Memories of Christmas in the 1940s

If you are very, very naughty, all you will get for Christmas is a bag of cinders.

In the 1940s the build-up to Christmas really began for us kids when we started to collect newspapers.  When we thought we had enough we started cutting them into strips of about 2 inches wide and 6 inches long, then painting them all different colours.  Then we pasted them and linked them together to make paper chains.  We could hardly wait for the time when one of the parents, usually it was the mother, would hang them up, crisscrossing across the ceiling and around the walls.  After the festive occasion was over the mother would take the decorations down (making sure it was the twelfth day after Christmas because it was deemed very unlucky to leave them up after that).  Then the streamers were used to help light the coal fires.

Then there was the holly which one did not have to buy in the shops if one knew where to look.  You could get plenty, and quick thinking kids used to collect it and sell it to the old people, that is the ones who could afford the coppers.  More often they paid in biscuits or a cake.  Then Christmas morning arrived and at the bottom of your bed was the wonderful pillowcase holding the Christmas presents.  Some kids got them wrapped in used brown paper (not many).  Instead of taking the presents out one at a time you would just look to see if you had got the one important present you had asked for.  If you had not got it you would go back under your cover till you got over your disappointment and your curiosity got the better of you, especially when your brothers and sisters are exclaiming their joy in what they have received.  You were also relieved because leading up to Christmas you were told as many times (and started to believe it) that if you were very, very naughty all you would get for Christmas was a bag of cinders.

We were not allowed downstairs until the fire had been lit.  If there were no sticks to light the fire the next best thing were paper balls which children loved to make.  (To make one you get one open sheet of paper and starting from one corner start rolling it tightly.  When rolled, attach another open sheet and roll that to the end then start wrapping the roll round the palm of the hand till you come near to the end upon which it was tucked in and out of the now ball to keep it all together).  Two of these balls were placed in the grate with some small pieces of coal then lit.  Up went the blazer, which covered the whole fire, and as soon as the fire had a hold, down came the blazer and on went more coal, and then the stampede down the stairs to get your stocking and hope it had lots of goodies in.

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