As we are all set for a slightly different Christmas, I thought I’d gather some information on my grandad’s Christmas experience.
The most he would find in a stocking (usually only a parent’s sock) on Christmas morning would be some nuts, an apple, and an orange. If he was lucky, he would maybe even find a wooden toy. (An interesting fact: The tradition of stockings comes from 12th century France, where, I’m told, nuns would fill socks with tangerines, fruit, and nuts and leave them outside houses to help the poor.)
I was most surprised to learn that the traditional Christmas dinner was still the same back in the 1930s: Grandad would tuck into a bird — be it goose, turkey, or chicken — Brussels sprouts were eaten, and everybody had Christmas pudding for dessert. Before Christmas, a tree would also be put up and decorated with paper chains.
Each Christmas morning as a young boy, Grandad would get up at the crack of dawn and walk around Brawby knocking on doors and singing “Lucky Bird”, with a faint hope of receiving a shilling. (On New Year’s Eve, the girls of the village would repeat the tradition.)
Yet what I’ve found most interesting from talking to my Grandad is that family has always been the most important aspect of Christmas. The sheer lack of presents that my Grandad received wasn’t a problem: It just wasn’t the point. Christmas was about spending quality time with family, and there was no societal expectation for this or that. (I can safely say that over my past 21 Christmases I have received more presents than my Grandad ever did…)
Given that this year’s Christmas is going to be completely different to those that we’ve had before, maybe there’s an opportunity to aim for more low-key festivities. Arguably one of the main things that we have learnt this year is to not take our family and friends for granted. So maybe it’s time to have a Christmas where they are the priority.