Christmas in childhood

Southend-On-Sea, England
May 23, 2008 5:50am CST
How did you and your family spend Christmas as a child? I have wonderful memories of Christmases in my very early childhood, when my family was still in one piece, and this was in the late 1950s. There seemed to be a much greater sense of tradition in those days about things. This is how we celebrated Christmas in those long lost days. In about October, our landlady would make Christmas puddings, one for everybody in the house. She would knock on our doors with the mixing bowl in her hand, and everyone had to have a stir of the pudding mix and make a wish. She would then cook the puddings and store them until Christmas Day. On that day the whole house would be filled with the delicious aroma of spices, and that fruity pudding smell. On the few days leading up to Christmas, the adults would do their present shopping and I'd first be taken to see Father Christmas at one of our local department stores by my mother and sister, then at another department store by my father, then at a third by our landlady. This was always magical, and back in the 1950s great effort was made by the department stores to produce a very traditional and atmospheric scene for children visiting Father Christmas. Then Christmas Eve would be upon us. Early in the morning, my mother would take me with her and we'd begin one of at least three shopping trips (we had no car) to buy all the food for the holiday. We would trudge to and from home with carrier bags full of Christmas fayre, and when all the shopping was done, my mother would cook us macaroni cheese for tea. My dad would arrive home with a small, real Christmas tree and after tea, my sister and dad would put up the decorations - mostly paper bells and paper chains - and mum would do what she loved most, and that was decorate the tree with little coloured balls, foil-wrapped chocolate shapes, and plant a little fairy on the top. The tree and the paper chains would then be liberally decorated with shiny lametta, which shimmered in the firelight and created a very magical feeling. Then it would be getting near my bedtime, and our landlady would come in and all the adults would sit with me while I wrote my note to Father Christmas. I'd then put the note up the chimney in the hope that Father Christmas would receive it and grant my wishes. As I was going to bed, I would insist that my parents lay out a teapot, tea, milk, sugar and biscuits or cake so that when Father Christmas visited, he could have some refreshment...during the night or early the next morning, my parents would have to use these items to "prove" Father Christmas had been. Then I would be given a large pillowcase, and taken upstairs to bed...I'd put the pillowcase on the end of my bed, and in the night Father Christmas would visit and leave my presents inside the pillowcase. I would lie awake for a long time, unable to sleep for excitement, but eventually I'd drop off. I would awake very early the next morning while it was still dark, creep out of bed and turn the light on, and a huge surge of joy would engulf me as I saw the pillowcase full of wrapped parcels, with more...the bigger ones...resting on the floor. Obviously I had been a "good girl" and Father Christmas had been very generous. I would spend a long time opening all my presents while the dawn rose outside, and after a while the adults in the house would begin to stir. They'd come into my bedroom, everybody would be wishing one another Happy Christmas, then they'd help me take all my presents downstairs. We'd then eat breakfast, usually porridge on Christmas Day, and the adults would then swap their presents with one another...and there would be more presents for me too, around the tree. After the breakfast things were cleared away, my mother would put the turkey in the oven to roast, and prepare the rest of the dinner. Everybody in the house would be invited into our section, and my aunt, uncle and two cousins would pop in for a couple of hours. The children would be given lemonade or very weak shandy to drink, and the adults would drink whisky or sherry. My aunt, uncle and cousins would then go back to their own home to continue with celebrating Christmas in their own way, and my mother would announce that dinner was imminent - the table would be set, and everybody in the house would sit around this large table whilst my mother served roast turkey, roast potatoes, carrots, peas, sprouts, sausage and gravy. Afterwards, we'd have some of the Christmas pudding our landlady had made for us (and mince pies too) - we usually had it with evaporated milk, and the pudding would be packed with sixpenny pieces - it was considered lucky if we took a mouthful that had a coin inside. After dinner was over and cleared away, the afternoon would be spent watching TV, me playing with my new toys, snacking on things such as dates, figs, fruit, sweets and chocolate. At around 6pm, we'd have another meal even though we were all still full up from our dinner and the afternoon's snacking. We'd have cold turkey, bread and butter, pickles, celery sticks, tomatoes, Kraft Dairylea cheese triangles, beetroot, and my mother's wonderful and very special home-made sausage rolls which, along with the mince pies, she'd have made early that morning. Then, almost bursting from an overload of food, we'd have jelly, tinned fruit, blancmange and evaporated milk, more Christmas pudding, and mince pies. The evening would be spent pretty much the same as the afternoon, then we'd all doze in the fire-light before retiring to bed - exhausted, full of food, and happy with the traditional family Christmas spirit. Boxing Day would be a quiet day, spent largely eating up the food left from the day before, and to try and ease away the feeling of anti-climax, we'd go for a walk in the nearby park and feed the ducks. Those wonderful memories are more than fifty years old, and the way we celebrate Christmas in the UK to me seems to have deteriorated - become plastic, fast-paced, materialistic, and has lost all sense of tradition. I yearn for those Christmases of my early childhood when we, as kids, were delighted beyond all comprehension to receive small gifts such as colouring books, reading books, board games like Ludo, annuals, selection boxes, little dolls, toy nurses' outfits, toy magic sets, John Bull printing sets, toy post office sets, toy sweetshops - we weren't demanding of expensive things such as mobile phones, computers, designer clothes etc. because they simply didn't exist. Much more emphasis was placed upon giving and receiving rather than the expense of a gift, plus togetherness and family values. What went wrong?
2 responses
@anetteh (3591)
• Sweden
23 May 08
Ok, my childhood Christmas celebration was like this. On Christmas eve, the 24:the We packed our car with all the presents, clothes, and bed stuff. Take a ride 20 Swedish miles to the big town Stockholm in Sweden. In the Stockholm, my fathers sisters and brothers lived and my grandfather. We went to one of my sisters for staying over the night. The first ride to the other sister for a coffee brake. The second ride to one of the brothers for lunch, the third ride to the other brother for another coffee brake. And the fourth ride to grandfather for Christmas dinner and as traditions even today watching disney´s donald duck. Then we had back to the first sister and having as our tradition white rice porridge done by rice and milk. In the evening all the brothers and sisters and my cousins came and we should have the presents given. Of course one of the relatives was the santa. We was given all the presents but was told to not open the pack edges more than to ripe the Christmas paper. The stuff was going back in the car for the ride home the next day. I promised my self that never let my kids spend their Christmas in this way. And I have kept my promises. No more rides on the roads. Only one day of peace and quiet home with enough food to eat and no more than a couple of presents each to give.
• Southend-On-Sea, England
23 May 08
Hi and thanks for your description on your Christmas. It sounds magical and I'd imagine in Sweden you could guarantee snow more than we can in the UK. I've only ever known one true White Christmas here in the UK in my lifetime, and that was in 1970 when I was 16. That all sounds really lovely. Have a good day! :-)
@anetteh (3591)
• Sweden
23 May 08
well, you are welcome. Yes, we have white Christmas mostly. However, the last years it actually has been green Christmas even for us. Last year the snow never showed up. For me it´s OK, but the lack of Christmas spirit is not fun. I guess the changing climate have something to do with it. The climate are getting warmer and it also effects our time and seasons.
@moudy242 (71)
• Egypt
23 May 08
As a moslem i never celebrated christmas and actually i never found any proof of y celebrate on this particular day
• Southend-On-Sea, England
23 May 08
We weren't a religious family, and celebrated Christmas more as a winter festival than anything else. All cultures have their own way of doing things, and I suppose that's what makes the world a rich and diverse place.