The Princess looked down upon the town from her room high up in the castle. She could see that there was activity in the town square. It was that time of year again when the festive nature of the townspeople came to the fore.
Christmas was a special time of year. Within the castle the main forecourt would be decked out in the most extravagant of ways, decorations, lights, pageants and on Christmas Eve the townspeople would gather at the main gates to present to their King and Queen their gifts of gratitude.
It was the same each year and the Princess often wondered what happened to the mountain of gifts she saw piled on the floor below the royal thrones. Not that it was of concern to her as she was well aware of having everything she needed and more.
Royal protocol meant she was prevented from entering the town unless escorted by the Palace security, which meant her arrival would always be telegraphed and people would stop whatever they were doing to pay her the respect they did to the Royal family.
In her childhood she had discovered a side door to the castle that led into a street in the town. Her first time through the door had led to her being ridiculed by an urchin who poked fun at her clothes and called her strange names.
But now she was much older and decided to go and see for herself what lay beyond the castle walls and what happened in the town.
She found her oldest jeans and t-shirt and donning a baseball cap she set off. Being a public figure and instantly recognised in her royal garb she was pleased with herself when the first person she came upon paid her no attention.
She enjoyed the sight of the town square a buzz with Christmas preparations, the centre tree tall and resplendent in the decorations the townspeople had laid upon it. It was a very busy place, people were coming and going, ignoring her, stepping round her, greeting each other and inquiring about respective families and plans for the Christmas break.
Around a corner she came upon a sight that puzzled her. A long queue stood before a door that was festooned with a Christmas wreath. She approached a door as a woman emerged, saw her and asked if she was there to volunteer. The Princess looked at her briefly enough for the woman to ascertain she had intimated a yes and ushered her through the door into a room that was filled with tables with people rushing about setting out chairs, cutlery, carrying one thing and another and generally creating an atmosphere of great urgency.
The lady in charge handed her a stack of plates and asked for them to be taken to the kitchen. That was easy to find as she could smell the kitchen and found a vast kitchen inhabited by an army of cooks and assistants.
The Princess had stumbled upon a soup kitchen gearing up for Christmas dinner. To her amazement she was immediately put to work for very soon after her arrival the doors opened and the guests began filling up the room.
She had never worked so hard in her life by the end of the day she as so tired she found it hard to stand up. Maryanne the kitchen supervisor congratulated her on her work and asked if she would come back the next year as she appreciated dedicated hard working assistants.
The Princess mumbled something that she hoped sounded like an acceptance and headed back to her castle. As she left the now empty room an old man leaned forward and touched her on the arm.
‘You did well Princess, I am so happy to see you here among your community.’
Taken aback she looked around to see if anyone heard him but it seemed everyone was intent on finishing their day and getting home themselves. She looked back at the old man who smiled at her and said: “You father will be so proud of you.’
‘He will?’ She asked wondering what her father might say to see her now.
‘Oh yes, very proud,’ re-interated the old man.
The Princess blushed and hurried on her way, as tired as she was she did want to get home before anyone else recognised her.
As she slipped through the side door of the castle she found her father sitting inside waiting for her.
‘I know what you did today,’ he said. ‘ I’m very proud of you, it takes a lot of courage to go through the side door and engage in what’s beyond it.’
‘How did you know?’ asked the Princess.
Her father smiled at her, put his arm around her and asked: ‘Didn’t one of the cooks look familiar? Didn’t Maryanne remind you of your mother?’
The Princess thought for a moment and realised she had been so wrapped up in her task she failed to notice her mother and father amongst the workers.