Christmas is a time for reminiscing and I would
like to recall some of my memories of Christmas
from the 1940's. At that time we didn't have
electricity or running water in our homes. Yet,
Christmas was a wonderful time. Looking back
over the years before electricity came to the
country areas, it was dark and dreary. But in
December the shop windows were decorated. From
that day on we hoped to get lots of toys. And
we never tired of looking at each window and
its dazzling display of toys, beautiful dolls
and lots of games like Ludo, Draughts, Snakes
and Ladders, cowboy hats, guns, mouth organs,
tin whistles, doll's tea sets, skipping ropes,
crayons, and paint books, story books and pencil
home, the house was cleaned from top to bottom.
Homes, where family members worked with big
farmers, would give a wonderful welcome home
to a son or daughter who had been away for most
of the year. Mothers would welcome them with
outstretched, embracing arms on their return.
Someone coming home from England was very special.
The money they brought home was very welcome.
It would be small, for in those times you would
only get £10 or £12 for a year's
work from February to Christmas Eve. A huge
log fire and a loving welcome was very important.
The house was decorated with holly and ivy and
coloured garlands and paper flowers. A sprig
of holly was put over each picture and mirror.
The big one pound candle was placed on each
front window with frilly paper around the jam
jar filled with sand to keep it safe. The youngest
child in the house always lit the candles. That
was the custom then. Holy water was sprinkled
on the candles and prayers said. The lovely
table oil lamp in the parlour would be lit.
This only happened at Christmas, or Station
(of the Cross) times or for visitors. A fire
would be burning in the parlour, with special
black turf picked to heat up the room for visitors.
The days and nights of story telling and card-playing
was wonderful. The ghost stories were fairly
scary. We would look under the bed to see was
anything lurking in there, we were so scared.
The older men loved frightening young people
and I'm sure made up a lot of their stories.
The gramophone and record set up, we danced
jigs, reels and hornpipes and enjoyed ourselves.
On Christmas Eve we went to the bubbling spring
well two fields away to fill up with enough
spring water. Two big enamel buckets and a galvanised
bath full would carry us over Christmas Day.
The goose was prepared and plenty of potato
stuffing made. Two round flat bottomed bastibles
were readied for use, the larger one for the
goose and the smaller one for the smoked ham.
A pot of potatoes was readied and a skillet
for the vegetables. Plenty of logs for the fire
were stacked up, and bags of black hard turf
were hand-picked for the cooking of the goose
and ham. We also watched for the postman with
huge bags of mail on his bicycle. There might
be a parcel from America and also a few dollars.
The postman would get his Christmas gift and
a drink. When darkness fell on Christmas Eve
we could go out in the yard to see the countryside
lit up with Christmas candles. Every window
in every house had a lighted candle and from
our house, on top of the hill, the light stretched
for miles in all directions. It was beautiful
lovely to see were the horses and traps going
to Mass with the stump of a candle flickering
in the lantern attached to the side of the trap.
On the way into Mass everybody was cheerful
and friendly with people shaking hands and wishing
each other a Happy Christmas. In church, the
beautiful bunches of greenery tied with red
ribbons added to the sparkle. The Crib in the
church was covered with holly and ivy and we
all prayed there. There would be a line of people
waiting their turn. The church would be a blaze
of light, with the smell of wax from the candles.
Christmas was also a time of grief, remembering
all those dear to us who died during the year.
There was forgiveness also, as people who may
not have been friendly during the year would
shake hands and have a drink together. At Mass,
the choir would sing the Christmas hymns and
it was beautiful. The "Adeste Fideles"
at the end of Mass brought everybody to their
feet as the whole congregation joined in the
On Christmas morning there was the excitement
of seeing what Santa had brought. Usually a
game of Ludo or Snakes and Ladders, a doll's
tea set, an orange and an apple, maybe a doll
for the eldest girl and that was handed down
to the younger ones in the family. There might
also be a shining penny with a hen on it in
the bottom of our stocking on Christmas morning.
I remember one Christmas morning I woke about
six o'clock. It was black dark and I waited
to hear some noise in the kitchen. After a while
I got out of my warm cosy bed and walked across
the floor. I welcomed the chance to dress myself
near the blazing turf fire. The candles in the
front windows were lighting again. We had severe
frost during the night and I could see the icy
patterns on the windowpane. Then I saw what
Santa had brought. Our names were on the parcels.
A big box of Lemon sweets were burst open on
the floor. I called upstairs that Santa had
come. Then the excitement started and we each
in turn opened our own presents. I looked outside
and it was bitterly cold with millions of stars
twinkling in the sky. Then it was time for breakfast
and I helped with chores that had to be done.
Later the table was set for Christmas dinner.
The new oil cloth was put on the table and covered
with the white linen tablecloth. The good china
glasses, and cutlery from the parlour were placed
on the table for the festive meal. The willow
patterned serving platters were taken down from
the dresser to put the goose and the ham on
ready for carving. The aroma of cooking filled
the kitchen. We all now helped to serve the
meal. Everyone took their place at the table.
The prayers were said and then we all enjoyed
the meal. Later we played with our toys and
had lemonade and cake. The men had a bottle
of stout or punch.
Times have changed and I often wonder is there
the same magic about Christmas as there was
then. We were certainly happy with what we had.
Happy Christmas everyone.