The treasure on the tree

The treasure on the tree

The warm glow that fills my heart is so extraordinarily enchanting, that it must have to do with magic —Christmas fairy magic, writes Suryakumari Dennison


I remember Christmas in Cranfield, where my IAF father was studying aeronautical engineering in the late 1950s. The Yuletide feasting and festivities in that quiet English village, in the county of Bedfordshire, might have come straight out of a book by Charles Dickens. So could the traditional trappings that adorned our home.

The Christmas tree, in particular, shines brightly in my recollection. I can picture it now, gleaming with bells and baubles, illumining the wintry-dark parlour. I realise now that it could not have been quite as huge as it appeared to my child’s-eye view, but it stood in stately splendour.

At the top of the tree perched a fairy princess. Crowned with a glittering tiara, she held a tiny wand with a tinier star at its end. Her lofty position notwithstanding, she never could stand upright, and had to be supported by artfully concealed means. The fairy was not to be confused with the angels of the Christmas story, explained my parents, but I could not tell them apart. The only difference, as I saw it, was that heavenly beings didn’t need silver sticks to work their wonders. For my part, I treasured the fairy doll, not least on account of her gorgeous garments. 

She was swathed in sequin-spangled satin, and her pretty face, framed by golden curls, peeped cheerily out of layers of frills. I named the fairy doll after a neighbour’s daughter, who dropped by occasionally to take me out. Alison, with her freckles and
straight brown hair, bore no resemblance to the doll, but the treats that came my way on our trips together made her fairy enough for me.

By 1960, we were back in Delhi, with a sizeable collection of exquisite Christmas ornaments. Dangerously delicate, they slipped through our fingers each passing December, and we were eventually left with only a few survivors. Alison was among them. One of her blue eyes stayed stubbornly shut, and the pink of her dress was a nondescript hue. Her gauzy wings drooped listlessly, and her wand had given way to a second-rate substitute. Still, as years rolled by, not once did the four of us (my brother was born soon after our return to India) consider replacing Alison with a more decorous decoration. It was customary for a star to occupy pride of place on a Christmas tree. Such an object would not only be attractive but also inspirational, symbolic as it was of the Star of Bethlehem. What significance could there possibly be in a fairy doll, that too one as decrepit as Alison?
None, perhaps! Yet, six decades after I first knew her, I relive afresh the joys of Christmases long past. The warm glow that fills my heart is so extraordinarily enchanting, that it must have to do with magic —Christmas fairy magic!