The older I get, the more I enjoy Christmas – streets and shops brightly decorated in the dark evenings, the tree sparkling with decorations and the wood fire making our home feel snug, safe and inviting.

The food I prepare for our family is familiar dishes and recipes with memories attached, reminders of lost loved ones who cooked the best homemade pasta or most spectacular Christmas pudding.

The traditions that were handed to me are now being handed down to the next generations, like a string of precious pearls.

Although the recipes I cook and the rituals we celebrate may be different from yours, our common sense of celebration and family bring us all together as community.

For me, it’s the emotion of singing together that moves me the most. The first notes of Christmas carols take me right back to my first Christmas nativity in St Gabriel’s School, Prestonpans.

Starring as an angel – the only time I have been one, I admit – I sang O Little Town of Bethlehem at the top of my voice, embedding the association of Bethlehem with family, peace and safety in my consciousness.

This cherished hope we sing about is today shrouded with the sombre shadow of darkness. Bethlehem, the Biblical birthplace of Jesus, has announced the cancellation of its Christmas celebrations. The impoverished people of every race and religion are, as we speak, enduring ‘the fears of all the years’ with no end in sight.

We cannot understand why or even how this can be happening, or imagine how horrific the situation is, especially for the children who are caught up in this terror. All I can do is give where I can and pray for peace.

Hoping isn’t enough. The global superpowers must surely call a halt to this war. All people of the region deserve the safety and lasting peace we enjoy.