From classic foods to decorations: Remembering our childhood Christmases

Dec 08, 2018
Karen is feeling nostalgic this week

As I sat hoping for inspiration for this week’s blog, thoughts kept running through my head, nostalgic, random, lovely thoughts of family, friends, Christmas, new beginnings and the year that is almost at an end. So rather than try to find “something” to write about, I decided to share these random thoughts with you.

It’s pretty much the same old, same old for most of us isn’t it? Our lives just roll along some highs, some lows, but mainly on an even keel. Perhaps it is a sign of maturity, but neither the highs nor the lows seem to hold the same drama as they once did. For me it’s as if I finally understand the full import of these lines from If by Rudyard Kipling:

“If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same”.

I love Christmas and its approach always makes me nostalgic. Luckily my memories of this season are mainly happy. Our family, irrespective of their financial situation, always celebrated and shared at Christmas.

My mother was the supreme master of crepe paper art and decorated our home with garlands she wove together from all the colours of the rainbow. Our tree, fresh of course, fixed into place in a bucket of soil by dad, was decorated with the precious glass baubles we only displayed for a few short weeks before they were packed away with loving care for another year. If, as inevitably happened, one dropped from the tree, its shards could be found in a huge radius as they actually exploded on contact with the floor.

No fancy tinsel here; our city relatives were collectors of silver and gold milk bottle tops which were then shaped into bells and hung around the tree or strung on a thread to join the crepe paper garlands over the fireplace. Our fireplace was filled with a huge vase containing agapanthus, hydrangeas and Christmas bush, surrounded with pine cones sprayed with “Santa snow’ and sprinkled with glitter.

Image Pixabay

Is this a real picture or are my memories embellished with the wonder of a child’s imagination? As no photos survive, if they ever existed, of this time, my vote is for real memories, not imagination.

I do remember one disastrous experiment; always a reader, my head was filled with descriptions of popcorn garlands strung through the Christmas trees of my book friends. Not to be deterred by the fact that these were either European or American books, I decided to add to our festive spirit by stringing a bag of coloured popcorn into a garland. Sadly, it never reached the Christmas tree. We lived on a dairy farm and mice were always present outside in the hay sheds, despite our trusty farm cats. Overnight these little blighters found my popcorn and enjoyed an early Christmas feast! Oh well, someone enjoyed my efforts.

I remember days so hot “you could cook eggs on the footpath”, when my grandmother cooked a turkey and “all the trimmings” on a fuel stove; the afternoon southerly buster which brought thunder, lightning and a cooling rain; food galore, paper hats and bad jokes from the Christmas bonbons; dolls, toy trains, lego, books, clothes, underwear, a teddy bear (who is nearly 70 years old) all from Santa, singing in the choir at Midnight Mass, parents, grandparents, aunties, uncles, cousins, friends and always, love. 

Now the kids who woke before the sun to check out if Santa had visited are the grandparents, but, mercifully, we don’t cook a turkey on a fuel stove. It’s more likely that sensibly for the country in which we live, we will have cold turkey, ham, perhaps seafood and salad. There’s one tradition, however, I refuse to change — there will be a rich fruit pudding served with custard, although no longer made two months ago and left to cure.

This year there have been quite a few challenges in our lives; hubby’s heart and my back and knees refuse to “play nice” but hey, it takes more than that to stop us!

Sadly we said goodbye to one of our own generation. At his funeral, we questioned whether we were old enough to be the leaders of our tribe and just when did the generation we produced become grandparents themselves?

On the positive side, we have reconnected with family and friends and these reunions brought joy to our lives. Through Starts at 60 I’ve connected with dozens of people whose varied opinions, likes and dislikes have added greatly to the tapestry of my life. Although I find some of the ways of the world foreign to the way I grew up, I accept that “things ain’t what they used to be” and for that matter, never have been. As Marv Hardin says in The Train: “This train ride will be full of joy, sorrow, fantasy, expectations, hellos, goodbyes, and farewells.”

I feel so blessed, grateful and privileged for all the wonderful people who have stepped into and out of my life, if you like, the passengers on my train, who have left behind so many happy memories.

Merry Christmas everyone and as for 2019, bring it on!

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