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Christmas and New Year in the 1920s

The first-foot had to be tall dark and masculine.

I was born in April 1918 in Gateshead, where I lived with my parents and five brothers and sisters.  The people there were poor but of good character.  I remember my childhood very clearly.  Once, a friend and I took one of Mam’s china spaniels for a walk to the park with a piece of string round its neck.  The dog fell over of course, and the head came off!  We hurriedly stuck it on with condensed milk and put the dog back in its place.  I can’t remember now what happened afterwards.


At Christmas we made all our decorations ourselves.  We linked coloured paper together to form chains to hang up and made a mistletoe from barrel hoops and decorated it with tinsel and shiny bright baubles.  Lovely!  The New Year had to be welcomed in with a clean house and a shiny hearth.  The dead embers were carried out, the hearth whitewashed, and the fender and tidy polished with Mepo and emery paper.  Paper was then placed over the whole area to keep it spotless until 12 o’clock Midnight.  Coal and salt were placed outside ready for the first-foot to bring in, to ensure prosperity for the New Year.  The first-foot had to be tall, dark and masculine.  He usually got a whisky for the job.

I am 86 now and have lots of good friends but it is nice to look back over your life.  We all have a tale to tell.

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