It’s Christmas time again! 
originally published – 22/12/07

Actually, I suppose it has been for the last two months or more. At least that’s how long the shops, stores and media have been telling us what’s on offer. We have all those weeks to think about what has to be done and what we have to buy but do we ever stop and wonder why we go to so much trouble.

Everyone agrees it’s an occasion for children and it’s easy to see why youngsters look forward to it but what about some of the older folk? Is it still all joy and happiness for them and are they just as keen to continue the tradition as they were in the past?

Unfortunately, the bombarding the public get from the pre-Christmas advertising put out by the major stores and media only exacerbates the stress that most families are already subject to these days.Instead of being a happy and peaceful time with pleasure and fun derived from planning it as a family, it has developed into a chore that many would opt out of it if they were given the chance. By the time Christmas day finally gets here many women are too stressed and tired to enjoy it.

Did You Know?

We still have Christmas trees and trim up to make everywhere look pretty and then meet up with our relatives and friends to exchange presents and cards and have lots to eat and drink.

Christmas time againChildren are content so long as they receive what they asked Santa Claus to bring them. Even so, it is all very different to the way it was celebrated by our forefathers.

Several things have contributed to the changes. The whole event was built around the Nativity although many of the customs went back to before the birth of Jesus.

All churches were well attended at this time and many choirs joined the Salvation Army around the streets rendering carols for all to hear. The children also joined in going from house to house singing their favourite verses before knocking on the door for a donation towards their Christmas presents.

There was no television to be switched on and watched all day. Even after most households got radio it was only tuned in at three o’clock when everyone sat and listened to the king’s [or Queen’s] speech.

The Queens Speech in 1957, now on YouTube

When folk were not at the table eating, those not involved in the household chores passed the time playing games. Cards, ludo, snakes and ladders, draughts and later monopoly were all popular. When everyone was there they would organise pastimes they could all join in, musical chairs, pass the parcel, statues, oranges and lemons etc. The adults always seem to enjoy those as much as the youngsters.

While all that was going on biscuits, sweets, fruit and nuts were usually on the sideboard so everyone could help themselves. In the evening, after the children had gone to bed, the adults relaxed with a drink. Most families managed to afford at least a bottle of ginger wine or sherry and a bottle or two of stout or brown ale for the men.

Then, as the fire died down to glowing embers it was time to bite into the chestnuts and place them on the grate. Warm mince pies were passed round while they were cooking. They always tasted much better when all was quiet and peaceful in a warm room filled with the smell of the roasting chestnuts.

In those days Christmas was here and gone in two or three weeks and culminated in two days of joyous celebration. Children at school spent time in the last week before they broke up making Christmas cards, trimmings and presents. Some rehearsed and presented a nativity play to their parents and friends.

Out of school they scoured the countryside for holly loaded with berries while the more agile climbed the likely trees searching for mistletoe. Then of course they had to wrap the presents they had saved their pennies to buy. There was no pretty wrapping paper or sellotape, people used brown paper or old paper bags and tied their parcels with string. Those children that had no money would often make something or perhaps find a gift they had been given on another occasion or a possession they could spare and wrap it up for a friend.

The decorations on the cards we send have also changed. They still express love and good wishes but very few have reference to the reason why we are celebrating. This is a time for family and friends when we should count our blessings and extend a hand of friendship and goodwill to everyone.

One thing that was missing this year was the usual cry from the Postal Service telling everyone to ‘Post Early For Christmas’. Does this mean they are now able to cope with the sudden increase in letters and parcels or are there less for them to deal with? Perhaps the time is approaching when something like an Email will replace the familiar greetings card: Let’s hope not!

Let us all make a resolution before the New Year: To do what so many of the greetings cards tell us, ensure we have a ‘Happy Christmas’. We must help each other to plan and make light of the work so the chores are no longer a burden. Make time in our busy schedule to relax, look around and take stock of what we have.

First scrutinise our material possessions and then turn our concentration to our loved ones and those things in our life we hold dear and are impossible to evaluate. Set aside the constant ongoing worries and spend these special days feeling relaxed, happy and above all, content. We might even find that it’s catching!

Warmest Greetings’ and best wishes for a ‘Very Happy Christmas’ to you all!

valley lad – [THIRTY-FIVE]