As December creeps on and the big day approaches, thoughts of past Christmases come to mind.
As a child, Christmas was a very simple affair. The stockings held goodies that would be laughed at by todays’ children. Always, in the toe would be a much coveted mandarin orange. A luxury in the late forties and early fifties, usually only available around Christmas time and an expensive and rare treat.
There would inevitably be a sugar mouse tucked in the stocking. These were made entirely of sugar, moulded into the shape of a mouse or a pig. Always white with a pink nose and so sickeningly sweet that even as a child I could only nibble on it for a few minutes at a time.
Sometimes a few coins went in the stocking and quite often some nuts in their shells. Sticking out of the top o the stocking would be a Christmas cracker that was saved for dinner time. Stockings were enjoyed before breakfast, and the actual presents after the meal. I always got a couple of books, from my mother, as I was an avid reader from a very early age.
There would always be a knitted cardigan and knitted socks off grandma, some sort of bath products from my unmarried aunt, who always came for a few days at Christmas time and usually a very elaborate doll from one of my other aunts. This aunt, who had a bit of a reputation, lived in London and only seen a couple of times a year.
Her arrivals were usually frowned upon my other relatives as she was always dressed in the most gorgeous clothes, high heels and big suitcase. I thought she looked like a film star but realized, in later days, that she earned her money in ways not approved of by the rest of the family. Her doll would be the highlight of my Christmas.
The meal would consist of a large chicken which grandma called a capon, I’m not sure what this was but seemed to take ages to cook as was stuffed, trussed and put in the oven early. Veggies would all be peeled and ready to cook, the Christmas pudding would be put on to steam then we went off to church. Upon return it would be my job to set the table while the veggies were cooked then we sat down to Christmas dinner.
Crackers were pulled and the contents, which in those days were nice little gifts and a paper hat that would be worn, by everyone, for the rest of the day. Dishes were cleared and cleaned by the rest of the family and order always restored well before three pm, when “the Queen’s speech” would be listened to on the radio, and in later years, the television.
I found it rather boring but had learned that this was a time to sit and behave as her Majesty was to be listened to with reverence and silence. Afternoon was my time to read one of my new books and snooze time for grandma, while my mom and the two aunts chatted. Later the rest of the family arrived, another aunt and two uncles, all with children in tow, came and had supper with us. Usually a festive meal of cold meats, salads and lots of fruit jellies and mince pies.
Our Christmas in those days was simple and all about family. No phone for long distance calls to relatives who lived far away. No electronic toys, nothing that needed assembling and everyone went to church. Simple times, a time to share and although Santa was the children’s hero, the birth of the infant Jesus is what was celebrated.