- “Christmas is coming and the geese are getting fat
Please put a penny in the old man’s hat
If you haven’t got a penny, a ha’penny will do
If you haven’t got a ha’penny, then God bless you!”
- I have talked/written before about growing up in London during and after the Second World War.
- During those years, Christmas was a very special occasion. Not for us the mad consumerism that is rampant now – there was very little to buy. But what happy memories I have of those days.
- In memory, it always seemed to snow on Christmas Day. We would rise early to see what had been left in the stockings and pillowcases at the foot of our beds. Our stockings always held an orange. A rare treat in those days when one couldn’t buy fruit from around the world or fruit out of season. I don’t know where these came from. In the stocking would also be several small things. Maybe a bar of chocolate or a packet of sweets, remembering that sweets were rationed during and after the war.
Rationing was introduced in June 1940 and ended in July 1954 as was phased out gradually over five years beginning in 1948. Sweet and sugar rationing continued until 1953. For more on rationing click here
Our pillowcases were the next to be explored. There would be a book, puzzle or game that we had commented on during the preceding weeks. Perhaps a gift from a particular aunt or uncle would also be included but no bright wrapping paper. Just the presents in the pillowcase.
Then when we would all have breakfast together. I don’t think this was any special breakfast the way we have now. Just the normal fare with perhaps eggs or bacon if the ration stretched that far.
The three of us girls would then go to church for the Christmas service. I know that Mother didn’t come having been raised in the Jewish faith, but I don’t remember Father being there either. However, once church was over Father would take us on the bus to visit his Father and family. This was always a good time – but no presents were exchanged – just the fun of having so many cousins all together.
Back then to our house for Christmas dinner. This was always goose, never turkey. I don’t know how they managed this with rationing, and perhaps my memory is playing tricks. Perhaps it was only in later years that we had goose. But I have never eaten goose anywhere but in my parents’ house and if I think hard, I can conjure up the smell of it cooking. In fact, I can smell it now!
The afternoon was spent as a family, playing the games we had received as presents, or everybody reading their new book. There would be imported dates and is this is the only time I can remember having dates as a child, dates always remind me of Christmas.
How simple and innocent were those Christmases so many years ago. No mad rushing around the shops for all the presents; Father and Mother bought a gift for each of us only. I don’t recall their ever having bought a gift for each other. Perhaps their gift was seeing the happiness of their three small daughters.
We certainly wouldn’t want to return to those days of austerity, but often, in the midst of the hurry and scurry for Christmas, I think back to those more simple days and am glad that I experienced them.
“I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round, as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.”