A nostalgic look back at Christmas past!
Here we are in the middle of November and already the shops have been adorned with their Christmas trimmings. Radio Norfolk today had its first day of Christmas and this week is the annual Radio Norfolk Toys and Tins appeal concert in Norwich. I'm sure it wont be long before we receive our first Christmas card! Is it me or does Christmas actually come earlier each year?
I remember that when I was growing up in Norfolk well over 60 years ago, Christmas started after work on the 24th December and ended on the morning of the 27th. Most people were granted the two day break of Christmas Day and Boxing day and store decorations were limited to some sprigs of holly, paper chains and, if the male members of the staff could get away with it, some mistletoe.
The family Christmas dinner was carefully fattened in the back yard on table scraps and boiled potatoes throughout December and the whole family joined in to pluck the Cockerel, turkey or goose a few days before Christmas. Potatoes, "haled" under straw and earth since the summer, were carefully unearthed and fresh sprouts and cabbages were harvested from the household garden. There were no frozen vegetables then and mother had to make do with what ever was available in season.
In November, much effort would also be put into making the Christmas puddings (see this months Village Kitchen) with all the kids taking their turn at stirring the thick fruit filled mixture. Perhaps even more amazing, mother would then cook this cordon bleu meal using at best a solid fuel oven that had neither a thermostat nor fan cooling. The day would generally be made complete by the roasting of the chestnuts, so carefully collected and stored in the autumn, over the by now dying embers of the coal fire. There was no television to fill the darkening evenings, just the radio with many old favourites such as Itma, Hi Gang, Happidrome and Band Waggon to keep us amused.
Inevitably, as the darkness gathered, and the radio was switched off to conserve the accumulator, ghostly stories would be exchanged leaving the younger children terrified of going upstairs with nothing but a small paraffin lamp or candle to light the way. Last trips to the loo meant the donning of a coat and scarf to brave the frosty path to the outside earth closet. For all that, and despite the lack of the things we now consider essential such as electricity, TV and stereos, I still remember the Christmas of my boyhood with tremendous pleasure.
So on that sobering thought, let me wish all our readers, contributors, advertisers, sponsors and our voluntary production team, their own very happy Christmas 2003 and a healthy and prosperous 2004.