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What was Christmas like when you were a child?

(150 Posts)
ScrabbledLeggsAndToes Fri 31-Oct-14 18:57:37

I like hearing / reading about all the different ways people celebrate Christmas. I like hearing about all the seemingly insignificant things that happen, and end up becoming treasured memories, or special traditions

So, what was Christmas like when you were a child?....

Tinkerisdead Fri 31-Oct-14 19:07:29

My absolute best memories are of christmas, not even of christmas day but coming home to my house smelling of cooked food, twinkly lights and sunday night dramas like box of delights or chronicles of narnia. The cosiness and anticipation of advent. Those are the things I try to recreate.

Christmas Day was always just me my mum and my brother. God I loved it, no masses of people traipsing through etc. My mum would never let us downstairs for presents unless Santa had left a sooty kiss on her cheek so we knew he'd been. For years and years after I stopped believing I still couldn't figure out where the sooty kiss came from and then as an adult when I nagged her to tell me again; She tutted at me, stubbed her fingers in her fag ashtray and dabbed them on her face. Bleughhhhhhh. The magic was lost then!!

InvasionOfTheBodyShatners Fri 31-Oct-14 19:09:27

My absolute best memories are of christmas, not even of christmas day but coming home to my house smelling of cooked food, twinkly lights and sunday night dramas like box of delights or chronicles of narnia. The cosiness and anticipation of advent. Those are the things I try to recreate.

Exactly the same for me smile

LadyofDunedin Fri 31-Oct-14 19:14:09

Magical ! I loved it. My parents always really embraces Christmas and I was am only child for 7 years- these 7 unspoiled years of love and attention were my favourite . Brat that I was... (Am!)

We always started first thing.. Bless DF he used to get up in the middle of the night to construct various Barbie paraphernalia for me..

I got suspicious one year.. Aged about 6.. Thanks horrid cousins .. They told me Santa didn't exist so I got into bed in the middle of parents and lay with both arms over them 'just to be sure' lol.... Poor DF had to try his damnedest to stay awake as he had a Barbie house (3 floors people, 3 floors!) to construct .. The poor man was lying in bed flat pretending to sleep while his blasted child (me) had the arms across!! thlgrin I wasn't then and still am not, a great sleeper - this took some time!!!!

Anyway, point is, parents did everything with utter love and dedication and I love Christmas because of it.

We always are at 3, still do. Sadly both nanas died when I was young.., but in these glorious first 7 years they were there too and I adored it. Such special memories now and I feel sad siblings didn't experience the grandparents too .

Oh and the best bit then and now is Raymond Briggs' Father Christmas- I watched very year on a dodgidly taped VHS. Still my favourite depiction of Christmas - and a merry bloomin' Christmas to you too , OP! ( watch does mentioned to understand!)

LadyofDunedin Fri 31-Oct-14 19:14:29

Fore mentioned, not does!

LadyofDunedin Fri 31-Oct-14 19:15:30

Ate not are.. I'll get my coat!!!

HaroldLloyd Fri 31-Oct-14 19:16:26

Yes the run up. My uncle always came around Christmas Eve to take the giblets out of the turkey and when I saw his hand up that arse I knew Santa was on the way.

Just all the nice telly, the TV times, satsumas and nuts out, big tin of roses and quality street.

HolgerDanske Fri 31-Oct-14 19:17:50

Very happy.

It was the best time, for many reasons. I'll write more about it later.

This is the first year that my much loved grandmother isn't here. She made Christmas for me.

0pheliaBalls Fri 31-Oct-14 19:19:21

We were incredibly poor, my father was an alcoholic/violent, never much money for anything... But my mother always made it magical. She must have been suffering so much but always made sure Christmas when we were little was wonderful. We had roast chicken and a bottle of apple pop which we called champagne for Christmas dinner and she would hand make our gifts - one year she made us a womble each out of old curtain fabric smile

TheSporkforeatingkyriarchy Fri 31-Oct-14 19:36:22

Opposite from most here. For me, I was the worst time of year. So much fighting and pompous 'ours is better' smugness and 'you better believe and behave or no presents'. My earliest memory is adults fighting around a Christmas tree. Not shocking, I don't bother with it any more.

The only good tradition I can think of was my mother (who was super Christmas obsessed) making paper chains to cut one each night to countdown. That's easy to do with each any holiday though.

joanofarchitrave Fri 31-Oct-14 19:38:43

'when I saw his hand up that arse I knew Santa was on the way' grin

What lovely posts - after yours Ophelia I have something in my eye I think.

I loved and still love Christmas but there were an awful lot of Rules when I lived with my parents and siblings which did get in the way a bit.

There was of course the Long Healthy Walk on Christmas Day, this was set in stone though in recent years has got a bit shorter. There was also always Church, though very much in the traditional nonreligious British way so that we expected an extremely short service and complained if it went over 50 minutes.

For a few years there was the No Telly At Christmas rule, my mother used to put the tree in front of the telly. This eventually stopped, and if we were lucky there would be a film that everyone was happy to see (essentially either My Fair Lady or Some Like it Hot or Sound of Music - luckily the BBC were on our side here). Nothing in the morning (but that was normal) and no random telly watching, we had to put a case based on careful study of the Radio Times.

Present timing always had a lot of rules. I had a stocking until I was 12, and thank goodness was allowed to open it when I got up, but other presents waited until after church. Then as we got older, presents got later until in my mid-teens they happened after the Long Healthy Walk at tea-time. TBH by that time I was feeling pretty deflated and it was all a huge anticlimax.

For a grim few years there was the Anti Gluttony and Excessive Western Waste rule imposed by a newly religious member of the family, so that we did have normal Christmas dinner but weren't supposed to eat anything else that day, with the money therefore saved being donated to charity. There were still the remnants of that happening when I left home.

I still do the Walk and do try to spread the presents out a bit, but I now really enjoy other families' traditions. I am also very hmm when I hear religious mention of 'the real meaning of Christmas' since I'm afraid my family's endless attempts to hold back supposed commercial or vulgar pressures on Christmas in my view just ended up being largely joyless. You don't become a loving and happy family by imposing rules on celebrations for the sake of it.

Livvylongpants Fri 31-Oct-14 19:44:47

No decorations went up in our house until we fell asleep on Christmas Eve. We believed for years that a Christmas fairy came and put them up that night, why we were never suspisious of the fact that everyone had had theirs up for weeks I'll never know.

I'm too impatient to wait until Christmas Eve but the magic of coming downstairs christmas morning and the house had been magically transformed... My poor mother must have worked her butt off the early hours every Christmas

fuzzpig Fri 31-Oct-14 19:48:13

Frankly, a bit miserable! My parents weren't into it at all and I am an only child with no cousins. So... meh.

I do have some nice memories that I cling to though! For example the tree. It's an artificial one my parents bought for my 2nd Xmas. They stopped using it when I moved out but they dug it out of their attic for me last year when they moved, and it's still in great condition - SO happy to have it here! I was always the one to decorate it which I loved - in retrospect I realise it was just because my parents couldn't be arsed, but still grin the decorations are VERY special to me, we don't really buy new ones (except usually one each for the DCs which the elves deliver on Xmas eve - needless to say that's an MN inspired tradition, not one I inherited from my family!) because I have some really beautiful ones from my childhood.

The other thing I remember fondly - but rarely get to replicate as I can never find the bloody things - those orange and lemon jelly slices (or on very exciting years, those tropical ones) - my grandma bought them every year and I always got the round one in the middle too grin

fuzzpig Fri 31-Oct-14 19:52:18

At least now, though, my parents freely admit they don't do Xmas. I was discussing it with my mum last week, and tentatively mentioned that my friend had invited us - but I'd said no, as I thought she and dad expect to be at ours (the way we did it last year).

She said "oh darling, you know we are rubbish at Xmas, I'd much rather you had a lovely time somewhere!" smile

LikeSilver Fri 31-Oct-14 20:00:32

My first memory of Christmas is my parents sitting me down on Boxing Day aged 8 and telling me they were getting divorced. It came as a huge shock as they had hidden every fight. I remember looking at the Christmas tree and trying not to cry.

Once they were divorced my Christmas Day was always a rush. I had to have Christmas Eve at my mum's, with no traditions as she's not really into Christmas. On Christmas Day we went to my sister's for lunch and then my Dad picked me up and I stayed with him Christmas night. Nobody ever said this but I always felt like we had to rush presents and dinner to make sure it was done before my Dad arrived. Because of this I flat out refuse to go anywhere on Christmas Day now; DH, DD and I have it as a family unit and we do whatever we like to nobody else's schedule. DDA is only two, DS is on the way, but I'm actively trying to build traditions and make her/their Christmases magical.

Shlep Fri 31-Oct-14 20:08:22

It was mixed. We didn't celebrate Christmas as we weren't Christian, and celebrating Christmas was disencouraged anyway in my home country until I was 9ish. When I was a bit older and people started celebrating more openly again, it was really magical. It's mainly an Orthodox country, so celebrating on the 7th Jan, but a lot lf people were Catholic and celebrated on the 25th like in the UK. So we would celebrate for pretty much two weeks straight (called kaliady) between the 25th and 7th.

We'd go round to our neighbours and sing songs, tell jokes etc, although sometimes we would just wish them a good year, and we'd get cupcakes, sweets, money etc from them. It was kind of like trick or treating. And there was loads of food, always vanilla or clove smells around the house. Coming home was always lovely because there was always food and that kind of bakery smell, iykwim? It smelt of safety and my gran. We'd watch Christmas films when we were tired of wandering in and out of the house and we had a Christmas treasure hunt on the 7th, and I helped arrange it as I was a bit too old and thought I was too cool to actually do it myself. I would just watch and make cryptic comments to my younger brothers and annoy the hell out of them. We'd have lights on the inside of our house and tea lights around the garden.

Shlep Fri 31-Oct-14 20:09:31

*we didn't celebrate Christmas until we guilt tripped our mum into letting us join in

HouseAtreides Fri 31-Oct-14 20:13:57

I remember very clearly one year (I think it was 1986 so I was 6) just standing in the living room, dark outside the window, seeing the bowl of sweets (no doubt Roses) reflecting the Christmas tree lights, hearing Slade on the radio, all the little bowls of peanuts, Twiglets etc my mum had set out, and just being utterly suffused with joy. smile My parents would save all year- we got no surprise treats, no toys all year- then would buy us pretty much the whole Argos toy section. We were completely bowled over and grateful every year.
Stockings were hung on bedroom door handles, packed full, and we were allowed to open those (I would always go into my brother's room). It was my favourite part!
My grandparents used to come when I was small but as my DGran got ill, then they moved quite far away for her health and they couldn't come any more sad

ProfYaffle Fri 31-Oct-14 20:16:58

I agree it was the anticipation rather than the day itself. We didn't have a lot of money when I was growing up. My Mum (and it was just me and Mum) would buy small things, food treats and presents, one a week from September onwards and she used to pay for a hamper all year. Then on Xmas Eve she'd bring out all the treats and arrange a big display on the sideboard. My eyes would be like saucers but I wasn't allowed to eat anything until the full display had been admired for a few hours.

Bowls of tangerines and walnuts take me right back to my Mum's sideboard.

I also used to love decorating the tree, we had the same ornaments every year, each one wrapped in newspaper from the year they were bought. I used to love the ritual of unwrapping all the familiar bits and bobs and cooing over all the old stories in the newspapers.

Chottie Fri 31-Oct-14 20:21:44

My grandparents ran a pub in Poplar in the 1950/60s and in those days the pub was open on Christmas Day and closed early in the afternoon. As soon as the last punter was out the door, a long table was set up in the bar and my parents, sister, aunts, uncles and cousins would all sit down together to Christmas lunch. I have a slide taken in 1958 of us all sitting around the table. Just magical.

When my GPs gave up the pub, my parents took over hosting Christmas and my mother made Christmas really special for all the family. When she died, all my cousins came to her funeral and everyone said how they had loved the Christmases we had spent together.

ChillingGrinBloodLover Fri 31-Oct-14 20:24:48

I'm sorry that some of you didn't have good Christmases as kids sad.

Holger. I'm really sorry that you are facing your first Christmas without your lovely Grandmother, it's really, really hard xx

apintofwhine Fri 31-Oct-14 20:26:11

Fuzzpig I remember the Orange and lemon slices too! Try a google search for confection affection. I can't link to the site but it has these and other things- marzipan fruits etc
A thing I always remember was an advent candle, lit every evening by me or my brother. I have introduced this to my children and this has become our tradition as well

spaghettiarms1 Fri 31-Oct-14 20:26:15

Likesilver your memories sound a lot like mine. My parents waited till new year to 'not spoil Christmas for the children'. I was nine when it was announced.i too remember trying not to cry and having an awful lump in my throat that really hurt.

It's funny I have hardly any memories of times before the separation. It's as if they have all been blocked out.
Anyway, sorry slight derailment,
Back to the thread I remember Christmas very fondly on the whole and very busy. Pillar to post certainly but full of fun and excitement.
Quality Street Satsuma's Radio Times Choc Orange Crackers Lights Music and Films, and yes, those little orange and lemon jelly slices!
C'mon Santa Claus!

Redglitter Fri 31-Oct-14 20:29:11

My gran & nana stayed overnight so my brother and I used to sleep in folding beds in the dining room.

when we got up mum dad gran and nana all had to go the loo ~ Soooo infuriating.
Then dad would go into the living room to check Santa had been. Every year he said ' nope not been yet go back to bed hmm '

My pressies were on one chair and my brothers on another. The Christmas tree lights would get switched on then we got stuck into opening presents. It was a totally magical time x

CMOTDibbler Fri 31-Oct-14 20:37:00

I loved mine, but it went:
no decorations till Christmas Eve (mum taught and had had a zillion christmas things on, dad worked in a factory with fixed holidays so only finished christmas eve) - but dad and I went and got the tree from his cousin who grew them 2 weeks before. Every year they would argue because a week before mum would start asking about it, and dad would put her off while the tree sat in the garden. Massive box of decs that they'd acquired over the years, all with a story.

zillions of christmas cards (of course, it started with a hundred from school alone), and the one from the nuns she'd been in a convent with.

going with dad to the butchers/abbatoir to choose our cut of beef from a Smithfield winning carcass.

Christmas morning, my brother and I would pile into mum and dads bed, and we'd all open our presents there.

Christmas tea with trifle and sausage rolls.

The huuuge padded, soppy card dad bought mum every year which she hated (and he knew it). Eventually he worked his way through the stack of previous ones he'd put away on a 10 year cycle

It was the only day we were allowed to watch loads of telly, so we made the most of it! We didn't have family over, so it was very peaceful

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