Saturday, 27 December 2008

Christmas stirs up more than just pudding!

Somehow Christmas is almost the focal point of the year. As the Christmases roll on - and boy do they roll on as one gets older - June arrives, you blink and the shops are full of tinsel and tinny muzak carols.
As we sat around the fire on Christmas night, just the two of us, having had a lovely day and a lovely meal, we got to thinking about other Christmases. You can always remember what you did on Christmas day, memorable meals, memorable company, memorable presents. We thought back to when our parents were alive. David is one of six children and in the latter years they would all come home for Christmas dinner, sharing the work load between them and giving their parents great joy. It was nothing for there to be twenty two sitting down to dinner at the kitchen table, the dining room table and the little gate-leg table only used on such occasions.
I come from a much smaller family and there was never a dinner when we could not all get round the big square table in our dining room. But still there are the memories.
My father was a great one with his "sayings" (tomorrow will be Friday and we've caught no fish today!) being one of his regular utterances on Thursday evening (I still find myself thinking it often, even if I don't say it out loud.))
And at Christmas dinner he always quoted the same nonsense rhyme. Where it came from I don't know - but he managed to say it every year - if he forgot we soon reminded him. So here it is. Where does it come from? Has anybody heard it before? I know there is a poem with the same first line, but the rest must have come from somewhere and I would dearly like to know where. Does anyone else know any nonsense rhymes? Or were they only known in our family?

It was Christmas Day in the workhouse,
The rain was snowing fast.
A barefooted boy with shoes on
Stood sitting on the grass.

One fine day in the middle of the night
Two dead men got up to fight.
Back to back they faced each other;
Drew their swords and shot each other!

Ah! nostalgia, nostalgia. What daft things we did and said in our young days (says she from her dotage).
Hope you are all gradually recovering from the excesses of Christmas.

22 comments:

Leslie said...

Believe or not I have heard this poem and this was in Texas when I was a child. Sorry, I don't know where it came from. It truly is a "Small World."

Dominic Rivron said...

The poem with the same first line can be found at

http://monologues.co.uk/Prepare_to_Shed/In_the_Workhouse.htm

It seems to me likely that it spawned many parodies, like this one.

I'm afraid to say the only other one I know is, "It was Christmas night in the harem".

elizabethm said...

I used to love the "back to back they faced each other" one. No idea where it comes from but it was part of my childhood too.

Woman in a Window said...

Oh my, I have to say you got me there, zing, right through the soul, imagining myself and my husband in years to come looking back on years like these. Somehow that is sweet and powerful and frightening too. Happy Holidays to you and yours! (And the snow, as always, be careful what you wish for.)

Reader Wil said...

Lovely thoughts about Christmas past. Isn't Christmas all about getting together?
For us New2 Year's Eve is almost just as important! I wish you a happy 2009!

Mad Bush Farm Crew said...

Weaver it's great to have memories of Christmas. David's memory of having a family of six I can relate to. With four sisters and a brother my Mum and Dad's house used to be filled to overflowing with cousins,friends and people who simply just needed Christmas cheer. Love the silly rhyme. I haven't heard of it but it's hilarious

Happy New Year
Liz

Rachel Fox said...

I know some of those lines but not all of them in that order! I don't associate the one I know with Xmas particularly either.
x

Heather said...

I love your reminiscences - have I spelt that correctly? I have heard that nonsense rhyme, I think one of my uncles had quite a fund of them. Did every family have a gate leg table? I can remember Christmases when we walked the length of the village carrying extra chairs to Granny's house, and one when we took a three piece suite and the adults in the party stopped on a grass verge to have a rest and a smoke!! Passing motorists were very curious!

The Weaver of Grass said...

Amazing hearing it in Texas, Leslie.

The Weaver of Grass said...
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The Weaver of Grass said...

Don't think I want to hear that one Dominic!

The Weaver of Grass said...

Yes elizabeth - as children we did love these daft poems, didn't we?

The Weaver of Grass said...

No snow here, Woman in a window.

Yes - make the most of the Christmases while you are young so that you have plenty of happy memories later on.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Happy new year to you reader wil - we shall be celebrating too.

The Weaver of Grass said...

I think big families are a blessingm mad bush - they leave such memories.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Must be a northern rhyme, rachel I think.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Heather - what a fantastic story - imagine anyone doing that these days. What if it had been snowing, would you all of ended up sitting on the floor at your Grans? Probably! And what is more, nobody would have minded, would they. Happy new year.

Teresa said...
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Teresa said...

(oops...didn't word first post very clearly so here's a correction)

Wonderful post... you have such a way of drawing the reader in. No poems in our family (but I loved yours!) but my Dad was, and is, a great one for "sayings" too. Up the stairs is "up the apples and pears"; round the corner is "round the jolly horner" and such. If you ask him what day it is he usually responds with (for example) "Tuesday.... all day"!

Arija said...

There is a very similar nonsense rhyme in German, where standing back to back they draw their pistols and stab each other in the chest. I heard it years ago at my husband's aunt's but never really learned it and only remember it vaguely. It was quite long.

My memory drawer sees to be a little stuck and is definitely over full and quite a few things have slipped over the back and fallen into the bottom of the chest...In alphabetical order of course!

Elizabeth said...

I always heard"it was Christmas Day in the workhouse" - but never knew how it continued.......
Yes, Christmas is a great time for nostalgia - good and bad.
Can end up making one feel a bit sad and longing for times past......

Robin Mac said...

What a wonderful reminiscence about Christmas. I grew up with lots of extended family around so we usually had about 20 or 25 for Christmas dinner - which was always cold because of our hot climate. We had to have the traditionall hot Plum Pudding though, complete with coins and tokens.
I don't know all the poem, but I have known the second verse since I was a child - is it something to do with Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass? Happy New Year to you, Robin