I have just finished all my Christmas cards so I thought back to other Christmases!

In the early 50s there was a much more optimistic air as the austerity of the 40s faded away. The Olympic Games in 1948 had started to lift the mood then the Festival of Britain was a great success followed two years later by the Coronation. There were more people smiling too with their unnaturally bright toothy smiles, thanks to their new National Health dentures!

I had moved from my junior school to the grammar school about a mile away from my home. School work had proceeded as usual until the last two weeks of term, then a week of exams (and the results, received with mixed emotions). The final week was given over to Christmas celebrations. All the form rooms were decorated with home made paper chains, a small Christmas tree and a postbox. We seemed to give cards (bought in great bundles from Woolworths)  to everyone we knew. We also had a bran tub in which everyone put one present. We also gave presents to our “special friends”. These were usually home made things like combs in cases, embroidered handkerchiefs, needle cases etc. I usually tried to make something a bit different and scoured my mother’s “Woman’s Weekly” for ideas. I remember one year I made wrist bands with pincushions on them and  arranged coloured pins on them with the recipients name pricked out on them! Another year I bought celophane topped boxes from Woolleys and coloured bath salts  (which were sold loose by the pound) and I thought I made a very artistic arrangement  by lining the bottom half of the box with bath salts and placing a little purse of contrasting colour and a mirror over the top!

We had a carol concert in the assembly hall to the accompanyment of the school orchestra and choir. Another day we had the very enjoyable prefects concert, where those august beings really let their hair down! and on the last day of term we had a special assembly where the headmistress gave a summary of achievements, and handed out housepoints, posture badges and house cups etc.

At home we did not put up the decorations until a few days before Christmas. My mother would already have made the cake, puddings and mincemeat weeks before. Mostly we had chicken for Christmas dinner (not so many people had turkey then and chicken was still rather special).  I remember one year when a relative sent us a goose from the country. The only problem with it was that it was not dressed so Mum and I had to pluck it and not being used to it, it took ages. My brother, in a spirit of bravado, offered to clean it. He managed it, and was then promptly sick!

We were still very much involved with church activities. My father was churchwarden so was busy helping in the organisation side, my mother was in the Young Wives, so was planning the cooking for the New Years Eve social. She was also involved in helping with making costumes for the Church pantomime, my brother was making scenery etc and I was dancing in it. We were very lucky to have a  talented man who wrote, produced and took part in the pantomime and put on  a professional production,which was always well attended.

Christmas day was spent just with the family, but Boxing day was the day for visiting relatives or being visited, the extended family took it in turns to host this.

New Year’s Eve was the church social attended by all ages. The highlight being the supper provided by the ladies of the congregation, the favourite suppers were fish and chips or “bangers and mash”.   At  11.30pm we all crossed over to the church for the candlelit Watchnight service. 

Most people had only Christmas Day and Boxing Day off work. New Year’s Day was not a bank holiday until much later. We usually had about 2 weeks off school.

Advertisements