Can’t you tell that Christmas is upon us. Yesterday I was in the bathroom puttering around to start the day, when in walked the wife. I can always tell when she’s up to something for she gets this mischievous look on her face and a twinkle in her eyes.
“Don’t forget to shave,” she quipped with a smile.
“Why, are we going someplace love?”
“Well no, but you always look better when you have shaved. I want to take some pictures of you wearing this hat.” She flourished a Santa hat from behind her back, then promptly plonked it on my head!
“I’m not wearing that thing!” I retorted while tossing it aside, chuckling as I uttered that futile protest, for I knew she would insist and eventually the pictures would be taken.
It was the magic of Christmas in the air that got me thinking. On this ocassion I was reminded of how differently Christmas is celebrated in various parts of my world.
Here in North America and in Canada in particular, things are very commercialized and on view to the naked eye. Houses are decorated and lit up on the outside, in most cases a thing of beauty, but with the ocassional glaring garish display.
Over in England where I originate from, Christmas is more of an indoor decoration & celebration, unless one tends to go into the town and mix with all the party revelers. Thinking about all this earlier today, brought to mind a memory of when I was a small kid and times were very different in the world. Sitting there daydreaming, I thought of how we used to go out Christmas caroling. This was a popular tradition years ago back home. There would be a knock on the door and when you opened it a group of children would be singing xmas carols. After a couple of songs the people would tip them and off they would go to another house.
It was almost like looking through a window in time as I gazed into my memory. There we were, my brothers and I getting all excited about Christmas and going out carol singing. ~
I thought about the year my two small brothers and I went and rang the bell on the door of a huge hotel on the seafront. I didn’t think too much of it for I delivered newspapers in that area. This man came to the door and as he looked down on us, we started to sing carols. Surprisingly, he was patient enough until we finished. He asked us questions about ourselves and then enquired, did we think our Mother would let us go back to the hotel later that evening? Even though I was only 9 yrs old I knew mom would say it was ok and told the man so. It was arranged then that we go back at 7:30 that evening. Apparently they were putting on a Xmas production for the hotel guests. The man wanted us to go on stage and sing some carols for the audience. We turned up on time and accompanied by a piano, went through our score. We were very warmly received and the crowd were very enthusiastic with their applause.
If you can imagine three scruffy little urchins standing on a stage in ragged short pants singing like angels, we must have looked a right sight. I guess you get the idea, we were almost like a scene from “Oliver Twist” and this was Christmas 1942, ~ there was still a war on.
After we had finished our singing a lady took us along to the hotel kitchen. We sat down to the biggest spread of food that I had ever seen, except maybe in movies.
To start there were Christmas crackers, the kind you pull, they go bang and a trinket usually falls out along with a paper hat. Food was jelly and canned fruit with custard, turkey sandwiches with lots of white turkey and stuffing, English trifle and to finish it all off was a big piece of English Christmas cake with Royal icing, very much like a wedding cake today. We stuffed ourselves as kids will, and to take home they made up a bag of goodies plus a nice box of chocolates for Mom.
In addition to the feast, the hotel people had ‘passed the hat’ around the audience and took up a collection for our performance. We almost fell over when we saw how much money they handed us. It came to about five English pounds, the equivalent of two weeks wages for an adult. We thanked everyone very much for their kindness and the experience, then rushed home to mom with the loot. ~
I stepped back from my ‘window’ only to find tears trickling down my cheeks, as I related my story to Elizabeth. I remembered those times, I remembered my family, all of who are gone now but not forgotten, for I will always have my ‘window’.
The wife brushed away my tears and scolding me gently said,“Just look at you, you didn’t even comb your hair today.” To which I replied, “Oh yes I did, then someone put a silly hat on my head!” We hugged as she laughed at me, tears still fresh on her face.
Eric Valentine Dec 08/07 ©