Archive for December 23rd, 2009

December 23, 2009

>The Ghost of Christmas Past

>Strictly speaking, I’m referring to ghosts and Christmases in the plural, but it wasn’t such a neat title.

I was reading a blog entry over on An Awfully Big Blog Adventureand it made me start thinking about my own childhood Christmas memories.

Mrs MB has frequently commented that I must have been built from a clone at age 12 as I have so few memories from before that age, but while thinking about this, it’s apparent that I’m not, in fact, a clone as there are lots of little things I can remember.

I can recall me and my brothers harassing my parents with chants of “We want the decorations up” and actually making banners and parading around the house.

I can recall a TV advert for an alcoholic drink which Google tells me was a brand of advocaat. I shared a bedroom with two of my brothers, and in the nights leading up to Christmas we would frequently lay in bed, call out “Seagers Egg Flip” and have to turn over in bed, while bouncing at the same time (if you get what I mean). It must have driven my parents mad.

I remember putting the tree together. We always had an artificial tree, but it was like nothing you get today. The trunk and branches were wooden, with plastic needles. The trunk was in two parts, which screwed together and each branch had to be slotted into the trunk.

We had mainly paper decorations which became tattier with each passing year. Most famous was the large paper bell. This thing must have been 24 inches deep, and folded out from flat into a large (surprise!) bell shape. So pivotal was it to the yearly display, it ended up having it’s own metal hook screwed into the ceiling of the living room.

We kids would make our own decorations out of strips of coloured paper which were looped, stuck and joined together. Can you still get those?

We never had stockings, or presents on our beds. Instead they were all kept downstairs in sacks. We weren’t allowed into the living room until dad was ready, and he was infuriatingly (and, I’m sure, deliberately) slow. We also had to have breakfast first – though who wants to eat when there is a pile of presents waiting for you?

When we were younger, and finally allowed in, the present opening was finished in a matter of minutes and a mass of torn paper. I can vividly recall my first wristwatch, with its shiny blue face and blue fabric strap. As we grew older and calmed down (just slightly) we were made to open presents in turn, waiting and watching as each brother opened something. And occasionally Mum or Dad would get a present too – Dad always gave Mum a Terry’s Chocolate Orange (amongst other things, of course).

Christmas Day was immediate family only. That meant Mum, Dad and four kids. Nobody else. Ever. As we grew older, girlfriends were acceptable but that was it. We never went out to visit others and nobody came to us. The occasional rare visitor was treated cordially but coolly. This was our day.

TV was forbidden. Absolutely without exception. The arrival of the VCR made that a little easier to bear, but it was never an issue (except the year we were given our first video game – an Atari VCS – but even that had to wait til Boxing Day to be played).

Christmas Dinner was never turkey – none of us liked it. It was most likely lamb – Dad’s favourite. After dinner was the swapping of family presents, small tokens mainly. Then it was time for games – board games if there were any new ones. Dad – like most dads the world over – would insist on making up his own rules. I seriously doubt any game was successfully finished. Then the cards would come out – we would play Cribbage (yes, really!), or other games whose names escape me right now (to my shame). Bets were placed using pennies from the huge Whiskey bottle which stood perpetually in the dining room.

Tea was always just nibbles, though my mum never came to terms with “light” meals, and the table would have contained enough food for a major party.

After tea came “Tree presents”, silly little gifts that Mum couldn’t resist buying, and then we’d usually end up playing charades or something similar.

It all sounds so terribly twee and old-fashioned, but that’s how it was and – I’m guessing – very much how all my brothers would probably choose to run their Christmas even now.

Certainly, my Christmases are now very different. The children storm through their present piles in minutes; we almost always have Dinner at the In-Laws; after dinner the TV is on while the kids (hopefully) entertain themselves and the adults slowly drink themselves to sleep…

I’m not complaining, of course. It’s different, but not worse.

But the memories… the memories prove that I really was a kid once. Honest.