19 December 2011

Christmas - past and present

It is interesting how attitudes towards particular seasons can be so diverse in just one family, let alone a country and the Christmas season is a good example and my own family an example within that example.

My maternal Grandmother didn't like Christmas and it wasn't difficult to understand why. So many people whom she had loved died around this time of the year including her sister, brother and her mother who died early in a new year when my Grandmother had already lost her Father to World War 1 and she was still a child of 12. I often wonder if it was almost a deliberate thing that she died on 14th December being unable to face another Christmas. Having said that the date appears to be an eventful one for my family; I have a sister and a niece born on that date and one Uncle suffered a heart attack on that date too. It's with relief that I awake on the 15th not having endured some momentous event on the previous day!

My Mother loved Christmas but then as I've said before she had a true Christian faith and so it was natural for her to find joy in the celebrations of her Saviour's birth. Mom made Christmas special for us when we were children. She was a decent cook so Christmas Day lunch was always something to savour and enjoy. She always put the turkey in the oven to cook as she went to bed on the Eve and so my memories of Christmas Day mornings are of getting up to a warm downstairs because the oven had been on all night (no central heating back then) and the smell of the cooked turkey making me ravenous and ready for lunch at 8am!

I'm not sure who started the tradition of no stockings but Mom always packed all of our presents, well except for the really big ones such as the bicycle I got one year, into a pillow case and this was left at the bottom of our beds by Father Christmas (he was never Santa in our house) and his helpful elves. This made for some very early starts in Aldridge as who could resist opening presents when they were there in your bedroom? It also meant that Mom was never really sure which Aunty had given what present because in the frenzy of opening we never read the labels, so the much hated but necessary task of thank you letters was a fraught one.

We always had to have lunch over by 3pm so that we could watch the Queen. We were not allowed to talk during our Sovereign's address to us and the Commonwealth, well except Mom who was allowed a running commentary on how young/old Queenie was looking and whether her dress suited her or not.

It wouldn't be long afterwards that Tea would be prepared. Cold turkey, salad, bread and pickles. Oh how I adored Christmas tea and it's never ending supply of pickled onions and cabbage! And then trifle and home made mince pies, a yule log, Christmas Cake, it was all to die for.

My most treasured memories of Christmas past are of my Mother singing. She sang all the time, all year through but at Christmas she sang even more. She had a beautiful soprano singing voice and during her life she sang in many choirs but for quite a few years when I was a child every Christmas we would travel around local authority homes for the elderly in Birmingham with my Uncle (whom I think was responsible for organising this) Aunt, their friends, my parents and siblings on a Sunday afternoon and evening, singing carols to the residents. It was an experience I always enjoyed. I can still see my Mom's face as she sang, joyful and happy.

This Christmas is my first without Mom and my eighteenth without my Grandmother. Two women who have done more to shape me than anyone else alive and yet with such diverse feelings about this time of the year. I still miss my Grandmother and her little pearls of wisdom and my Mother? Well this is going to be a strange Christmas without her because it's always been such a fun and full time of the year with her. I've no doubt there will be tears shed but because this time of the year meant so much to her I shall feel obliged not to cry too much and to enjoy it because she loved it so much.

Where ever you are, what ever faith you follow or do not, I wish you joy and peace this Christmas time, with experiences that will provide good memories in the years ahead. Enjoy the company of your loved ones, be they friends or family. To anyone who is alone not through choice, I wish you the comfort of happy memories and contentment with life.


  1. I simply adored hearing of hearing how your family holiday was so special. It's all I ever wanted, but my parent's Christian religion did not celebrate Christmas or birthdays and some how I new I was missing out. My family thinks I'm nuts about how excited I get to open ewarly morning presents but I'm just trying to make up for lost time.

  2. Hi Mags, beautifully written post. Belated Merry Christmas to you and yours and good luck and good health for 2012