This week’s blog consists of short memories of Christmas celebrations in countries around the world. It seems we all grew up with fond, but sometimes very different memories, so I hope these stories evoke lovely flashbacks from your own youth.
Christmas Memories in Washington, USA.
By Cyndi Ingle, CyndisList.com and The Genealogy Squad
Christmas was always special for me as a child. My mom and dad always made it so. I believe my love of genealogy started when I was very young because of our family gatherings and traditions at Christmas. My brother Greg and I were born and raised in Washington state. My dad’s family was from Washington and my mom’s family was from California. We didn’t get to see my mother’s family over the holidays. Instead we always bought gifts to mail to my grandparents and I have fond memories of helping my mom pick out things to send them. Grandma Nash always got a box of chocolate covered cherries and Granddad Nash got some cologne and handkerchiefs. My grandmother always sent us the same gifts for many years: a set of pajamas and a book for me and my brother, and a sequined calendar for my parents. Sometimes we also got box of oranges from California. I still think of those Christmas packages and how magical they seemed to be coming from so far away.
We always got together at one of my aunt’s houses for Christmas with my dad’s family. My Grandma Ingle’s birthday was December 19th and she married my Grandpa on December 20th. So, our gathering was always about her birthday, their anniversary, and the Christmas holiday as well. I well remember wanting to spend time in the room with the adults listening to their conversations and figuring out how we were all related to one another. Today I wonder if the adults ever noticed me hanging about in this way. We always had a ton of food and everyone in my dad’s family made popcorn balls for a holiday treat. My Grandma Ingle’s pinwheel cookie recipe has been lost, but I can still see them and remember how much I loved them. It is one of the few memories I have in which I can still remember the smell and the taste of the cookies.
My most vivid Christmas memory when we still lived in Seattle was when I was about 6 years old. I woke up on Christmas Eve and went out to the living room to find Dad wrapping presents. I remember him asking why I was awake and telling me I needed to be quiet so that we wouldn’t wake up Mom or Greg. Then he showed me what he was doing. He had bought Mom a pink bowling ball, a bowling bag, and bowling shoes. My parents were avid bowlers for many years. Dad told me I had to keep this secret and not tell Mom. The memory I have from this moment feels so warm and cozy. The lights on the tree were glowing and my dad was sharing his Christmas secret with me. I remember feeling so important! And my favorite childhood gift was my toy kitchen. A gift from Santa when I was 3 years old. I played with that for hours and remember how excited I was when Santa brought it for me.
Christmas memories in England.
By Pauline Williams
Born and raised in England, my childhood Christmases were probably quite different from those of many readers of this blog. Christmas was often cold, snowy, wet, and foggy; very different from the ‘traditional’ Christmas scenes printed on everything from Christmas cards to wrapping paper. What was Christmas like when I was growing up?
Christmas wasn’t always a “White Christmas”; snow was only great just after it had fallen. Early in the morning, we would get wrapped up with scarves, gloves and warm coats and boots. We aimed to be the first person to walk on fresh snow and leave our own footprints. The pristine snow would crunch under your feet. The only other footprints would be by the dog or even tinier prints from the various birds that were still around. Snow was never quite so nice after rain – it would turn to slush and go a dirty brown colour.
We weren’t a large family, but we had two regular Christmas visitors: my dad’s uncle and cousin, who only visited us and our grandparents once a year. The cousin usually gave us a sixpence each, which was a lot of money in 1950s England.
Christmas dinner comprised chicken with roast potatoes, brussel sprouts, peas and gravy. My dad would dig up the brussel sprouts from an often frozen garden. We’d have christmas pudding with custard, and hope we’d find a sixpence. We seemed to eat all day with ham, christmas cake, trifle and other goodies saved for later in the day.
Leading up to Christmas my sister, brother and I would systematically search the house for presents when my parents were out. My brother would be posted as ‘guard’ to watch for mum and dad coming home. We would try and see what was in the various packages before they were wrapped in Christmas paper. The presents were put out on Christmas Eve after we’d gone to bed, so we’d get up early on Christmas Day to open them.
Sadly we have no photos of Christmas, but it seemed a much simpler, enjoyable occasion.
Christmas in Scandinavia
By Steinar Johansen
Christmas in Scandinavia usually starts 23 December. On that date we set up and decorate the Christmas tree and the rooms. In my family in Norway, we always visit family and friends to swap Christmas presents on 23 December. All the presents are put under the tree that day. There are usually not many Christmas parties before Christmas.
24 December we have a big Christmas dinner in the afternoon, and afterwards, the children are surprised to see that all the presents have disappeared from under the tree. An hour or so later, the doorbell rings, and in comes Santa Claus with a big sack full of the presents that were under the tree. So Santa Claus gives us presents from the family, never from himself. When I had my first Christmas in Australia, I was surprised to hear the children saying they got presents from Santa! In Scandinavia that usually does not happen.
25 December we just relax after the big day and maybe use some of our new presents.
26 December we visit family and friends. The Christmas parties start now, and last until the 12th day of Christmas.
On the 12th day we take all the Christmas decorations down and throw out (or store) the Christmas tree.
My Aussie Christmas Memories
By Bev Murray
Christmas was a wonderful time. It was a time of enormous anticipation and with every passing day, the excitement intensified for me.
At School we had fun making Christmas decorations and colouring in Santa Claus and Christmas puddings. Singing Christmas songs and Christmas Carols was always fun. Sometimes there were Christmas parties and whenever we sang ‘Jingle Bells’, Santa would appear at the entrance to the room, bringing a large sack with him. My eyes would light up as he bestowed a small bag of sweets into my anxious hands. The shop windows in town were dressed with special Christmas scenes and decorations that mesmerised and enchanted all who surveyed them.
Every year on Christmas Eve we went to a family party at the home of my Aunt. This was an annual family function. We enjoyed special Christmas food and we would all sing Christmas songs. Even today, balmy summer nights serve as a reminder of these festivities. It was always a late night but I would still manage to be awake before the birds on Christmas morning.
There was one particular year, which is permanently etched into my memory; . After our annual Christmas Eve party, my parents pleaded with me not to wake them up so early in the morning. And so, on Christmas morning they woke up and stumbled into the lounge room to find my brother and I sitting in the middle of the room, surrounded by all our opened presents!