Celebrating Christmas in the early 20th century
By the webmaster's mother (1906-2002) from firsthand observations and recollections
Children's Christmas stockings - filled
When we woke up on Christmas Day it was traditional for us children to find an orange, an apple and nuts in our stockings - the stocking being one of father's socks. Sometimes we also found toys in a pillowcase, but that depended on what our parents had been able to afford or acquire second or third hand from some source or other.
Church on Christmas Day
I am surprised that my mother's recollections mention nothing about going to church on Christmas Day. I don't know whether the family did not go or whether it was so normal to go as not to be worth mentioning, although her recollections go into some detail about Harvest festivals and Sunday School.
For Christmas dinner - in today's terms lunch - our family was unusual in that we had a leg of pork rather poultry. That was probably because butchers normally sold their birds with their feathers and heads on and their innards inside, and it was a thoroughly unpleasant job to prepare them for cooking. This job was invariably done in the garden so as to keep the house clean and fresh-smelling; the tiny feathers got up noses; and the garden was really cold at that time of year. The job normally fell to the man of the house, and my father probably objected.
However, our leg of pork with apple sauce was a real treat as the only meat we usually had was beef, and the crackling on the pork was superb.
After the main course, the Christmas pudding was set alight with brandy.
Christmas supper was always the cold salt beef and brawn that my mother had made in advance, served with her pickles, also made in advance. Also during the evening there would be coconut Turkish delight made by my father and muscatels (a type of dried grape) which always seemed to be paired with almonds.
Drinks were port wine for adults and Stones ginger wine for children.