These are memories that I recall as a child- born a baby boomer just after the war. They are merged memories – my first being around 1951 to about1956. I recall my mother some time before Christmas,making the Christmas pudding using a large bowl part of the old fashioned jug and bowl set on the kitchen table. We would stir the mixture making a wish and a threepenny bit would be hidden in the mixture and it would be steamed for hours. Also my sister kneeling down on the hearth rug in front of a lovely glowing open fire warming the butter and creaming it to make the cake.
I one of several children nearby used to go to a party in a nearby hall, where we were entertained by a ventriloquist whilst we sat on large billiard tables. We all sat at long tables where we had sandwiches and jelly. When we left we where given an orange and a threepenny bit.
I recall my sister, who was then in her later teens and working and some ten years my senior and very beautiful in her youth getting ready to go out, meeting her boyfriend who later became her husband. She would pour different coloured bath salts – a bit like soda crystals, in the bath. Her beautiful dresses laid out on the bed. In particular was a beautiful pale blue strapless dress – taffeta I think, with a big underskirt to make it stick out. The bodice was embroidered in deep navy and it had a bolero top, I thought it was lovely. They used to go ballroom dancing, some times when she was wearing a long dress she would wear gloves up to the elbow.
On Christmas Eve I would decorate a very basic tree, a round red stump about two and a half feet high and a few branches similar to bottle brushes only green. I would have made crepe paper balls to hang up, by drawing round a saucer on the crepe paper, cutting it out, folding into four, & sewing the centers together, then opening up & hanging them up. I would twist strips of crepe paper about 2″ wide together & hang up as steamers.
Whilst I was doing this my parents would be sat at the kitchen table. There would be a large turkey, my Mum would be rubbing the breadcrumbs & thyme & my Dad would be chopping the parsley for stuffing the inside cavity of the turkey. Then Dad would prepare the trifle adding a drop of sherry.
I would leave Father Christmas a mince pie & leave a pillow case at the bottom of my bed & fall asleep awaiting.
I can remember waking up & one year having a dolly – I named her Patricia – she had a pot head & soft baby-like body. I usually had an annual & I can remember there was usually a half-crown wrapped up at the bottom from Grandpa. Other things were wrapped up in white paper – which I called cheese paper – as the local Co-op wrapped cheese in this sort of paper as you bought cheese cut off a large block. In these days envelopes were re-used with sticky labels & jam jars were sent back to the shops.
Mum used to be up early to put the turkey in the oven. Christmas dinner was served about 12-30.
The table was laid with a white damask cloth & serviettes with a white dinner service with a blue floral design round the edges, with water in a cut glass water set. Dad carved the turkey. I can remember potatoes, roast potatoes, sprouts, bread sauce, turkey, stuffing, sausages & gravy. We didn’t have more than one veg or a starter. This was followed by Christmas pudding & rum sauce, after Dad had put rum in it to make it a light brown. All this seemed a luxury as in those days fridges were uncommon, chicken & fruit were a luxury.
After dinner we would listen to the Queen’s speech – but this may have been in later years. We would play games like Bagatell, Happy Families, Snap. We would eat a tangerine & Dad smoked a cigar – all a treat & roasted chestnuts on the fire. The adults probably had a drink.
Tea would be cold turkey, stuffing, bread sauce, pork pie, pickled onions, beetroot, pickled walnuts, celery. I don’t recall salad -as we ate things that came with the seasons then.
Then there was the trifle in the big glass bowl & the Christmas cake with a snow scene – standing high on the cake stand.The glow of the coal fire lit up the room. Christmas lasted for the day & Boxing Day – when we ate the remains of the Christmas dinner, played with toys or went a walk. Then people went back to work – there was no New Years Day holiday.
With my mother & father long since gone – I look back with gratitude & fondness for all they did to make Christmas what it was for me as a child.