Friday, 26 December 2014

So this is Christmas - the Day after Christmas

‘Twas the day after Christmas, and all through the house,

Every creature was hurting – even the mouse,
The toys were all broken, their batteries dead:
Santa passed out, with some ice on his head.

Wrapping and ribbons just covered the floor,

While upstairs the family continued to snore.
And I in my T-shirt, new Reeboks and jeans, 
Went to the kitchen and started to clean.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,

I sprang from the sink to see what was the matter.
Away to the window, I flew like a flash,
Tore open the curtains, and threw up the sash.

When what to my wondering eyes should appear,

But a little white truck, with an oversized mirror.
The driver was smiling, so lively and grand;
The patch on his jacket said “U.S. POSTMAN”.

With a handful of bills, he grinned like a fox

Then quickly he stuffed them into our mailbox.
Bill after bill, after bill, they still came.
Whistling and shouting he called them by name.

“Now Dillard’s, now Broadway’s, now Penny’s and Sears

Here’s Levitz’s and Target’s and Mervyn’s – all here!!
To the tip of your limit, every store, every mall,
Now chargeaway – chargeaway – chargeaway all!”

He whooped and he whistled as he finished his work,

He filled up the box, and then turned with a jerk.
He sprang to his truck and he drove down the road,
Driving much faster with just half a load.

Then I heard him exclaim with great holiday cheer,


Author Unknown

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

So this is Christmas - Twas the night before Christmas - the original

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hope that St Nicholas soon would be there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled down for a long winter's nap.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer.

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

"Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid! on, on Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!"

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of toys, and St Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler, just opening his pack.

His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook, when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself!
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose!

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a Good-Night!"

Public Domain

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

So this is Christmas - Twas the Night before Christmas - politically correct

T’was the night before Christmas and Santa's a wreck ...
How to live in a world that's politically correct?
His workers no longer would answer to "Elves",
"Vertically Challenged" they were calling themselves.
And labor conditions at the north pole
Were alleged by the union to stifle the soul.
Four reindeer had vanished, without much propriety,
Released to the wilds by the Humane Society.

And equal employment had made it quite clear

That Santa had better not use just reindeer.
So Dancer and Donner, Comet and Cupid,
Were replaced with 4 pigs, and you know that looked stupid!

The runners had been removed from his sleigh;

The ruts were termed dangerous by the E.P.A.
And people had started to call for the cops
When they heard sled noises on their roof-tops.

Second-hand smoke from his pipe had his workers quite frightened.
His fur trimmed red suit was called "Unenlightened."
And to show you the strangeness of life's ebbs and flows,
Rudolf was suing over unauthorized use of his nose.

And had gone on Geraldo, in front of the nation,
Demanding millions in over-due compensation.
So, half of the reindeer were gone; and his wife,
Who suddenly said she'd enough of this life.
Joined a self-help group, packed, and left in a whiz,

Demanding from now on her title was Ms.
And as for the gifts, why, he'd ne'er had a notion
That making a choice could cause so much commotion.

Nothing of leather, nothing of fur,

Which meant nothing for him. And nothing for her.
Nothing that might be construed to pollute.
Nothing to aim. Nothing to shoot.

Nothing that clamoured or made lots of noise.

Nothing for just girls. Or just for the boys.
Nothing that claimed to be gender specific.
Nothing that's warlike or non-pacific.

No candy or sweets…they were bad for the tooth.

Nothing that seemed to embellish a truth.
And fairy tales, while not yet forbidden,
Were like Ken and Barbie, better off hidden.

For they raised the hackles of those psychological

Who claimed the only good gift was one ecological.
No baseball, no football…someone could get hurt;
Besides, playing sports exposed kids to dirt.

Dolls were said to be sexist, and should be passé;

And Nintendo would rot your entire brain away.
So Santa just stood there, dishevelled, perplexed;
He just could not figure out what to do next.

He tried to be merry, tried to be gay,

But you've got to be careful with that word today.
His sack was quite empty, limp to the ground;
Nothing fully acceptable was to be found.

Something special was needed, a gift that he might

Give to all without angering the left or the right.
A gift that would satisfy, with no indecision,
Each group of people, every religion;
Every ethnicity, every hue,
Everyone, everywhere…even you.

So here is that gift, it's price beyond worth…
"May you and your loved ones enjoy peace on earth."

Notice: this poem is copyright 1992 by Harvey Erlich. It is free to distribute, without changes, as long as this notice remains intact. All follow-ups, requests, comments, questions, distribution rights etc should be made to 

Monday, 22 December 2014

So this is Christmas - three days before Christmas

T’was three days before Christmas and all through the house

Not a person was helping, not even my spouse …
The children were restless and what made it worse …
I at my computer typed nonsensical verse!

When what to my poor bloodshot eyes did I see,

But the calendar with three days left glaring at me!!
So off to the kitchen I flew like a flash …
Tore open the cupboards made a mad dash.

Baking my cookies and stirring my fudge,

Dozing by the sink till someone gave me a nudge!
I still have the presents to wrap, and bows to tie
and the house is a disaster I thought with a sigh …

I looked ‘round at the mayhem and thought to myself …

Next year will be different … I’ll organise myself!!
I laughed when I heard the traditional phrase
That was made every year and forgot in just days …

So to all who know me I have only one thing to say …

Merry Christmas to all …

Paula Siminski – Christmas ‘97

Sunday, 21 December 2014

So this is Christmas - Twas the night before Christmas - Jingle Gates

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, except Papa's mouse.
The computer was humming, the icons were hopping,
As Papa did last minute internet shopping.
The stockings were hung by the modem with care
In hope that St. Nicholas would bring new software.
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of computer games danced in their heads.
Dark Forces for Billy, and Doom II for Dan,
And Carmen Sandiego for Pamela Ann.
The letters to Santa had been sent out by Mom,
Which has now been re-routed to Washington State
Because Santa’s workshop has been bought by Bill Gates.
All the elves and reindeer have had to skedaddle
To flashy new quarters in suburban Seattle.
After centuries of a life that was simple and spare,
St. Nicholas is suddenly a new billionaire,
With a shiny red Porsche in the place of his sleigh,
And a house on Lake Washington that’s just down the way.
From where Bill has his mansion. The old fellow preens
In black Gucci boots and red Calvin Klein jeans.
The elves have stock options and desks with a view,
Where they write computer code for Johnny and Sue.
No more dolls or tin soldiers or little toy drums
Will be under the tree, only compact disk ROMS
With the Microsoft label. So spin up your drive,
From now on Christmas runs only on Win95.
More rapid than eagles the competitors came,
And Bill whistled, and shouted, and called them by name.
"Now, ADOBE! now, CLARIS! now, INTUIT! too,
Now, APPLE! and NETSCAPE! all of you are through.
It is Microsoft’s SANTA that the kids can’t resist,
It’s the ultimate software with a traditional twist—
Recommended by no less than the jolly old elf,
And on the package, a picture of Santa himself.
Get ‘em young, keep ‘em long, is Microsoft’s scheme,
And a merger with Santa is a marketer’s dream.
To the top of the NASDAQ! to the top of the Dow!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away—wow!"
And Mama in her ‘kerchief and I in my cap,
Had just settled down for a long winter’s nap,
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
The whirr and the hum of our satellite platter,
As it turned toward that new Christmas star in the sky,
The SANTALITE owned by the Microsoft guy.
As I sprang from my bed and was turning around,
My computer turned on with a Jingle-Bells sound.
And there on the screen was a smiling Bill Gates
Next to jolly old Santa, two arm-in-arm mates.
And I heard them exclaim in voice so bright,

By Chet Raymo

Saturday, 20 December 2014

So this is Christmas - the night before Christmas - legally speaking

Whereas, on  about the night prior to Christmas, there did occur at a certain improved piece of real property (hereinafter "the House") a general lack of stirring by all creatures therein, including, but not limited to a mouse.

A variety of foot apparel, e.g. stocking, socks, etc., had been affixed by and around the chimney in said House in the hope and/or belief that St. Nick a/k/a/ St. Nicholas a/k/a/ Santa Claus (hereinafter "Claus") would arrive at sometime thereafter.

The minor residents, i.e. the children, of the aforementioned House were located in their individual beds and were engaged in nocturnal hallucinations, i.e. dreams, wherein vision of confectionery treats, including, but not limited to, candies, nuts and/or sugar plums, did dance, cavort and otherwise appear in said dreams.

Whereupon the party of the first part (sometimes hereinafter referred to as "I"), being the joint-owner in fee simple of the House with the parts of the second part (hereinafter "Mamma"), and said Mamma had retired for a sustained period of sleep. (At such time, the parties were clad in various forms of headgear, e.g. kerchief and cap.)

Suddenly, and without prior notice or warning, there did occur upon the unimproved real property adjacent and appurtent to said House, i.e. the lawn, a certain disruption of unknown nature, cause and/or circumstance. The party of the first part did immediately rush to a window in the House to investigate the cause of such disturbance.

At that time, the party of the first part did observe, with some degree of wonder and/or disbelief, a miniature sleigh (hereinafter "the Vehicle") being pulled and/or drawn very rapidly through the air by approximately eight (8) reindeer. The driver of the Vehicle appeared to be and in fact was, the previously referenced Claus.

Said Claus was providing specific direction, instruction and guidance to the approximately eight (8) reindeer and specifically identified the animal co-conspirators by name: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen (hereinafter "the Deer"). (Upon information and belief, it is further asserted that an additional co-conspirator named "Rudolph" may have been involved.)

The party of the first part witnessed Claus, the Vehicle and the Deer intentionally and willfully trespass upon the roofs of several residences located adjacent to and in the vicinity of the House,and noted that the Vehicle was heavily laden with packages, toys and other items of unknown origin or nature. Suddenly, without prior invitation or permission, either express or implied, the Vehicle arrived at the House, and Claus entered said House via the chimney.

Said Claus was clad in a red fur suit, which was partially covered with residue from the chimney, and he carried a large sack containing a portion of the aforementioned packages, toys, and other unknown items. He was smoking what appeared to be tobacco in a small pipe in blatant violation of local ordinances and health regulations.

Claus did not speak, but immediately began to fill the stocking of the minor children, which hung adjacent to the chimney, with toys and other small gifts. (Said items did not, however, constitute "gifts" to said minor pursuant to the applicable provisions of the U.S. Tax Code.)

Upon completion of such task, Claus touched the side of his nose and flew, rose and/or ascended up the chimney of the House to the roof where the Vehicle and Deer waited and/or served as "lookouts." Claus immediately departed for an unknown destination.

However, prior to the departure of the Vehicle, Deer and Claus from said House, the party of the first part did hear Claus state and/or exclaim: "Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!" Or words to that effect.

Respectfully Submitted, s./ The Grinch, Esq.


Friday, 19 December 2014

So this is Christmas - Christmas Treats

Christmas Treats - there are many types of treats, those that you come to expect and those that are unexpected. One of the best treats that I remember from childhood is being taken into town (Brisbane city) to see the Christmas lights and look at the lighted shop windows in Queen Street. It all seemed magical to me at the time and fell into the realm of an expected treat.
Christmas Lights, Queen Street c1950s
John Oxley Library

The unexpected was being taken to afternoon tea at the Shingle Inn in Edward Street. This happened throughout the year I guess but Christmas Afternoon Tea was special. Decorations and Christmas music playing, fruit mince pies and shortbread shaped like Christmas trees.

Then there were the edible treats that my trusty Nan made. Dates stuffed with marzipan, coconut ice, candied orange rind, marshmallows (different colours), coloured marzipan cut in different shapes, peppermint twists, real butter shortbread, and sometimes a few gingerbread men. Nan had a marble slab in her kitchen that she used for baking and to watch her making peppermint twists was amazing - she would make white and red mixture then twist them together after rolling out the red and white mixture - had to be done quickly. My mother had an American cookery book and that had some great recipes for candy, different types of toffee and fudge and all sorts of interesting recipes. Mum was roped in to help her mother with the Christmas treat baking and making. I remember one year they made barley sugar twists with much hilarity and singed fingers with having to twist the barley sugar while still warm. I still love barley sugar.

After all the making and baking, some of the goodies were packaged up and decorated with ribbons etc. for gifts for neighbours and friends. So much activity in the weeks before Christmas.

Stay tuned for Christmas Dinner...

So this is Christmas - the real night before Christmas - the parent's version

Twas the night before Christmas
when all through the house
I searched for the tools
to hand to my spouse

Instructions were studied
and we were inspired,
in hopes we could manage
"Some Assembly Required."

The children were quiet (not asleep) in their beds,
while Dad and I faced the evening with dread:
a kitchen, two bikes, Barbie's townhouse to boot!
And now, thanks to Grandpa, a train with a toot!

We opened the boxes,
my heart skipped a beat—
let no parts be missing
or parts incomplete!

Too late for last-minute returns or replacement;
if we can't get it right, it goes straight to the basement!
When what to my worrying eyes should appear
but 50 sheets of directions, concise, but not clear,

With each part numbered and every slot named,
so if we failed, only we could be blamed.
More rapid than eagles the parts then fell out,
all over the carpet they were scattered about.

"Now bolt it! Now twist it! Attach it right there!
Slide on the seats, and staple the stair!
Hammer the shelves, and nail to the stand."
"Honey," said hubby, "you just glued my hand."

And then in a twinkling, I knew for a fact
that all the toy dealers had indeed made a pact
to keep parents busy all Christmas Eve night
with "assembly required" till morning's first light.

We spoke not a word, but kept bent at our work,
till our eyes, they went blurry; our fingers all hurt.
The coffee went cold and the night, it wore thin
before we attached the last rod and last pin.

Then laying the tools away in the chest,
we fell into bed for a well-deserved rest.
But I said to my husband just before I passed out,
"This will be the best Christmas, without any doubt.

Tomorrow we'll cheer, let the holiday ring,
and not run to the store for one single thing!
We did it! We did it! The toys are all set
for the perfect, most magical, Christmas, I bet!"

Then off to dreamland and sweet repose
I gratefully went, though I suppose
there's something to say for those self-deluded—
I'd forgotten that BATTERIES are never included!


Tuesday, 16 December 2014

So this is Christmas - a letter & something for Santa

I am trying to remember writing a letter to Santa in my childhood and know that I did but am finding it hard to remember actually doing it. I know my mother put a stamp on my letter and said that she posted it to Santa at the North Pole. I wonder what she actually did with the letter. 

With my doll Christmas 1955 - Darwin
Well, recently my mother was clearing out some of her things and she came across two of my letters to Santa. These were written in the 1950s and apparently I was very keen to have a 'walking doll' in one of the letters and 'some pretty books & new ribbons' in the other one.

Do you remember walking dolls? They were just the thing in 1955 obviously. My doll was named Katie and I still have her tucked away in one of my cupboards, beautifully wrapped in an old pillowslip and tied with a blue ribbon. 

I carried on the tradition of writing to Santa when my son was small. I also put a stamp on the letter and posted it, under the watchful eye of my son. Don't know what happened to it. Now, of course, Australia Post has a service where you can write to Santa. I'm not sure if people get a reply though.

Official North Pole Mail
Came across this on the web - a site where you can get official Santa Mail. There are some enterprising people aren't there? However it would have been wonderful to receive a letter back from Santa in the 1950s.
Santa on his way
Now to the important bit. Leaving something out for Santa to eat on his journey. My grandfather always wanted a bottle of beer left for Santa. I wonder why! My grandmother on the other hand wanted milk as did my mother. So some years there was beer and the other years milk. There was also a variety of treats left out. Some years it was Christmas cake, others shortbread biscuits. Poor Santa, imagine having to eat Christmas cake all over the world. I can remember one year leaving popcorn because I said that Santa had enough Christmas cake. 

Of course, on Christmas morning there were crumbs and the dregs of the drink left behind just to show that Santa had been and enjoyed his treat. These traditions are wonderful and add to the mystical experience of children a Christmas. How I wish that those times were here again.

You can find information about the 2014 Christmas GeneaMeme at

So this is Christmas - Christmas Music & Poems

Christmas Music - how it was magical. We seemed to start playing Christmas carols and music a few weeks before Christmas. No CDs or tapes in the 1950s. Records - hard black ones - played on the record player that was the go. 

My grandfather loved Bing Crosby and Percy Faith so they figured prominently in the Christmas list. My mother was an accomplished pianist and we would have a sing-a-long around the piano. You know - White Christmas, Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, Jingle Bells, Silent Night, Oh Holy Night.

We also had The Nutcracker Suite, Bach's Christmas Oratorio, Handel's Messiah - these were in boxed sets of records in an album. Lovely music.

In later years we listened to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing Christmas music and then Carols from the Kings College Choir in Cambridge.

My mother would read me Twas Night Before Christmas - you know the one - 

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house

Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care

In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there ....

This was read to me every Christmas Eve for as long as I can remember - did you have this read to you as a child? I read it to my son when he was young and he read it to his daughters - a lovely tradition. I still have the illustrated book from my childhood.

Merry Christmas to all

Clement Clarke Moore (1779-1863) wrote the poem Twas the night before Christmas also called A Visit from St Nicholas in 1822.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

So this is Christmas - Christmas Dinner

Well, by now you would know about my grandmother, Nan, the doyenne of all things Christmas. So it would not surprise you that Christmas Dinner was a BIG event in our family.

Mary, my grandmother's housekeeper had Christmas Day off to share with her family so much preparation occurred on the day before. I loved to be at Nan's house on Christmas Eve. Nan had a large kitchen with a large pantry off the side. Her stove was a fancy American item, with two ovens and eight hot plates, cream enamel and side by side. Her sink was also china, white and deep - no dishwashers in those days! 

We did not have turkey, I don't know if turkey was even available in 1950s Brisbane but do remember in later years my grandmother saying she did not like turkey so maybe it was and Nan didn't like it. Two large - and I mean large - chickens were roasted, with Nan's special stuffing - how I loved her stuffing mixture. A large leg of ham was baked with  decoration on it - you know -
a diamond design cut into the fat and cloves inserted - then the ham was basted with a mixture of honey, orange juice and mustard - yum! Then the roast vegetables - potato, pumpkin, carrot, parsnip - and of course peas (they weren't roasted! My Nan made the best roast potatoes - crisp on the outside and fluffy on the inside - bliss. Then the gravy - it too was wonderful - made from the roasting pan.

So the dinner started at about 1:30 pm with individual seafood cocktails in lovely stemmed glasses - prawns and oysters and my mother's patented seafood sauce. Then out came the ham, chickens, vegetables and gravy. These were placed on the dining room sideboard and then passed around the table. My grandfather was the expert carver and I always wanted a wing from the chicken. My mother & her sister were the ladies who passed everything around and saw that we were all served. Then after the main course as I have already said in a previous post we had Christmas pudding. In those days we had sixpences and threepences in the pudding and strangely I always got one of each in my serve!
The tablecloth

Of course we had Christmas bonbons - there had to be crepe paper hats and silly jokes to share. The Christmas table and the sideboard were decorated with sprigs of holly and candles in silver candle holders - each candle holder held 5 candles and there were four of them. The dining room curtains were always closed so we could have candlelight. Strangely I don't remember being hot but it must have been I guess - I certainly enjoyed the cold watermelon later in the afternoon. The table was always covered in a brilliant blue cutwork tablecloth - which I used with my family for many years. At my grandparents Christmas table there was usually 12 or 15 people - it was a big table.  

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

So this is Christmas - Christmas Cocktail Party

So this is Christmas - must be time for my grandparents Christmas cocktail party. My maternal grandparents had a large home in Constitution Road, Windsor, Brisbane and every Christmas during the 1950s and before had a cocktail party for their friends - both family friends and business friends.
Unused invitation found in a box

This occurred in the week before Christmas, usually around the 20th December. Much preparation happened of course with my indefatigable grandmother once more directing traffic. Nan had a live-in housekeeper, Mary, who helped organise the food and of course serving the food at the party. Mary would be all dressed up in a black dress with white starched apron and a frilly cap on her head and always had a sprig of holly pinned to her dress when she served the guests.

Devils on horseback
The menu for the cocktail party always included: devilled eggs, cheese straws, Swedish meatballs, pinwheel sandwiches (I loved these), cheese squares & cocktail onions (coloured) on toothpicks, Devils on Horseback and Angels on Horseback. For those of you who may not know, devils on horseback were prunes wrapped in bacon and heated in the oven and angels on horseback are oysters wrapped in bacon and also heated. Yum!

Nan had a wooden tray affair - shaped like a mexican hat - with sections around the brim where savouries could be placed and a wooden pineapple thing with holes in it for the crown.  Very handy for putting the cheese and cocktail onions sticks - Mary would make sure everything was replenished.

Drinks - now that was the fabulous thing. There would be a large silver punch bowl with rum punch: this was her recipe - 1 bottle rum, 2 large bottles ginger ale, 4 cups orange juice (or pineapple) 2 oz fresh lemon juice, ice, slices orange & lemon to garnish in bowl. It was some punch - I remember it from the 1960s when I was allowed to taste it.

Then there were the cocktails, my grandfather's young brother Uncle Bill and my mother were in charge of the cocktails. Favourites were martini, gin & it, tom collins, and singapore sling. They all looked fabulous - lovely in glasses, lovely colours.

I was allowed to be at the cocktail party for one hour - from 5:30 to 6:30 - on show to the guests I guess. I used to have my own cocktail - a tall glass with ice, orange juice and grenadine - non alcoholic of course - the grenadine was a lovely red colour and made me feel quite grown up - I was probably 5 or 6 at the time.

The men all wore dark suits, some with bow ties, and the women colourful cocktail frocks. As the family was in the clothing business, I guess their friends were often also in that business. My favourite dress was one my grandmother often wore, dove grey lace over a taffeta under slip. She looked lovely. 

These Christmas cocktail parties carried on until the early 1960s when my grandparents retired to their beach house at Surfers Paradise. 

Saturday, 6 December 2014

So this is Christmas - Christmas Presents

Christmas Presents - what a topic. The anticipation as a child in the weeks leading up to Christmas. The letter to Santa. The decorations. The Tree. The hints to grandparents, aunts and cousins. All this lead into the expectations and anxious time just before Christmas.

Would Santa come? Had I been good? Had my mother let Santa know just what I wanted? What if Santa didn't come?

Christmas 1930 at Denmora
My mother told of Christmas when she was a girl. Her grandparents had a large Christmas party in the week before Christmas at their home Denmora in Cowlishaw Street Bowen Hills. Decorated tree outside on the lawn and Santa in person. Of course, later she had worked out that it was her Uncle Vic but it had taken a few years to work that out. All her cousins were there and presents galore. These two pictures - hand coloured - are of the 1930 Christmas.

Christmas 1930 at Denmora 
I am so happy to have these photos of that time, my grandmother fortunately kept everything - my mother however does not and I inherited my grandmothers photos and memory books. My grandmother is on the far left of this photo with a small boy holding on to her. My mother is just behind the girl standing in the front on the left of Santa.

So to get back to presents. I used to be given 10 shillings to buy presents. My grandmother would help me buy my parent's gifts and my mother my grandparent's gifts. Much thought would go into these gifts and some of them were truly horrible. I used to love Penney's in Queen Street in Brisbane. There were always some cheap gaudy things on sale there. I remember years later when I was about 30 my mother cleaning out her cupboards and saying what am I keeping this thing for? and my answer I gave that to you when I was 9. My mother of course immediately backtracked and said of course and put it back in the cupboard. It was a truly horrible china dish with bright red and green flowers - I must have thought it was wonderful when I was 9.

Friday, 5 December 2014

So this is Christmas - Christmas Cards

1901 card to my great grandmother
Christmas cards - well haven't they changed over the years? I remember being given six Christmas cards by my mother (I was in primary school) and being told that I could choose the recipients. Such power, I spent hours making a list, crossing out names, adding more, crossing them out again until I got to the magical six. 
1903 card to my grandmother

Then there was the decision about what to write on the cards. Just Merry Christmas love Helen. Or Happy Christmas love Helen. Or just love Helen below the verse. Decisions, Decisions... When I had finally decided I sat down and very carefully, with pen and ink, and a blotter at hand wrote inside my allotted six cards. I asked my mother to address the envelopes for me though I did stick the stamps on.

1890 card to my great grandmother
My grandmother, the champion of Christmas as I have mentioned previously, had a great system of Christmas cards. Nan had a blue covered notebook in which she recorded the following: who sent cards last year; who she sent cards to last year; and most importantly who didn't send a card last Christmas. If that happened two years in a row the unfortunate person was crossed off the list with a notation attached to the name . You seriously didn't want to be crossed out and noted.

My mother had learned the important Christmas card protocol from her mother and had her own card notebook. Her's was red. Just as her mother did, Mum agonized over the Christmas card list. Should she send a card to the nice lady around the corner who always had a smile & a wave? Of course the butcher, the milkman, the bread man and any other tradesman got a card, including the rubbish man. The rubbish man always got a bottle of beer with his card - supposedly because if he got a bottle of beer he wouldn't spill the rubbish!

1898 card to my great grandmother
Now, how where they displayed? My Nan had red cord that was strung across the lounge windows - which ere curved - and small pegs to attach the cards. Once again there was a specific order to the cards of course.  Cards from family were all together, then other relatives, then friends and so on. Mum on the other hand pinned the cards to curtains all around the dining room and lounge. She was more artistic - cards that looked good next to one another etc.

1899 tag to my great grandmother
After Christmas I was allowed to pick out some of the prettiest cards from both Nan's  and my mother's collection so that I could cut out pieces and put them in my scrapbook.

So you can see how cards looked in the late 19th century and early 20th century, very different to how they look today. 

I am lucky to have these few precious items from times past. Thanks to Sharn White for reminding me of these Christmas memories.

By the way, the first Christmas cards were commissioned by Sir Henry Cole and illustrated by John Callcott Horsley in London on the 1st of May 1843. Two batches totaling 2,050 cards were printed and sold that year for a shilling each. (Thanks to Wikipedia)
Merry Christmas 2014

Thursday, 4 December 2014

So this is Christmas - Christmas Food - Christmas Pudding

Christmas Food - part two - Christmas Pudding. The saga of the Christmas Pudding. My grandmother - you know the one - the expert of all things Christmas - was the production manager of the Christmas pudding. 

Preparation began at least two months before Christmas - in October usually. Similar to the Christmas cake the fruit was weighed and measured and socked in brandy overnight before the adding and stirring of the other ingredients. I always made sure I was at my Nan's house at some stage of the pudding making saga. Again, I loved to lick the spoon. 

Hanging puddings
A calico pudding cloth - saved from year to year - was wet and squeezed out, laid on the table and sprinkled with flour in a circle in the middle. The pudding mix was put in, tied tightly with string and knotted at the top. Then a plate is put in the boiler and a wooden spoon tied to the pudding - across the pot - to stop the pudding touching the bottom of the pot. Then into the boiler for about six hours - watched carefully - the water topped up if need be.

All cooked and ready for hanging in a cool, dry place until Christmas.  Nan used a broomstick balanced between two cupboards in her pantry room - it was a big room. Nan made four puddings every Christmas so it was quite a production.

Flaming brandy
On Christmas day the pudding was gently boiled for two hours - again watched by my Nan of course. Nan always poured brandy on the pudding and it was carried to the dinner table all lit - we used to turn out the lights - so exciting. There was a sprig of holly on the top of the pudding - real holly - I don't know where she managed to get holly but Nan had holly everywhere at Christmas.
The pudding was served with custard and or ice cream. Nan didn't like brandy butter apparently.

Stay tuned for the Christmas treats ...