(This beautiful Victorian Christmas card was rescued on the clearing of an old cottage in Chrishall and is one of a collection that can be seen in the Chrishall Scrapbook.)
Irene Cranwell, one of Chrishall’s oldest residents, remembers Christmas as it used to be.
Christmas starts in August these days, predating Harvest Moon, All Hallows and Remembrance Sunday – what a pity.
Once upon a time, Christmas was always heralded by Stir up Sunday. The mums in the village would make the Christmas puddings – you must remember that no self respecting mum would ever buy a Christmas pudding then – making the pudding was part of the family Christmas, everybody had a hand in it.
Next in the run up to Christmas was the school nativity play. In those days, Chrishall school had a remarkable headmistress called Miss Hile. She was a wonderful lady, a brilliant musician and with an uncanny gift of drawing out from the children the most remarkable performances. The nativity play took place the day before we broke up for Christmas. I shall never forget taking part in these plays and there are quite a few in this village who can also remember taking part. The plays were presented with such reverence, way beyond the ages of the children taking part and they really set the scene for Christmas.
Finally, Christmas Day itself arrived. There was no need for alarm clocks in the cottages then. The children were up at the crack of dawn inspecting their stockings. Of course there weren’t the expensive gifts that children get today, but everybody always got something. There was the obligatory apple and a little packet of nuts and sometimes an orange. You couldn’t get oranges all year round then, but just before Christmas you could buy some Spanish ones, but golly they were sour. Usually we would have some type of toy – often homemade – or whatever they could stretch to, but believe you me, every mum knew what a ha’ppeny was worth and every ha’peny did its duty.
Of course being country children, we were reared in the knowledge that the animals came first. Dad and or big brother would get up early and tend to any cattle that needed feeding. The horse keepers would come to the different farms, feed the horses and bed them down, and the people with poultry would feed them. Then the family came into existence and it was a very happy day. The Christmas dinner was the main part of the day. In those days, nearly all the cottages had a poultry run and often a large cockerel would be fattened up ready for Christmas and that made a very tasty meal for Christmas Day. Quite a few cottages had beef as the centre point of the Christmas dinner. Beef was something of a luxury in those hard up days and our prudent mums would save a few pence each week with the butcher and so by Christmas there was enough money in the kitty to buy quite a nice joint of beef. Of course everybody went to Church or Chapel on Christmas morning.
Christmas was certainly wonderful then. I’ve been fortunate enough to see nearly 100 Christmases and each one of them is a precious pearl on a treasured string of memory.
Happy Christmas everybody.
(This article was first published in the Village Web 2009).