Memories of Christmas Past

December 22, 2009 at 9:27 am 3 comments


Christmas dinner

I have always loved Christmas. Money was often tight but my parents and Santa always tried very hard between them to make my childhood Christmases very special.

My childhood Christmases were homemade. It was a family affair. Mom made her own mince pies and sausage rolls. Grandma made the cake, which my Aunty decorated, and my great-aunt made the pudding. The rum sauce (not brandy!) with it did not come from Waitrose in a plastic tub either. Waitrose was not even a twinkle in John Lewis’ eye back then.

We even got our turkey from my mom’s cousins who were farmers. Turkey farmers. And, for much of the seventies at least, the sprouts, carrots, parsnips and potatoes were grown in the vegetable patch in our back garden.

My sister would be glued to Blue Peter and produce a variety of homemade decorations – chains of coloured paper and balls made from old Christmas cards. The tree, however, was always plastic as real ones were too expensive and pretty scarce in downtown Birmingham. It must have been a terrible fire hazard in a time of electric fires, naked candles and nightwear made from flammable materials which generated static electricity whenever you moved.


My childhood Christmases were always filled with family. We lived in the same street as my aunty, uncle and cousins and my grandma and granddad moved from Warrington in the 1980s to live just a couple of doors further down. Before, that we would alternate between Christmas in Birmingham, when they would travel to us, or, Christmas in Warrington, when we would head up the old A50 to them.

Every Christmas Day, after presents had been opened and my cousins (they are Catholic) had been to church, the processions would begin. My mom and her sister would share the cooking. One would do the meat and the pudding say and the other would do the veg. The men folk would spend a good hour or so traipsing up and down the road carrying tables, chairs, trays of roast potatoes and steaming bowls of Brussels sprouts and the like. On Boxing Day the curious ballet would be repeated but in reverse.

Mine was a Christmas with a kids table. I so looked forward to being promoted to the grown up table. A Christmas with crackers and party hats and granddad falling asleep with a tumbler of whisky in hand while grandma just “rested her eyes”. We were very much like The Royal Family (the sitcom).

Mornings were a flurry of kitchen activity with the women doing the cooking. The afternoons were a flurry of kitchen activity with the men and children doing the washing and drying. These were days when the microwave and dishwasher were only seen on American TV programmes.

My childhood Christmasses were magical times. The sherry and mince pie left for Santa in the evening would be mysteriously gone by morning. And, no matter how long I tried to keep my one eye open to watch for Father Christmas I always fell asleep. I would be asleep for what seemed to be just seconds before awakening to find the pillowcase at the bottom of my bed filled to bursting with all the gifts on my wish list and a few that weren’t – socks and hankies and a Terry’s Chocolate orange from various aunts and slippers from my nan…….every blooming year!

Christmas was always a long time coming. Dad would do overtime and brew strange beer in a yellow bucket under the stairs for months beforehand. Every Friday night for weeks there would be a knock on the door as the hamper lady collected her money. Most Fridays we were also visited by the man from the Pru and the Avon Lady. I fancied the Avon lady. Dad fancied the Avon lady.

Christmas was a long time coming but gone in a flash.


The arrival of the Christmas hamper was an annual treat alongside the Morecambe and Wise Christmas Special and the Flash Gordon black and white TV series in the morning. The hamper would be filled with strange and exotic treats such as pate or Gentleman’s Relish, After Dinner Mints, crystallised fruits, chocolate covered brazils, a plastic jar of KP Nuts, and a bottle of Blue Nun. We knew how to live it up!

Them were the days. You can see why Christmas on a beach somewhere warm with waiters has such an appeal – maybe next year.

Merry Christmas everyone!


Entry filed under: Birmingham, childhood memories, food memories, middleman. Tags: , , , , , , , .

Memory Lane – part 2 It Is Snowing…….Again

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. TinyPleasures  |  December 9, 2010 at 8:31 pm

    You’re right! I love this post.

    One day, I hope my wee son will feel as nostalgic as you do about family Christmas’


  • 2. Middle Man  |  December 21, 2015 at 5:30 pm

    Reblogged this on Middle Man.


  • 3. Valerie Nash  |  December 17, 2016 at 9:58 pm

    Had a similar low budget version of this.. Christmas was the only day we actually ate at a table (otherwise dinner was eat off our lap). And we supplemented lack of chair by piling phone books on the arm of the couch (I kid you not). And my Mum would make her own hamper. She’d buy a few extra “special” things when she did her weekly big shop and would secret them away in a suitcase in her wardrobe. So we’d be tortured for weeks knowing that there were packets of penguin biscuits and the like in the house, but we couldn’t even think of eating them. On Christmas Eve the suitcase would come downstairs and my Mum would load up the top of any flat surface with sweets and biscuits. We’d have more confectionery in the week of Christmas that the rest of the year combined.



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