Friday, 23 December 2011

Christmas Past


When we were small, Christmases were always magical affairs.  Like the Lion , the Witch  and the Wardrobe; only they were real.
And if my memory serves me well....I’m sure it snowed every Christmas; deep and crisp and even.

I remember one particularly bad winter.

In what seemed like the wee small hours of the morning, Dad amassed four pyjama -clad, sleepy-eyed  children in the tiny, freezer-like hallway of our home and slowly opened the front door wide to reveal a vast smooth, white wall of snow piled more than three quarters of the way up the door jamb. 

Little mouths gaped open, eyes lit up with amazement and warm chubby fingers poked little holes in the white perfectness.
 We had to be dug out that year by dad and his trusty shovel.

Each year our Christmas tree was selected under the keen eye of Mum who insisted that Dad stood amidst the freshly-felled firs and held each one at arms length. Under instruction from Mum he’d occasionally give it a slow, measured twirl so she could check its all-over shape from a suitable distance.  He had the patience of Job, it seemed. 

Many a tree was rejected.

On our return home, out would come the same old box of decorations and we’d each take turns to add something to the tree whilst dad played scratched vinyl records and we sang along to the Christmas songs and carols. 

for a number of years, decorations would never reach the uppermost branches until one of us grew tall enough to stand on tiptoe. My brother being the eldest, got there first and boy did he make a big thing out of it!

There was no central heating in those days, just an open fire which spat, crackled and burned religiously throughout the day, shrouded by an ever watchful wooden clothes horse draped with lightly steaming clothes and an array of sodden sheepskin mittens. 

The whole family regularly gathered round it to be bathed in its fiery glow and soothed by its deep bone-warming heat.

My brother and I were once entrusted - at a ridiculously early age  I think - to 'draw' the fire by placing a sheet of newspaper over the opening and waiting for the 'whoosh' of the flames to re-ignite the coals. 

Unfortunately, Andy, being a bit of a bossy boots insisted I watch him do it first. The only 'whoosh', I witnessed was the newspaper sheet going up in flames and tiny singed-black, feather-like ashes floating softly down onto the red carpet.

He was soon 'whooshed' off to bed in the middle of the day, by Mum for 'messing around'! Come to think of it....I don't suppose anyone asked us to do it in the first place.


Each year, Christmas provisions were bought in as if for a siege.
Brown paper sacks of earthy potatoes, nets of crisp, green Brussel sprouts that would last beyond New Year, boxes of sticky dates from far off lands, little wooden crates of Clementines with their shiny wax-like leaves still attached and an abundance of assorted, exotic nuts.

My Scottish Nanny, who  I could only describe as very large - less than 5ft tall, but all of 5ft across - once went up to the local Co-op to  buy in some bits and pieces.  Thankfully on this occasion we were also in tow to witness  a spectacular entrance by Nanny who swung the heavy glass door wider than necessary and turned over 2 enormous Hessian sacks of Brazil nuts that clattered noisily and sprawled like marbles across the tiled floor. Nanny looked for help, and we fell about laughing  until the  manager was summoned, assumed it had been the ' two wee rascals' and stood over both my brother and I until every single nut had been placed back in the sack. Nanny treated us to an ice-cream soda the cafe next door for not 'bletherin' to the  manager that she'd done it!

Special bottles of  adult' drink,  came with our Christmas order....The proverbial bottle of Harvey’s Bristol Cream Sherry, served in schooners for visitors and Warninks Advocaat – sublimely heavenly when mixed with lemonade to make a ‘snowball’. We youngsters thought it highly sophisticated to dip a Maraschino cherry on a cocktail stick into its egg- yolk yellow, foamy head.

And then there were the sweets.
Turkish Delight, Black Magic, Milk Tray, sugar-covered almonds, chocolate coated brazil nuts, Cadbury’s selection boxes for the all the children and finally chocolate liqueurs – always an acquired taste. Incidentally they were always the last to be eaten.

Letters to Santa were written in earnest…
‘ I’ve been good this year. Please may I have a Post Office set, some sweets, a pair of fluffy slippers and a painting set,'

 Simple things, because life was simple then.
More often than not Santa obliged.
Christmas morning revealed well stuffed stockings on the end of our beds which were opened eagerly and the air was regularly punctuated with oohs , ahhs and shrieks of delight.

 Amongst the little hand-sized presents there was always a brand new shiny penny and an orange – a family tradition.
And downstairs we’d go tumbling over each other in our eagerness to get to the tree, under which lay an array of glistening, enticing odd-shaped presents.
‘He’s been! He’s been!’ we’d cry in unison.
Our parents arrived close behind looking bleary-eyed, they had surely only been in bed an hour or two  having stayed up late on Christmas Eve to wrap presents, ice the cake and prepare vegetables for the following day – it was a ritual repeated every year.

Amidst the chaos of wrapping paper and boxes, four small children settled down and nestled beneath the fairy lights to read their new annuals and nibble on slabs of chocolate whilst Dad prepared breakfast and Mum stuffed the enormous turkey that had been biding its time in the cool of the pantry.



We all had new festive coloured clothes to wear especially for the occasion.  Inevitably the three girls had the same styled dress but in varying sizes. We did look sweet.
The day was filled with laughter, merriment and sometimes the odd tear from one of us children. 
In the persistently steamed-up kitchen the table groaned under the weight of festive food. It was transported a tray at a time onto the  vast,  round, dining table and bowls and plates were moved around like chess pieces in order to accommodate every receptacle.

Crackers were pulled, tissue-paper hats were unravelled and placed onto heads and the contents of the  spent cracker were examined and sometimes swapped with a more suitable recipient. We’d toast the day and chink our glasses with everyone.

After lunch there was usually an old film on  TV like 'It's a Wonderful Life' or 'Christmas Carol

 We'd perch ourselves on the arms of chairs or lie on th floor to watch. 

Feel good films are the best.

Teatime came and went with little plates of mince pies, turkey sandwiches and steaming hot cups of tea  passed around.
Before going to bed we'd sort out our own presents and place  them in a  pile, feeling a little tinge of sadness that the day we so yearned for was now at an end. 

Thanks Mum and Dad for all our wonderful Christmases. x x

Merry Christmas everyone!!


  1. This is the only place I can seem to find to write on your blog! I'm the girlfiend of Jan Abrams son Nick. I'm currently in the middle of starting up my own craft/art buisness and Jan told me to look you up! I LOVE your website/brand/products! Very inspiring! You must be very proud! I would be grateful if you had an tips or handy hints when it comes to the surviving in the craft world!
    Beth xx

  2. Hello Bethany! Thanks for popping over to read the blog!