Following the thread of reminiscence I seem to be indulging in lately I find myself remembering some of my Christmas Days as a child growing up in the fifties. I grew up in a small valley town in South Wales which had several large collieries in the area providing much needed coal for industry. We lived on a small terrace of mixed houses, some large others small. At the end of our street were the back entrances to the shops in the local high street, including a bakery. One of my earliest memories is of the men carrying turkeys into the bakery to be cooked in the large ovens and of the party which ensued prior to collecting the cooked birds. I have forgotten why this happened but remember the love and fun generated by all the families coming together. Singing was an important part of our community, Christmas Carols rang out and children raced around whilst the adults sipped their favourite tipple. Once the turkeys were cooked we all went back to our own homes to celebrate the day in our own ways.
When I was six years old my parents moved to a large pub which was a centre of life for the surrounding community. Previously, my mother had worked in a local newspaper office, originally with my paternal grandfather, and my father was a bus driver following his discharge from the Army at the end of the Second World War. Our life here was very different. Both my parents were very sociable and popular members of the town so many people visited us. In those days opening hours revolved around the shift patterns of the local pit. We didn’t open on Sundays but Christmas Day my parents played host to all our customers and friends for two hours beginning at 12 midday. Even the local minister and catholic priest were regular participants. Again singing was a key part of these events, carols, welsh ballads, special songs. Choral singing was and remains an important part of these valleys so the harmonies were spectacular. In my memory they remain a source of warmth and love. We moved to two other pubs in the area over the next twenty years and similar occasions followed us, different people sometimes but always the harmonies and Christmas spirit too.
My children were born in the sixties and seventies. For two years my husband and I ran our own pub in a small West Country village. The sense of community was there again. We had pheasants and turkeys left for customers behind the bar, not alive thank goodness! Christmas cards and gifts were left for friends and on Christmas morning we too had our celebration similar to my parents’. Maybe in my mind the singing didn’t match up to my Welsh compatriots’ – apologies to my husband and my English friends! The special feeling was the same.
Once we settled in our own home we developed our own traditions which I smile to see manifest themselves in the homes of my three children in different ways. We are a mixed group of nationalities – I am Welsh, my husband English, my three children were born in England. I am blessed with an American daughter-in-law, an Italian daughter-in-law and a Cornish son-in-law. Between them they have five children, three born in England and two in America. Both sets of in-laws are visiting for this Christmas and the American branch of the clan now have a Chinese addition, maybe a wedding in 2016! As families of old we have come together from all parts of the world to join together at Christmas, the grandchildren add another layer to the celebrations too.
More musings from me, no photos sorry, but I send fond Christmas wishes to all of you and your families with hopes for a happy, healthy New Year. We are indeed lucky people in this time of extreme hardship across the world. Thank you all for your support and friendship.