Christmas is different from what it was more than 100 years ago… yet it is much the same. At length, Christmas celebrations have become more and more elaborate – hiked up by the gravitational pull of commercialisation that might even lead us to believe that Walt Disney invented Santa Claus.
But the traditional oldies are there to fall back on: the Christmas Eve, the traditional Holy Mass, shining stars, cribs in Nativity scene, Christmas trees, angels, decorations, greenery, fairy lights winking and blinking, carols, songs, dances, gifts, wining and dining, stuffed poultry and plum pudding, white-iced cakes, Christmas & New Year greeting cards…..and then there are the candles calling attention to the legend of medieval times when lighted candles were placed in windows as a welcome to the Christ child, to show that there was a place in the home for Him.
As I wrote in my previous posts, I have had many Christmas memories from my childhood and one of my few flights of fancy is to allow them to flood me every now and then – especially during Christmas time. They are like Christmas decorations saved from Christmas to Christmas, and more added each year.
The joy of those carefree Christmases! Still and all, Christmas was something inside me – a singing in my heart. As if Mr. Charles Dickens might call at any time, our ritual of Christmas does not change. Each year there is much the same routine. The excitement spread over weeks as the star is hung, the crib is made, the Christmas tree erected hung with baubles and other decorations, and friends and relatives came in to visit.
The clever old Santa, with rhythmic, booming sounds and a certain sense of dignity will show up in the evenings without his sleigh, his eyes, exuding geniality and delight, peeping through the eye holes on his mask. He was accompanied by dancers and singers few of whom can’t carry a tune in a steam shovel. It’s all very Christmassy.
One of the neighbours of our traditional house was a family with three men good with their hands and easy-to-make notions. They are linked in my mind with stars and cribs. Two-to-three weeks leading to Christmas Day, these men and some of their friends, real no-nonsense workers, devoted their afternoons to create very low-cost and small-scaled Christmas trimmings for selling locally.
As it drew near to Christmas and there was no school to worry about, I sometimes went over to watch them create stars and cribs using bamboo. Their vibes was so grand that they could all laugh at the same things. Once the bamboo was cut vertically into sticks of required lengths, both surfaces are buffed finely to obtain smooth texture before they are tied into shapes of stars and cribs. The roof of cribs was thatched with hay.
Most of their exquisite works, some even varnished for glossy look, are sold at Michael’s shop at the junction by our street and in the evenings people oh’d and ah’d looking up at the cribs and lighted stars on display for sale.
One of the most amusing was a wonderful Christmas in the 70s when our family made a beautiful Christmas tree. It stands out most vividly in my mind. Approximately 6ft. tall, it was bedecked with all the delicate sparkle associated with Christmas decorations. Given that the pine and fir (species grown as fresh Christmas trees in Europe and elsewhere) were not readily available potted at that time, a similar species (possibly, Araucaria Heterophylla) was acquired.
Set upright in base made of wooden pieces, the plant was decorated with gold and copper paper, gold and red ribbons, sequins, bugle beads, gold streamers, crepe paper strings, cardboard cylinders, fairy lights, etc., to create that jingle-bells effect. Copper and gold was kept as colour scheme to indicate the sparkle of the festive occasion. Few years saw us using a tree with branches cleared off its leaves as a substitute when the right plant was unavailable. Always the charming note is that the decorated Christmas tree, ablaze with tiny lights, represents the spirituality of Christmas.
The matter of substitute mentioned above brings to my mind the letter of a woman published in an old magazine about her great-grandmother who was a colonist passenger in a ship from Europe bound for Australia more than 160 years ago. As the narration goes, everyone was looking forward to spend Christmas in the new land and ladle great helpings of Aussie hospitality.
But, sweet suffering grief, on the Christmas Eve all were disheartened to learn that the ship was still hundreds of miles away which meant – no Christmas tree. Then again, did anyone there hear the angels in Heaven sing? When the children gathered in the saloon for their gifts, they were surprised to find a little tree with real leaves.
Assuming that the ship will be delayed and Christmas would be spent at sea, the ship’s carpenter had made the tree. Upon sailing from Cape Town, he had sowed parsley seeds in a box filled with sand (from ship’s ballast) and sawdust. Having kept out of reach of salt spray, the crew took turns to water it using their daily allowance of drinking water. As Christmas neared, the parsley had grown luxuriantly. From the firewood the carpenter carved out the stem and the branches on which the parsley leaves were tied. The tree was adorned with tiny candles, tinsel ornaments and white sugar for ‘snow’. A Christmas tree was born!
True to the Christmas ideal, how wonderful the ship’s carpenter had made his finest effort and shared his decorated Christmas tree to swell the hearts of strangers and friends. Indeed, Christmas, just as it always does, triumph after all. Merry Christmas, Jo
(©Joseph Sébastine/Manningtree Archive)
What a wonderful story! Merry Christmas to you and your family Joe! And a very Happy New Year!
Sent from my iPhone
Thank you, Jeff. We too wish you and your lovely family Merry Christmas and Happy 2019.
Lovely memories and stories, Jo. Thanks for sharing them. ❤️🎄⭐ May your Christmas be merry and full of twinkles. 😁
Thank you, Sarah. I wish you and family a very joyful Christmas. 🙂
This has been a nice surprise Jo. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a blog post from you. Wishing you and your family a Merry Christmas and a happy, healthy, peaceful 2019. All the best!
Thank you, Fransi. How lovely to see you here again. I wish you and yours all Good Wishes for Christmas and the New Year.
Thank you; and the same to you.
Perfect post for Christmas. Wishing you very happy holidays and a prosperous new year.
Peggy, I am glad you enjoyed this post. I wish peace, good will and happiness for you and John at Christmas and always.
A wonderful post for Christmas. Thank you, Jo for reminding us that, while there have been many changes over 100 years, Christmas remains a precious time to reflect upon the many kindnesses that we have experienced, the friends and family that surround us and the sacredness in our lives. Merry Christmas. All the very best of this festive season to you and yours!
Many thanks, Rebecca. Carina and I often think of you. And now when it is a fine season of joy to think of those we love. We wish you and your dear ones a wonderful Christmas filled with memories you’ll always treasure.
Thank you so much for your friendship over the years. You and Carina are very special to me. I am delighted that you are writing again. Looking forward to the many adventures waiting for us in 2019.
Rebecca, Saying thank you is not enough to show how much you have made our day brighter just being you. Thanks for being an awesome friend.
So lovely to read your Christmas memories, Jo; a delight to the heart and the mind.
We, Keith and I, wish for you a joy filled and peaceful Christmas season.
Carolyn, how wonderful to read your comments here. Since you are hours ahead of our time, you and Keith would be by now well into Christmas Day celebrations there. May the spirit of Christmas fill your home with peace, joy, love all through the year 2019. xoxox
Happy New Year, Jo. May 2019 bring Love & Peace to you & your loved ones.
I am so pleased to have met you here on WordPress. Sending greetings for a happy & prosperous year ahead.
Hello Carolyn, thank you. I hope you have had a great start into a new year full of good times, good health and success in all of your endeavours. Jo
Thanks for sharing your Christmas stories and memories with us! Christmas is in the heart!
Thank you. Jo Nell, May the light of Christmas give you peace, happiness. Jo
Thanks for sharing !
On this holy season, may you have a wonderful time with all your dear and near.
Wish you a peaceful Christmas .☺
Thank you. Glad to read your lovely wishes, Lucia. Wishing you a joyous Christmas, and a happy, prosperous New Year 2019. Jo
Thank you Jo, for sharing your sweet Christmas memories with us. I especially like the last one, where people made the Christmas tree for the children, even at the expense of their drinking water. Christmas obviously still lives in many hearts! Merry Christmas!!!
Truly, it is Christmas in the heart that puts Christmas in the air. Ann, may you enjoy all love and joy throughout this Christmas time and all new year round. Jo
A beautiful Christmas story…
Thanks. Cheers for 2019. Jo
What a beautiful story, Jo. The best and most memorable Christmas’s are the ones from the heart. Have a wonderful new year. 😀
Thank you, Diana. Yes, indeed they are. Wish you wonderful years ahead. Jo 🙂
Thanks for the charming story — wishing you a wonderful 2019 🙂
Thanks for the wishes which I reciprocate. Wonderful that your wishes arrived on my birthday. 🙂
How wonderful! All the more reason to send you my best for a great year ahead 🙂
“He was accompanied by dancers and singers few of whom can’t carry a tune in a steam shovel. It’s all very Christmassy.” — I’m still laughing
What magnificent Christmas memories you have, Jo. Reading your story brought back some memories of my own, a nice kind of nostalgia.
Thank you, Izzy. Many blessings to you in 2019. Jo 😊
Thank you for the blessings, Jo. Blessings of peace to you and your lovely wife.
Is it time for another post?
Hahah… I am looking forward to another. Are you working on one at the moment? Or, are you having a little break?
Thank you for writing. True kindness, this, Carolyn. As for the delay in my posts, hopefully soon. By the way, it’s been a good time here for family occasions. TC, Jo
“it’s been a good time here for family occasions”
Wonderful to read, Jo. Our loved ones certainly enrich our lives…
Thanks so much for always showing me your support. Sending sweet blessings!
Thank you, Lorrie 😊