I’ve been thinking Christmas (no surprise there) and putting up decorations and what not. It made me think about my past festive seasons and the old Christmas decorations that we used to have when I was young, back in the dark ages of course.
A lot of people seem to put their ‘trimmings’ up, as we call them in Yorkshire, on the 1st of December. Not so me, or I would be sick of the sights of them by January! And they get covered in dust. No I’m not a scrooge but having no young children about, which after all (for me anyway) is the pure magic of Christmas, I don’t have the same inclination to have ‘stuff’ all over the place as I did when Jane was young.
Old Christmas Decorations made of Crepe Paper
When I was young we did what most people did, and had festoons of long, crepe paper trimmings hung all over the place. The light was in the centre of the ceiling and I would watch, amazed, as my dad stuck a length of the crepe paper, in all sorts of colours with a drawing pin into each corner of the room. They were sort of stitched down the middle, which created a twisting effect.
How aggravated he used to get, trying to get all of them from each corner of the room to the central light where they met up, leaving them hanging in graceful curves from the light.
That old artificial Christmas tree
My mum had a Christmas tree that they’d bought for their first Christmas. It was a central stem with branches sticking out with very sparse green pine needles on them. That would have been bought around 1939 so it was pretty old even then.
We would put layers of cotton wool on each of the branches to look like snow and then came the wonderment of hanging the baubles on the tree. I had to be very careful as a child, as they were made of glass and very fragile. A quick press on them and they would shatter like egg shells. When I occasionally did break one, it left me very unpopular I might tell you.
My mum would buy chocolate Christmas trees and cigars with delightful white fondant in them. You could tell they were cigars by the glittery paper they were wrapped in, although I’ve never been able to understand why people have cigars at Christmas. We had to strictly behave and only take one off when my mum said so, although my brother was caught pinching them one day.
Then came the tinsel and anything else we had to drape on the tree to make it look pretty. The fairy lights came many years later, but that tree came out every year. It looked like a well used teddy, showing its age, before being transformed into a beautiful tree, worthy of anything you can buy. This tree was used every year until my mum died at 92, and I’m sure we brought it with us when we moved here, as I couldn’t just throw it away.
One year my dad showed me how to make paper flowers, which was like a red letter day for me, as my dad never ever played with me or talked to me or anything. He worked seven days a week to put food on the table and was always tired, so my mum sort of brought us up. Much like a one parent family I suppose, I wouldn’t recommend it!
Anyway, my mum used to buy tissue paper in all these wonderful colours – red, yellow, pink, blue, green – you name it, the colour was there and how I loved playing with it. This special year, we sat at the table with everything spread in front of us to make these lovely roses. First, thin wire for the stems, all carefully bound in green tissue. Then the layers of tissue paper in different shades that I cut out under his instructions, and twisted layer upon layer, to make the petals of the roses. My, was I proud of my bunch of flowers, but the thing that stuck with me was my dad actually doing something with me. To this day I can see us sat at the table, making those flowers.
Old Christmas Decorations made out of paper
Then we had the folding, concertina pleated things that folded up flat. When they were opened out they became bells, flowers and all sorts of shapes in lovely rich colours that were pinned to the walls. Do you remember them?
By the time we had finished the house was trimmed up to the nines, which today would mean cluttered to death, but I loved it. It meant that Father Christmas wouldn’t be long coming and he certainly wouldn’t miss our house with all the trimmings everywhere.
Today I would be screaming if I had things hung from the ceiling. When you took them down they all had to be rolled up and stored for the next year and the next and so on. By the time they came down they were mighty dusty, but we didn’t care it was just a lovely time for us, back there in the dark ages.
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