Friday, 22 November 2019

Christmas

Christmas now for me is almost non-existent.   I buy a pack of half a dozen charity cards each time I go into the paper shop to pay my bill on a Tuesday.   I only buy two or three presents - the rest I give in the form of money because my mobility is not good enough to trail round shops doing "Christmas Shopping" as such.   And I have the actual day with friends where we share the expense of the meal and then enjoy one another's company.

Yesterday I was looking back to my parents' preparations for Christmas - how different it was then.   We never had much money when I was growing up but we were lucky enough to live very close to the Butchers in our Lincolnshire village.  One of my mother's favourite jobs was dressing poultry so - yes - you can guess the rest.   In the run up to Christmas my parents (after my Dad retired) prepared all the poultry orders for the Butcher.   Every morning of the week several crates of capons, turkeys and geese would arrive in the yard.   My Dad would get the copper going and then he would kill and pluck the birds and Mum would then dress them - a proper production line.   For this my mother would get a large joint of meat (usually pork) and a large ham and then usually a goose, which was their favourite food for Christmas Day.   She probably had money as well - I don't know.   What I do know is that we never had less than a 'groaning' table over Christmas.

In addition my Mum would make her own mincemeat and her own Puddings.     On the big Day all the family would come home,  the biggest pudding would arrive steaming at the table, my Dad would heat brandy in a saucepan on the open fire, set fire to it with a match, turn round and pour it over the pud.

For tea there would be roast ham sandwiches and home made mince pies - in all my childhood I never remember my mother buying a cake - always home made.   Her 'speciality' was Lincolnshire Plum Bread - if you have never tried it then do try to get hold of a loaf to try - toasted on Christmas Eve round the fire - you can't beat it.

Presents?   We had very few - there wasn't enough money to stretch to that.   But we never went short of food - and food of the very best.   I realise now just how very lucky I was to have such a memorable childhood to look back on.


26 comments:

Librarian said...

Dear Pat, I love reading about your childhood and thank you for sharing such memories with us! In my childhood, too, Christmas preparations were (or at least to me appeared to be) different from now. I was 6 years old when we moved back to the town where I was born, in 1974. Our first Christmas here was great, because the "new house" (which was actually from the 1930s) and our new friends and neighbours were still quite exciting. Over the four Advent weeks, my Mum would bake Christmas cookies any spare minute she got, of course with my sister and me "helping" - mainly making a mess in the kitchen and trying to get as much of the raw cookie dough into our mouths as possible!
Some Sunday afternoons when it got dark, Dad would drive with us the 20 minutes or so into Stuttgart, our province capital. There, Christmas lights and decorated windows were much more beautiful and elaborate than in our town, and we loved just looking at everything, then going home to a warm house that still smelled of cookie baking.

Before I get carried away and write an essay instead of a comment, here is something that left me puzzled in your post. You say "For this my mother would get a large joint of beef (usually pork)" - that's confusing, was it beef or pork?

pam nash said...

A beautiful Christmas story. Thanks for sharing.

John "By Stargoose And Hanglands" said...

I really enjoyed reading those memories - not many people will sit down this Christmas having killed and plucked their own turkey. My father used to make our presents most years. One year I took it into my head that I wanted a fretsaw; Dad used it to make my brother the toy fort that he wanted then put the saw back in the packaging to give to me!

JayCee said...

What a lovely memory to look back on.
Our childhood Christmases were exciting at the time and now, not having children of my own, that sense of wonder is something I miss. All our friends spend the time with their families of course so we just take ourselves off, either to somewhere warm and sunny or somewhere snowy and festive and have a different kind of celebration.

jinxxxygirl said...

I loved reading about your Christmas childhood memories.. made me think of mine.. My parents always had presents under the tree for us... they would go into debt to provide that.. As a parent myself i never went into debt but i did start hiding away presents VERY early so i knew i would have what i needed on the day.. Thanksgiving and Christmas always equaled large gatherings... even into most of my marriage its been the same... Then my husbands parents passed and things have never been the same.. sad... be we are all so scattered.. This Thanksgiving it will just be hubby and i.. which is fine and sad at the same time.. Hugs! deb

maureenlthompson said...

What wonderful memories.

Rachel Phillips said...

My mum plucked and dressed 50 capons every Christmas that she reared from day old chicks. No fridges, so a mild lead up to Christmas was a nightmare and best to keep out of her way.

Rosie said...

Having turned veggie many years ago there are fewer preparations ahead of Christmas but we still have very delicious food we look forward to. I do miss our grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles who made Christmas so lovely with very little. Today we were talking about different Christmas days and agreed that it would be good to make it special if we didn't rely on anyone else but planned some lovely tasks that could be solitary. I fancy something arty or crafty and simple so could be achieved in a day to look back on with pleasure.

thelma said...

A lovely story to look back on and happy days to remember.

Heather said...

Those days were not everyone's idea of 'the good old days' but I remember them with much love and gratitude. Presents in my family were often homemade and Granny would kill a cockerel for Christmas dinner. Everyone turned up for tea, often with edible offerings of some kind as rationing was in force.
Christmas doesn't mean the same since all my children have grown up, but I do enjoy spending the day, and Boxing Day with one or other of them.

Kippy said...

How many people came to your home at Christmas? Sounds like enough food for 50 people! Mom would make dozens and dozens of Norwegian cookies as well as date nut bars, sugar cookies etc before the holidays to share with family and friends. When she became elderly she would stop at the electricians, plumbers, mechanics etc. with a big plate of cookies. The rum balls were a big favorite. Mom never had to worry about getting immediate help from those tradespeople throughout the year.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Thanks Librarian - you are the only one to spot my mistake - I meant towrite 'joint of meat' - I have changed it now.

Kippy - I had a brother and a sister - both older than me and various aunts and uncles who also came - there were usually a dozen or so round our Christmas table.

Bonnie said...

What lovely memories of your childhood holidays! Thank you for sharing these.

Mindo said...

Thank you for writing your blog, I love catching up with what you have been doing and sharing your memories.

I was just talking about childhood Christmas memories with my daughter while we were making present lists.
I’m 63, my parents didn’t have much money like everyone else but Christmas was magical! Decorating the tree was an occasion I shared with my Mum, a precious time as she worked part time and was always busy at home. We had special food - dates, figs and Quality Street were my favorites. Christmas dinner, with turkey that seemed to last until New Year, was at our home with high tea at my Grandparents’ home. Does anyone else remember homemade brawn, tongue, and honeycombe mould (the shape, not fungus!) dessert? Such sweet memories!
These days it’s not as much about the food because I suppose we’re lucky enough to be able to treat ourselves throughout the year, but spending time with family and twin toddler grandchildren.

Bovey Belle said...

How lovely to hear about your childhood Christmases. Having prepared our own poultry for the table, I can commiserate with your mother's hard work. I don't mind plucking poultry, but never enjoyed drawing it (sense of smell too sensitive I think!)

I still make my own Mincemeat every year (and of course mince pies), and do all the baking necessary for the festival. Mum was a rather hopeless cook (didn't take after her mum, who was brilliant in the kitchen and with the sewing machine too). I used to make Christmas cakes and C/Puddings too but as I am now the only one who will eat them, I don't bother.

We just celebrate a small family Christmas with our grown children here. Mostly they have to leave on Boxing Day to get back to work, but poor Middle Daughter works on Christmas Eve (her birthday) and has to be back at work on Boxing Day . . .

Frugal in Derbyshire said...

A few years ago we bought a dozen turkey poults from Melton Mowbray market in September. How I regretted it the week before Christmas when we had to process the blessed things for ourselves and those people who had bought them ! Not learning our lesson a couple of years later we reared some geese. I was finding the down from the geese for weeks afterwards all over the house! We dont rear poultry any more, but we do do all the other things that you describe, just as we did when I was a child.

Amy said...

Life was so different back then. I grew up in the 1970s and 1980s, my parents didn't have much money either yet we never went without and grew up not being spoilt, things are not for the better now.

Joanne Noragon said...

How different it was, then. I grew up in the forties. We were in a war for half of it, Thanksgiving and Christmas were family holidays. Not so much now.

angryparsnip said...

Lovely Christmas memories.
I think we who are much older had the better Christmas with our family. We didn't have much money but Sears Catalog gifts we were surprised by. and like you a wonderful dinner.
parsnip

Cro Magnon said...

I didn't know that Capons were eaten in England; they're the bird of choice for Christmas here. Very few people eat Turkey. Those huge 'Bernard Matthews' type birds are unknown here. Lady M always makes her own mincemeat and cake; and both are excellent!

Rachel Phillips said...

Capons are no longer a feature of British poultry as caponising was stopped many years ago. Both Weave and I both remember them from days of old.

the veg artist said...

I find it really interesting that you are remembering people coming together around food in your childhood, because it seems that is an aspect of life that is important to you now as well, with all of your lovely meals out with friends and family.

Apart from when we lived with my gran, I only remember my sister having to be the cook in our house (from when she was 10), so things were pretty simple.

Gwil said...

This explains wonderfully the birth of your amazing appetite! I always wondered where you put it all as I have followed your culinary tales over the many years. And the other day that you were able to take Tess for a walk after a meal that would’ve put me to sleep - siesta we call it! The Christmas market in our local park is already underway. Santa is coming on the 7th December at 3 pm. Well, that’s what he said. I don’t know how he fits it all in.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Gwil - In our little town (just over 2000 in habitants) all the shop windows are already dressed for Christmas - they look lovely but I wish they could at least wait until December comes - it is all much too early. And honestly I don't eat all that much - I don't eat any sweet things - so hardly any puds at all and I don't eat between meals and rarely after five in the evening, so keep my weight down (have to for the sake of my arthritic ankles).

Yes Frugal - I don't think folk realise just how much work goes into the rearing, killing and dressing of Christmas poultry unless they have been involved in it in some way.

Ah Mindo - Home made brawn - delicious - never seen anything like it these days - it seems to have completely died out. Maybe still available in Lincolnshire where I come from as it was always a big pig county.

Thanks everyone for joining in.

Dina Roberts said...

I love how you have described your childhood Christmases. It makes me feel that I'm there with you...which is a treat for me because I'm Jewish and therefore don't have any childhood Christmases of my own to remember.

The great thing about good writers is they let us live so many experiences vicariously.

Donna said...

What a lovely description of your Christmases past. I love it!