I remember the tingle of excitement in my body as I settled down to sleep on Christmas Eve. At the foot of the bed lay an empty pillow case waiting for Father Christmas to fill in the night. I thought I’d never be able to sleep but somehow I did and in the morning there was the pillow case bulging with presents.
My sister and I knew to be quiet when we opened our gifts. Mum had warned us that Dad didn’t want to be woken at 5 o’clock after a busy few weeks in the shop. It wasn’t until I was older and helping in that shop that I realized how hectic the Christmas season was. Mum used to come into the bedroom to admire our gifts as we unwrapped them.
When we were young gifts were exchanged in the family. Since I had grandparents, one aunt and four uncles we got six presents from them. The most interesting gifts came from Toronto where Mum’s good friend lived. She sent things we had never seen in New Zealand. Of course, the biggest present came from Father Christmas. The most exciting gift I ever got was a blue wardrobe for a doll which was passed on to friends when my sister and I outgrew playing with it.
Early in the morning, the local brass band played carols around town. They sat on the back of a truck and stopped at intersections to play a tune. Dad usually surfaced for breakfast when we gleefully displayed our loot.We usually received at east one book so I knew what I wanted to do for the rest of the day. We went to church and then had a midday dinner if we weren’t t going to the beach. Dinner was chicken with stuffing, bread sauce and gravy, new potatoes and peas as well as other vegetables and a dessert of pavlova with strawberries. Sometimes we ate trifle and ice cream.
If we went to the beach for a couple of days, meals were less formal although chicken or ham was the meat of choice. Friends and neighbors arrived for drinks and Christmas cake and Dad usually managed to catch a fish for breakfast.
On Christmas night at home we often joined an uncle, aunt and our five cousins for the evening meal. We kids were always slightly out of control by then as we giggled and played together while the adults talked. We were in danger of being rebuked by my uncle or father but that only added to the fun. By bed time, we were exhausted from all the excitement.
Next week I will explore Christmas when I was the adult.