Showing posts with label Christmas. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Christmas. Show all posts

Friday, December 3, 2010

Advent Calendar 2010: December 3 - Christmas Tree Ornaments

I remember very little about our Christmas tree ornaments. I know we had them and I know they were glass, but I don't think I could describe a single one. I did buy some a couple of years ago that reminded me of some tiny baubles from my childhood and Karl said his family had the same type too, but even they are rather generic.

I do remember one year Mum decided to spray paint some pomegranate shells and we had to remove the seeds very carefully with a pin and leave all the inner membranes intact. The shells were then dried and spray painted gold. I don't remember being very impressed with them, sorry Mum!

Another decoration I vaguely remember was a paper bell. It was made of tissue with a cardboard cover that closed like a book. When you opened the cover all the way until it was inside out, a beautiful honeycomb of tissue created a fully 3-dimensional bell. This was big - maybe 8 inches tall - and was hung from the ceiling where the swags of paper chains met. There were more than one of these - I remember yellow and red - but cannot recall if both were bells.

We didn't have candy canes on the tree but we did have little foil wrapped chocolates that hung from the branches - what a treat it was to be allowed to eat one of those!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Advent Calendar 2010: December 2 - Holiday Foods

It is not possible to talk about Christmas food in my family without mentioning the infamous "Day Dad cooked Christmas Dinner." I was about 5 or 6 so my memories of this only come from the repeated telling of the story and some parts of it I don't actually know - did we eat it?!

Mum had come down with the Hong Kong flu on Christmas Eve or perhaps on Christmas morning itself, but whenever it started she was bedridden on Christmas Day and feeling awful. My dad can cook so the obvious answer was for Dad  to cook the Christmas dinner. I do not know if it was a goose or a turkey or how the rest of the dinner came out. What I do know is that at some point someone became aware that the giblets had not been removed from the bird - perhaps the smell of the plastic bag melting was the clue? For me the story is incomplete, but I tell it to my children every year anyway.

The other story I always tell as we sit around the table, is of Christmas dinner at my grandmother's house. My grannie died before our youngest sons were born and our eldest was only a baby, but she was a wonderful lady and I hope they feel a connection to her through my memories.

Dinner was always roast turkey (maybe goose when I was very young), roast potatoes, Yorkshire puddings, brussels sprouts, white sauce, cranberry sauce, stuffing, gravy and bacon wrapped chipollatas. This was always followed by Christmas pudding and custard or cream and trifle or individual jellies for those who did not like the pud. My own Christmas dinners are the same except for the chipollatas (can't get those here) and the vegetables vary by what we have growing at the time. The story of my grannie is less about what she cooked, but more about how she served it. She would offer a second helping of turkey and when the unwitting diner assented she would pressure them to have seconds of everything until their plate was piled almost as high as the first time! "More turkey, John" "More for you Derek" she would say, and dad and Uncle Derek would be suckered in. Once the plates were passed there was always an excuse for each added morsel - "can't have turkey without stuffing," "there are only a couple of sprouts left," "don't want to waste the white sauce," and so on. Everyone would laugh, but no one was safe! The same ritual was repeated with desert and no matter how full we were, no one could resist a tiny portion of pudding and a splash of custard - which together always managed to fill a bowl.

A few hours later the table would be re-set for tea. A Suffolk ham, rusks, celery sticks, pickled onions, green tomato chutney, sausage rolls, mince pies...

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Advent Calendar 2010: December 1 – The Christmas Tree

We always had a real tree until I was about 8 or 9. That year we were living in a small flat in Berlin and my parents came home with an artificial tree. I think the tree came from a large cash and carry in the French sector. My sister and I were never allowed in, we had to sit in the car outside while my parents shopped (not a very unusual thing back then, though it seems shocking now). The tree looked quite real - the branches had to be assembled and were adjustable. It looked like a blue spruce which is still my favorite Christmas tree. I last saw that tree in 1993 - I haven't been home since then. I really miss that tree and all the lovely Christmases we had around it.

My own children have grown up with real trees cut from our own land. They are Charlie Brown trees, but we love them anyway. Karl and the boys usually pick out a tree, cut it down and carry it home before realising that although the tree looked tiny out in the woods, it is far too big to fit in the house. Limbs are removed, sections of truck cut away, usually the tip goes too (thank goodness we have a large star to cover up the wounds) and by the time it is set up everyone is rather tired of the tree and thinking the "other" one would have been a better choice. Once the decorations are in place, though, everyone agrees that this really is the best tree ever!

Christmas 2003