When I was growing up, Christmas was a ‘big thing’ at our place. Preparations started early in December, with mum cooking the Christmas pudding and cake on what I always knew as ‘stir up’ day. It was meant to be the first Sunday in December, but as we were a pretty religious family, this kind of work would have been frowned on occurring on a Sunday, so I suppose it happened as close to then as possible. My mum was a great cook, so she took this role very seriously — it was a long time, before anyone else was allowed to provide the cake or pudding.
We always had a ‘real’ Christmas tree when we were very young, so this wasn’t procured and decorated until closer to Christmas Day. We had a big box of decorations that came out every year and it was always fun putting the tree up and enjoying that lovely pine smell throughout the house. It was also decorated with small coloured electric lights, which always seemed to cause grief for my father, as when any of the globes ‘blew’ the whole lot would go out. (Later my parents bought one of the first ‘plastic’ trees I knew of in the neighbourhood, which saved the bother of having to dispose of the remains of the ‘real tree’.)
My family were church-going people, and so the religious aspects of the season were celebrated most. We had carols playing through a loud speaker set up on our front verandah on Christmas morning (heaven only knows what the neighbours made of it), and we all got up early to go to church at around 7:30am on Christmas morning (dragging us away from our presents). Breakfast waited until after church — one of the two days per year we were treated to bacon and eggs (the other was at Easter).
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Then it was off to our grandparents’ place for lunch with my cousins, or to a park for a picnic with other family people. It was always one of my favourite days — there there were bonbons with funny hats, liquorice allsorts, nuts to be cracked with a nutcracker, and roast chicken for lunch, which was a real treat in those days. (I don’t think I tasted turkey until I was an adult and had Christmas lunch at my husband-to-be’s family home.) Mum’s pudding was always a success, with extra sixpences poked into slices to ensure everyone got one. When decimal currency was introduced, Dad would trade the sixpences for 5c pieces after lunch, to ensure that the real silver coins were kept for future years (my sister still has them!).
My dad’s workplace closed down every year for the two-week holiday between Christmas and January 8, so immediately after Christmas (or sometimes even on Christmas day itself) we would pack up the car and trailer and head off to a beach for a camping holiday.
When I married and eventually had my own children, I tried to ensure that there were some nice traditions that I kept up and new ones that got introduced along the way.
‘Stir up Sunday’ is still observed in our place and this is the day that our Christmas tree is erected and decorated. One of my adult sons still loves to come and help decorate it — helping me with the big box that is stored in the garage with all the decorations. We have a great range of decorations. Some go back to my boys’ school days and others are things that we have collected on our travels — each one coming with the memories of the place from which it was bought and reflective of a whole range of cultures, from Canada, Peru, Germany, Austria, Norway, Sweden, Ecuador, Iceland and many places in Africa and Asia.
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Stir up Sunday, is also the first day that my family will tolerate the start of my Christmas music play list — I have dozens of CDs collected over many years. By Boxing Day, everyone is heartily sick of them all, but by then it’s time for the cricket to begin, another of my obsessions…
I now have two grandsons — born last year, so toddlers this year. I am so looking forward to sharing Christmas with them and their families this year. Hopefully, in the future, Christmas will become one of their favourite days at Nonna’s house, too.
What family traditions do you have for Christmas time? If you’d like to share your story with us, send an email to [email protected]