Naturally, Christmas preparation turns the mind to the past but I struggle to remember a lot of details about Christmas as a child in the 1950’s. They were certainly much quieter and much less was made of the celebration. Another pointer to how less important they were, is that I don’t have a single Christmas photo from our childhood. Whereas, I’m sure there are photos of every Christmas since my own family came along. Christmas always meant an extra Mass for the week but it was a great celebration with lots of carols. After breakfast and looking at our presents, we would walk to our local church often wearing a new dress our nana had made.
We did always have a live Christmas tree, something we’ve done in our family till a few years ago; I do miss the marvellous pine smell. I can’t remember much about what we ate apart from a roast chicken and a home made Christmas pudding. Chickens were a luxury food and we only had one at Christmas time. Other luxury food we only had at Christmas and birthdays was lemonade and ice cream. Keep in mind that fridges were relatively new (we had an ice chest when I was younger) and small so the ice cream compartment was a narrow 2 shelves about 15 cms wide and similar in height. The ice cream came in a rectangular shape that fitted into that shape and was enclosed in a waxed cardboard box. This was before the use of plastics in packaging. The only things you put in the freezer was ice cream and iceblocks – our fridge only had 2 shelves not three like this picture.
Photo courtesy https://australiarememberwhen.net.au/
We were always tremendously excited to put our pillow cases on the ends of our beds before we went to sleep. I still recall the huge excitement of waking in the morning to explore what was in it. While I can’t remember any specific presents, I do recall we always got a bag of popcorn (another rare treat) and chocolate coins in silver paper which we loved. We were the original nuclear family as we didn’t have any family in our state having only a grandmother interstate. Christmas for most of my childhood was just with my immediate family but we still loved it.
I do remember that when we moved interstate, we did attend a few wonderful large, noisy gatherings at someone’s home. It’s taken years to work out how my parents knew these welcoming people and as far as I can ascertain, they were relatives of the husband of one of my mother’s aunts – how convoluted! From memory, it was the gathering of 4 siblings, their families and their parents – I’m ever so grateful for their generosity in inviting complete strangers to their family gathering. Those years stick in my mind as they were great fun for us. There were big long trestles in the lounge and dining area with lots of children and adults.
One odd memory of those Christmas dinners was Dad in his work van driving us home in the dark with us children in the back. As the eldest, I had to hold onto the door to stop it opening thus preventing us falling out. We were on the floor as there were only 2 seats in the front for mum and dad. No seatbelts for anyone; how times have changed.