Santa. Best Christmases of all!
    Your descriptions are enthralling, have you ever thought about writing a novel?
    Best wishes for your first Christmas in you new home!

  4. Karin RODDA November 22, 2014 at 7:27 am -  Reply

    What a lovely post,oh how I wish we still had the Christmases of old. I feel the same way about the magic of Christmas with my decorations.. The child in me comes out every year with them..pure magical!!!!

  5. Sylvia November 22, 2014 at 4:21 pm -  Reply

    Hi Miceal
    I have really enjoyed reading your blog. The way you told your story really took me back in time.
    I could just picture your lovely christmases past with your family.
    Have you ever thought of writing a novel? I think you would be great!
    Anyway Have a lovely Xmas time—love from Bonnie Scotland x

  6. Nancy Brant November 22, 2014 at 4:47 pm -  Reply

    What a lovely uplifting piece of writing. When my 21 year old grandson was 6 years old all the children in his class were told to ask a grandparent to write down some Christmas memories from their own childhood. Since I was the only one who was able to do this at such short notice, I only too happy to oblige.
    The memories of a particularly special Christmas started to flow; the excitement I felt as a 7 year old when I got my first bicycle, together with the dogged determination that I WOULD to be able to ride it before the rest of the family emerged, came flooding back. Little did I know that, unbeknown to me (at 5 o’clock in the morning), the whole family was watching me! By the end of the day I am pleased to say that I had achieved my goal. Thank you Miceal for refreshing that happy memory. I wish you and yours a happy, blessed Christmas.

  7. Deirdre Allsopp November 22, 2014 at 5:39 pm -  Reply

    What a lovely piece, Miceal. You write so evocatively. So sad your dad was not there. Your family memories really come to life in this account.

  8. Marie November 22, 2014 at 7:49 pm -  Reply

    hi Miceal. I think you tree and everything looks fantastic. We are going away for Christmas so we never get the tree, lights or decoration out as my husband says it’s not worth it but I really miss it. Have a great Christmas.

  9. Susan Wilson November 22, 2014 at 10:17 pm -  Reply

    Very nice, channeling your inner Proust x

  10. Lisa November 22, 2014 at 11:43 pm -  Reply

    Hello Micael. I just wanted to say how much I loved your blog. It was so endearing and reminded me of my own happy childhood memories of Christmas.
    I love being all nostalgic around this time of year, it truly is a magical time.
    Thank you for a lovely read. It was so well written, I enjoyed it very much.
    Wishing you all the happiness in your first home, and an extra special Christmas.
    Best wishes, Lisa

  11. Lisa November 23, 2014 at 8:44 am -  Reply

    Hello Miceal.
    Just wanted to say how much I loved your blog. It’s so nice to be all nostalgic at this time of year. It reminded me of my own special childhood memories, similar to you with a Christmas tree that was getting barer every year and we put more and more decorations on to hide the bald bits.
    So well written, I really enjoyed reading it.
    Wishing you an extra special Christmas in your first home.
    Best wishes, Lisa.

  12. Tina November 23, 2014 at 11:35 am -  Reply

    Hi Miceal, I can fully relate to most of your childhood memories…what fun. It was my Dad that we pestered though, and he was very adamant when he wanted the decorations to come out of the loft, however both of my parents made Christmas very special, one which I have never been able to replicate. Our tree was practically bald, but it gave us such joy, once dressed it was delightful, took its pride of place in the corner of the roof looking divine. Our Christmas started fully the day before Christmas Eve, when my parents pulled back the double doors to Mums best room, the fire light and lots of sweets, fruit, nuts and goodies placed in glass bowls around the room. Truly magical. Like yourself I have purchased the garland and wreath together with a number of Bethlehem lights items since July. Cannot wait. Thank you for sharing your childhood memories, I never wanted it to end!

    Happy Christmas


  13. Patricia Wilson November 23, 2014 at 11:57 am -  Reply

    How I enjoyed reading your reminiscing about Christmas past. It made me think of mine, as an only child in quite a poor family, we had the same tree every year, it looked like a green flue brush! My presents were always delivered in a pillow case.
    I hope you have wonderful first Christmas in your new home. X

  14. Morag November 23, 2014 at 6:01 pm -  Reply

    Miceal you have such a wonderful way with words and I found tears welling up reading your Christmas memories. So moving and very evocative and it just shows how important it is to create our own Christmas traditions and make memories for our children to carry forward. Thanks for sharing something so personal and wishing you all good things for the coming festive season. Love Morag x

  15. Di November 23, 2014 at 7:10 pm -  Reply

    Lovely piece, Micael and I adore your mirror! Have a fantastic, nutmeg-perfumed Christmas x

  16. pat lea November 23, 2014 at 9:18 pm -  Reply

    Miceal, I did enjoy reading your blog from when you were young to the present time. it brought memories flooding back to my time growing up in Ireland at this time of year. it was a magic time. I wish you every happiness in your new home, and hope this Christmas will be the best ever for you and your family and friends. you are one of my best-loved presenters on qvc

  17. Miceal November 24, 2014 at 9:41 pm -  Reply

    Wow! Thank you all so much for your lovely comments. I’m touched. My childhood Christmasses really are very special to me and I have such lovely memories. We had very little growing up but mum always got us a treat of some sort and did her best and we were always happy. I should have mentioned that the reason the decorarons were in a Nutmeg storage drum was because dad worked as a Master Baker and he had brought it home before I was old enough to remember, having it there always made it feel like he was there with us too.
    I really do wish you all a peaceful, stress-free and happy Christmas.
    P.s get those decorations up ASAP and give yourselves enough time to enjoy them!
    PPS Thanks to those of you who complimented my writing, my English Lit. A Level has finally come in useful but trust me, there won’t be any novels coming anytime soon!

    Merry Christmas. Xx

  18. Janet Rogers November 25, 2014 at 9:16 am -  Reply

    Oh Miceal, I so drifted back to my own childhood, what wonderful memories you have, and I have too, I even have one of our childhood Christmas bells that we, my brothers and I, used to put lovingly on our tree .
    I find that Christmas always brings wonderful memories of times gone by, as this year will be the first without my Mother and Father (Dad was the last one to pass away last January) I will be remembering those wonderful times we all had, the smell of the Christmas Dinner cooking, putting up the extra tables for the company that were expecting for dinner, the smell of the pine needles, who is going to find the 3d in the Christmas pudding! (never me Lol)
    Now I am nearly 63, a mother and grandmother of 6, we have our own magic memories, and always building more, every year, I do a treasure hunt at Easter and Christmas, they of course pretend that they believe there is an Easter bunny, and a Father Christmas, I have, in fact got a few Christmas Blossom trees up now, as we all love the lights, and always by December, I try and get all the decorations up !!!
    Lovely Post Miceal, Thanks, It has bought my memories flooding back….Hope you have a wonderful time xxx

  19. sue November 29, 2014 at 6:18 pm -  Reply

    Hi Miceal ,Wonderful writing [knew A lit was there as you write so good ]Brings back memories of my christmas as a child .Thanks , Sue

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