This weekend it felt like time to begin the transformation of our home to Pre-Christmas. The stook on our front steps looked more out of season with every day, as did the wicker cornucopia. I listened to the inner nudge and packed them away for another year. Then began the pulling of boxes out of the loft room cupboard and unwrapping familiar ornaments from layers of tissue paper. I have a whole closet full of boxes of ornaments gathered over the years. I no longer feel compelled to take them all out, but choose which ones to grace our home with each year.
Strains of a Christmas tune wobbled wonkily from a musical globe with revolving Christmas figures telling the old, old story; and our nativity scene, that loses more fake brownish green grass with every year, emerged from it's bag looking decidely well worn. When Pete dropped by on Sunday evening and saw it set up on the hall table, he went into his annual theological protest at the sight of Wise Men at the manger, when they really didn't arrive that soon. That is all part of our family's Christmas--he has to set the record straight--but the Wise Men get to stay, looking slightly drunk and off kilter on the uneven footing of the stable. :)
Our Christmas tree is up, with branches yet to be fluffed. The top half of the lights aren't working yet. That too is part of the ritual. This year I feel less pressured to rush. It will be all ready in time.
Our Christmases in England in the 1950's and 60's were very simple, but magical. The decorations were kept in a brown cardboard box. One small cardboard box. The box contained fairy lights, rolls of coloured crepe paper, tinsel, metalic angel hair and coloured glass Christmas tree ornaments with concave hollows with shiny patterns.
On Christmas Eve, we would get a pine tree, about 3 or 4 feet tall, and Mum would put up the decorations. The tinsel would decorate the mantlepiece over the fire place and paper streamers would be twisted and hung from the centre of the room, and pinned in each corner. Balloons and crepe paper decorations that lay flat in storage and opened up into honeycomb balls and bells, would also be pinned in corners.
The glass tree ornaments of silver, gold, green and red, caught the light and reflected back our world to us. They seemed to my child's eye like the most beautiful, rich jewels. The little string of fairy lights was so pretty and magical, the tinsel so festive, and the final touch, the hanging of the icicles of angel hair transformed the tree into a shimmering vision of splendour and promise.
On Christmas Eve, one of our presents would somehow arrive on our bed, and the next morning Mum, Dad, Rob and I would gather around the tree to open our gifts. The Christmas of 1962 I received a green vinyl covered five year diary, which I kept faithfully for four years. I wrote so much in the fourth year, when I turned 16 that I had to get a new diary for 1967, with a whole page for each day. Thus began the chronicling of my life.
We would have a chicken for Christmas dinner, with sausagemeat stuffing, brussels sprouts and roast potatoes, and Christmas pudding and white sauce afterwards. Mum would always insist that she wanted the chicken neck and "parson's nose," and Dad would always refuse to let her have them. I could never understand why he wouldn't let her have the parts she wanted. It took a long time to realize why she chose them.
Christmas crackers were part of our celebrations, snapping and banging and filled with paper hats and tiny gifts. And after the feast we would eat the foil wrapped chocolates that hung on the tree until our we could hold no more food in our tummies. Then,sated and full to the gills, if I had a new book I would find a quiet spot and lose myself in it.
These are happy memories that come out of my box of Christmases Past. The box contains other memories, but only a few, that I choose to leave packed away, just like the boxes in my closet. I don't need to unwrap them all.