Preparing for my slightly ‘alternative’ Christmas in our new home, otherwise known as ‘the work in progress’ or ‘glorified shed’, has got me thinking about some of the very different Christmases that I’ve had over the years.
Christmas has certainly changed vastly from my childhood, when there weren’t endless high-tech gadgets to add to our lists and we certainly didn’t have anywhere near the amount of money spent on us that is lavished on some of the kids of today!
Presents of my childhood included a farm set, a tea set and a Tiny Tears doll, and relatives usually bought me colouring books, paints or a Knitting Nancy. When I was young I used to write my letter to Santa, then ‘send’ it by burning it on our coal fire. My wish list used to contain simple things such as a Twinkle Annual and accessories for my dolls. One year I did request an ‘In-A-Minute-Cakebake’ that had been advertised on TV. I longed to be able to whip up the cake mix and put it in the ‘magic’ oven, but sadly it never materialised. I was lucky to get a Potter’s Wheel, a Shaker Maker Set and a Perfume Factory over the years, however. We sometimes had a family present too, the best of these being a giant Spirograph set.
Christmas parties featured heavily in my childhood, with the emphasis on the celebration of the season as opposed to the presents. Our school parties used to begin after lunch, with the desks and chairs being pushed back in the classrooms to accommodate party games. When we would normally have been going home, we sat down to tea and then went to the hall for the chosen entertainment of the year – a group performing panto or a magician, for example. At the end of the day, we were sent home with an apple, an orange and a sugar mouse – I can still recall how they set my teeth on edge! Today, school parties often tend to be held during school hours, with kids expected to down party treats almost immediately after their lunch!
Generally Christmas was a long holiday, with shops closed for days and time spent seeing various family members over the festive period. Now Christmas tends to be too rushed – squeezed into one day, blink and you’ll miss it! This is meant to be the Season Of Goodwill, not eat to excess one day and shop ‘til you drop the next!
I loved the Christmases when my children were small – they became magical all over again. They showed wonder at the simplest of things and it was easy to get caught up in their excitement. When my eldest daughter was three, she seemed really content with the contents of her Christmas stocking – colouring pencils, Barbie underwear, chocolate etc – and when asked said she was quite happy with her presents, thank you. She didn’t realise that this was just a taster of things to come and was thoroughly surprised when she went downstairs to find a doll’s house waiting for her. She genuinely would have been happy with just the simple gifts.
In recent years it’s become the norm to entertain my mother and mother-in-law on Christmas Day, although one year we did ask other family members to ‘take a turn’ so that we could have just one Christmas away, following a very stressful year. We had a lovely time in a log cabin, walking in the forest and relaxing in a hot tub and it did us all good. Sadly, the other family members didn’t fulfil their role as promised, so we’ve hosted our ‘stay-at-home’ Christmas ever since.
Despite our current, ramshackle, make-do living conditions, we will be entertaining our mum’s as usual this year, along with our children and grandchild. It won’t be an overblown affair, just a few popular Christmas treats and some quality time spent together. After all, isn’t that the real spirit of Christmas?