21 December 2012
Memories of a 1940s Christmas and the best ever Christmas present.
I remember the build-up to Christmas being just as exciting as the day itself. At home, we wrote letters to Santa and then mother would unhook the kitchen fireguard and we sent them off ‘up the lum’. At Sunday school, everyone (in those days) was told the amazing story of the star, the wise men, shepherds and angels – and then the baby born in the stable because there was no room at the inn. We learned to sing ‘Away in a Manger’ and I vividly recall making an orange Plasticine camel for our nativity tableau.
At school, we made Christmas cards, drawing on rectangles of folded cardboard with those smudgy pastels that made dust fly everywhere. We also crafted gifts for our families. I remember making a felt pen wiper for my father, a pom-pom for my sister’s beret and a taper-holder for mother to stand by the gas cooker. This was a decorated cocoa tin filled with carefully-cut cardboard spills.
The peak of excitement was Christmas Eve. We hung our stockings (mother’s thick lisle ones, darned beyond wear) at the mantelpiece before going to bed, too excited to sleep. Our expectations weren’t as high as they are today; there’d be a ‘big’ present such as a book, jigsaw or paintbox, then the contents of the stocking were always the same – an apple, orange, tangerine, box of wax crayons (to replace the previous year’s, now worn down to stubs), a colouring book, some paper ‘scraps’ and a book of cut out dolls to dress. Right in the toe of the stocking was a white sugar mouse and a silver three-penny bit. What excitement emptying everything out with small arms, with lots of tugging and shaking!
The best ever present
Our best ever Christmas Eve was in 1944 when my sister and I were wakened by much coming and going but didn’t dare get up for fear of glimpsing Santa. Eventually, my father opened our bedroom door and whispered ‘Are you awake? Come and see what we’ve got.’ We went through to the wall bed in the kitchen and Mother showed us our new baby sister – the best Christmas present ever.
By Grace Murray
(Image copyright Library of Congress id cph3c00200)