Friday, December 14, 2012

Memories of Christmas Past

Now that Christmas is open us, what are your memories of Christmas past?

I find myself thinking back to earlier times, reflecting on all those feel good memories.  One memory that stays in my mind is collecting holly laden with red berries with my grandfather on the canal bank and taking it back to my grandparents' home, where it was used as decoration.  Back in those days, the winters were freezing and we had coal fires.  The snow often seemed to be up to my knees when we were sent home from school, the school milk had frozen solid in those tiny glass bottles and the boiler had gone on the blink.

We didn't seem to expect too much from Father Christmas either, [maybe a favourite must have toy or two, like a new bike, toy pram, train set or special doll], a selection box and a Christmas stocking filled with such delights as chocolate coins covered in gold foil, a chocolate Santa, a tangerine and a few small toys that would fit in the stocking.

Santa arrived at our house during the early hours of Christmas day and I knew he'd arrived as my legs felt heavy as the quilt on my bed was laden with gifts.  In those days we lived near a dairy and the milk floats passed the house even on Christmas day.  So I would guess I must have woken at 5 am or 6.  The first port of call would be to wake my brother up and we'd both go downstairs and make a start on our chocolate selection boxes, even before eating breakfast.  My parents would still be fast asleep upstairs.  My father usually went to the pub on Christmas Eve, so he'd have quite a long lie in.

Then it was on with the black and white TV for us kids to watch a star like Leslie Crowther visiting a London Children's Hospital.  The children there would be presented with gifts and the nurses made their uniforms look festive, decking their hats with tinsel.

My grandparents were early risers, so me and my brother would run to their house which was just 3 doors away to show them all the gifts we'd got.  My gran usually gave me a Bunty annual every year which she'd sign and my brother got a Beano or Dandy annual.  She'd also give us money so we could buy what we wanted after Christmas.

Later my mother would get up and light the coal fire and set the table, which was moved into the middle of the room, for Christmas dinner.  We'd have things on the table we didn't use the rest of the year, like a special red table cloth with festive prints and matching serviettes.  We always got to drink those miniature bottles of Babycham with the meal, which was usually turkey and the trimmings followed by Christmas Pudding, Mrs Peeks in the blue cellophane wrap which was boiled for a couple of hours in the already small, steamed up kitchen.

During the afternoon there'd be Christmas Top of the Pops, playing the Christmas number one for that particular year.  This was followed by the Queen's Speech.  In the evening, the whole family sat down to watch The Morcambe and Wise Christmas Show.  They always had a special guest on who joined in the fun, like Shirley Bassey or Tom Jones.  I'll never forget the year, Ms. Bassey stood there singing 'Smoke Gets in Your Eyes' as Eric jammed her foot into a workman's boot!

There would be so much eating that day that we'd feel quite full by the time we got to bed.  Of course the evening was usually an anti climax because for me the expectation of Christmas on Christmas Eve was always the best part.