Help & advice

Christmas Past

Do your children and grandchildren have a clue what Christmas was like when you were a child? One of the things you might consider including in your autodotbiography is how Christams was celebrated when you were a child and what was Christmas like for your parents and grandparents? Some of the most fascinating stories written in autodotbiographies are about Christmas past. 

Where did tinsel come from?

When I was a child I don’t remember any tinsel – to garland the room we made paper chains – we licked and stuck, licked and stuck, the glue tasted revolting but licking the ends and creating the paper chain was part of our family ritual.  They were strung from the corners into the middle and attached to the central light and if we had made more, then they were looped around the walls of the room from the picture rail.  We only decorated the sitting room.

The tree had glass baubles but not fairy lights – or candles – and no tinsel.

I wondered when tinsel was invented and was astonished to learn that it was ‘invented’ in Nuremberg in around 1610! Apparently it was originally made of strands of silver but because silver tarnishes rather quickly it was replaced by other shiny metals.  According to Wikipedia before the 16th century tinsel was used for decorating sculptures but was added to Christmas trees to enhance the flickering of the candles on the tree.

It says that during the 1950s that tinsel and tinsel garlands were so popular that they were frequently used more than lights but I think it must have depended on your income because I certainly don’t remember any in our house until the 60s. 

Of course before tinsel it was, ‘deck the halls with boughs of holly’ and ‘the holly and the ivy…’ Now, in the 21st century, holly and ivy are making a comeback, even if it is made out of plastic and tinsel is falling out of favour.

How the Christmas joint was cooked

autodotbiographers who lived in rural areas write of how they would troop to the local baker, after he had made bread for the day and put their joints – mostly beef – into his oven to cook, because their own ovens weren’t big enough for their family get-together.

In those days, 60 and 70 years ago, Christmas was just Christmas Day and Boxing Day and then back to work. Of course, for farmers and bakers and the like, there wasn’t a day off but then that is still true for farmers today.

When I was a child, families made their own suet Christmas pudding and children helped stir in the fruit and the brandy and a silver ‘thrup’penny’ piece, to be kept by the lucky person who found it in their piece of pudding. Apparently such a coin can now be worth £70 – I must check to see if there are any tucked away. Nowadays, for most families, it is easier to buy a pudding from a supermarket and there won’t be any coins in them just in case we crack a tooth and want to sue them!

Christmas Day then and now

The other thing I vividly remember was having to go to celebrate with my grandparents and how I hated being away from home. It was, and still is, a time for families to get together and celebrate, and eat (and drink) too much. Then we played charades and board games, now we watch Downton Abbey, EastEnders and Coronation Street. But one constant in my life has been the Queen’s message. I cannot say I think it is riveting television but to me it is an important part of the day and I wouldn’t miss it for the world. This year I will be watching King Charles III give his first Chrisstmas message.

Please share your Christmas memories with your children and grandchildren

And finally, an appeal from me. I think, like every other part of our lives, it is important to record our Christmas experiences for future generations of our families, or how else will they know about how meagre things were after the war? How we were not overloaded with gifts – or debts – but how we still managed to have a wonderful time.

If you want to give your family the most precious gift ever, then write your life story. If you don't think you can do it on your own, then have a free trial of autodotbiography. It is guaranteed to create a beautifully written and lavishly illustrated book of your life story for your family.



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