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Monday, 25 December 2017

Christmas Memories 10. The Great Day

We always woke early on Christmas Day and checked if Santa had been.  We would have left a pillowcase outside our bedroom doors and, being a tidy chap, Santa would have left our presents in there.

We always got a main present from our parents.  My earliest recollection is of a till and toy money but I had a train set one year and Bayko set another year.  Bayko would give elfin safety an enormous headache these days as it involved pushing steel rods into a bakelite base and then sliding bricks on to the rods.  Looking back, those rods could have been lethal!  There were other smaller presents as well from family and friends but the the phrase "stocking filler" had still to enter our language.

During the morning we would play with our new toys until our maternal grandparents arrived.  One year though we had a truly white Christmas, with snow falling on Christmas Eve and I preferred to play outside.  A bit of on-line checking suggests that this may have been 1956 when I would have been five.  My grandparents would arrive with my aunt and, after she married, my aunt's family and there would be another round of gift swapping.  Lunch (for ten people) was always delicious and always turkey.  The selection of vegetables was much smaller than today but no-one would go hungry.  Mother would then bring in the home-made pudding, always exciting as she would flame it with brandy.  

After the washing up had been done we would wait for a telephone call from my Mother's younger brother who lived some distance away and was the only one of their children my grandparents would not see at Christmas.  My grandparents didn't have a phone so this call from Uncle Eric was very important to them.  After that we settled down to watch The Queen's Speech and then my grandparents would be off to their elder son and my parents would have a much needed snooze.

At about five o'clock the door bell would sound and that meant that my father's brothers and sisters had arrived with their families and my paternal grandparents.  Tea would be served.  I think there would have been about fifteen for tea and the noise was immense as my cousins and I updated each other about our new treasures.  

My recollection is that alcohol flowed pretty freely all day (these is pre drink driving laws) and so the family would eventually settle down to play Newmarket, a card game which involved some mild gambling so it was great fun.  Mother kept a penny jar and she supplied penny stakes all round.  My grandmother seemed very jolly to us children but considering the amount of cherry brandy she would have consumed that wasn't surprising.  

Christmas Day was a day for families and fun.  We had plenty of both.


  1. Newmarket!!! We played that, too - not only at Christmas but quite often at a weekend all through the year. Mum would open the extending table so that we had plenty of elbow room and we played for matchsticks if we didn't have enough pennies.
    As we lived in an off-licence / corner shop, we had the only telephone in the street so on Christmas day, various neighbours came to phone their relatives. I especially liked Mary, who was Welsh and jabbered away, fast and furious, in her lilting accent, for a good 15 minutes (all for a half a crown donation to the phone bill.) I wonder if that covered the cost?

  2. Sounds wonderful! Our family gathering was on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day was spent at home with my mother an father.

  3. Sounds idyllic, a joy to be reminded about Newmarket I haven't played that in years.