James GRAY   Conservative MP for North Wiltshire

So that’s it, then. The decorations have come down and packed away for next year; the hangovers are better; the shops besieged by returned presents. It’s all over for another year, and we are back to what in Scotland they call “Old Clothes and Porridge.” In days of Yore, England celebrated Christmas, Scotland took New Year off. Nowadays – especially when the days fall as they did this year- it’ a two week jamboree, and most of us will be quite glad to get back to work.

Epiphany, or Twelfth Night - which of course was celebrated yesterday – has that feeling of relief that it’s all over. The Feast of the Bean - the ancient party celebrated then - was a splendid event, almost as grand as Christmas, and typified by drunkenness and gaming. A huge cake containing a bean, the finder of which became King for the day, and a clove, whose discoverer was the knave until midnight was traditional, especially in the West Country. Yet in reality, it’s not just an end-of-season blow-out, a chance to eat up the leftovers and chuck the Christmas tree on the bonfire. 12th Night has a serious purpose – to commemorate the arrival of the Magi from the East bearing their gifts of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh, a tradition which is maintained to this day in the Chapel Royal in St James’s Palace.

The month of January, traditionally the coldest of the year lies ahead of us. “As the Day lengthens, so the cold strengthens” is an old West Country truism, so after the misery of rain and floods in recent times, there may well be some cold to come.  The Roman God Janus after whom the month is named had two faces- one looking backwards, the other forwards. What I actually like most about this time of year is the whole feeling of looking forward to the year to come. It’s all about sorting out the diary; making new plans, New Year’s Resolutions and spring cleaning.

For me, alongside the work I do here in North Wiltshire, I will hope to make some contribution to defence and foreign affairs discussions in Parliament (I have just been appointed to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly), I am much involved in the running of Parliament itself, and chairing many of its Committees, and will keep up a variety of campaigns and battles on behalf of local people. The EU Referendum looms large on the horizon in what promises to be an ultra-busy Parliamentary year.