We would arrive on Christmas Eve day – armed with presents. A roaring fire would greet us – bread rising on the hearth and filling the house with wonderful yeasty smells – the battered old tinsel tree had been set up with the same decorations we remembered from year to year – garlands of paper decorations hung from the ceiling – everywhere shining and polished – it couldn’t be more festive if it tried.
The evening was spent singing carols round the piano – Grandad playing – copious amounts of port, sherry and advocat being drunk by the adults. My brother and I were sent to bed, later than normal, too excited to sleep – snuggling under blankets – feet warmed by hot water bottles. Morning couldn’t come soon enough.
And when it did – such excitement – chairs gathered round the fire piled high with presents – the room soon filling with scraps of torn paper while the family looked on to see our reactions of delight or disappointment. Then Mum and Grandma would go into the kitchen to start preparing dinner – the turkey had been cooking slowly overnight in the oven, soft, tender and bronzed. The kitchen filled with steam from the pudding, wrapped in cloths and bubbling away in a saucepan. Plates of mincepies appeared to appease our appetites whilst we were waiting – the menfolk sat quietly drinking beer and chatting; stomachs rumbling – my brother and I played with our toys, opened selection boxes and read the Dandy and Beano annuals that we received every year.
My Grandma was a great cook – all the food was quickly demolished by the hungry crowd and feeling full and replete, one by one they fell asleep in front of the fire – and my brother and I tried to wait patiently for the evening festivities to begin – the neighbours came round to join in the fun - board games and playing cards were brought out – no television in those days – drinks flowed and gradually they got a little tipsy and laughed a lot at nothing in particular.
These memories are so vivid and have always stayed with me, particularly as every single one of those lovely people are now dead and gone – just my brother and me left - I treasure the memories more than a box full of jewels.
This is my Grandad Herbert playing piano at a works Christmas Party in 1954
"Christmas - that magic blanket that wraps itself about us, that something so intangible that it is like a fragrance. It may weave a spell of nostalgia. Christmas may be a day of feasting, or of prayer, but always it will be a day of remembrance - a day in which we think of everything we have ever loved."
- Augusta E. Rundel