time in my schooldays has happy memories for me. It was the one time of
year when all our family got together at Grandmas house behind the
bakery. I had four aunts and uncles, nine cousins and with my sister,
mum & dad, grandma & granddad, we all met up for a big family party.
Grandad baked the turkey in the bakery oven, Gran boiled the Christmas
pudding in the copper in the back place and prepared all the vegetables.
Around mid-day we would all begin to arrive and congregate in the big
dining room at the rear of the shop. Grandad would come in with a jug of
beer and give the men a glass and the ladies would partake of a glass of
port and help Gran in the kitchen with the final preparations. We kids
would wander off upstairs to the big sitting room which was situated
over the shop. Here a big fire would be blazing in the hearth and the
room decorated with garlands and holly, and in one corner would be a big
Christmas tree trimmed with tinsel and loaded with small gifts, sweets
and crackers, or bon-bons as they were then called. We would discuss
what presents we had found in our stockings earlier in the day and
contemplate what we would get off the tree later on.
When dinner was finally ready the grown ups would sit at the big dining
table and the children at a smaller one.
Grandad would carve the turkey and there was always some ribald comment
about “the parsons nose”. After Gran said grace we all tucked into the
turkey, roast spuds, sprouts etc. followed by Xmas pud. Brandy sauce &
mince pies. I’ve often wondered how Gran managed to cater for us all,
but she did and there was always plenty to go round. After the meal the
ladies would help with the washing up and the men retire to the sitting
room, where Grandad handed round a box of cigars and glasses of brandy.
We kids would play with our toys or games but before long all that could
be heard from the sitting room would be the snores of the men as they
gave way to the effects of a heavy meal and the brandy.
No one really wanted any tea, but Gran always laid out a table of cold
meats, pickles etc. trifle and cakes, in case anyone got “a bit peckish”
later on as she put it.
In the evening one of the highlights was always Uncle Berts magic tricks
and indoor fireworks display. On reflection it was all very tame but it
fascinated us kids to see him stick a nail through his finger or appear
to swallow a walnut and then retrieve it from the seat of his trousers.
He would balance a spoon on a pin stuck in the table then rub a candle
in his hair, hold it close to the spoon and it would revolve like a
propeller. The fireworks would include what looked like a heap of
coloured sawdust and when placed on a tin lid and fired with a match,
blossomed into a lovely bunch of fern. Alas! It collapsed into a heap of
ash as soon as it cooled down. After Uncles entertainment we played
And maybe a sing-song round the piano, then it was time for the
Christmas tree. This was always the final item before we went home. All
the gifts on the tree were listed on slips of paper and placed in an
empty box, this was then passed round and each person took a slip and
you got whatever gift was on the slip. They were only small gifts like a
cracker or bag of sweets or chocolate pennies or pink sugar mouse or a
balloon. The box was passed around until all the gifts had been cleared
from the tree. I remember one time Uncle Percy got four pink sugar mice
one after the other which caused some amusement.
Just little things, but they stick in the memory as reminders of a happy
childhood a long time ago