Thursday, 22 December 2016

Week 51: Christmas of Days Gone By

Every family has their own unique way of spending Christmas and have their own traditions, but chances are some of the traditions could have been handed down from generations gone by.  Do we know how our ancestors would celebrate Christmas and is there a way we can find out?

I thought it would be a far fetched idea but I would check the newspapers and see if I could find anything there.  Sure enough, I found a couple of articles. 

This was seen in the Chester Chronicle December 25, 1852.

Preparations for Christmas in Cheshire

For many, many years, a feeling has generally prevailed that steps must be taken to provide for the coming of Christmas.  Within the home of every Englishman, preparations for family gatherings and the exercise of unbounded hospitality are at this time made – for the season is designed to remind us of Him, whose birth in to the word was the earnest of so many blessings.  Reminiscences, connected with Christmas pleasures in bye-gone days, are now talked over by the senior members of the family as they gathered round the cheerful fire, while the younger ones sit still and hear with wonder and amazement the stories which are held of adventures in frosty snowy weather in the days of “auld land syne’.  The juveniles begin to peer into the future and surmise what the winter of their old age will be.  The season now is so utterly unlike the times that were, that should a Chesterian Rip Van Winkle leave his dormitory to visit us, no efforts of ours would suffice to persuade him that this is the Christmas of the year.  To the delights of the season, however, which inevitably come weather accompanied or not by frost and snow, we give a hearty welcome, sincerely wishing that our readers may enjoy them, and spend a merry Christmas and a happy new year.
To enable our citizens to exercise their unbounded hospitality as s their want caterers to the appetite have provided an abundant supply of what are considered the good things of this life.  A beautiful Christmas tree, at Mr. Bolland’s shop, first commends itself to our notice.  It is ornamented with bonbons of every descriptions and lighted up with a multitude of fairy lamps.  There are similar, but smaller ones, at Mr. Blake’s and Mr. Baillie’s shops.  The show of fleshmeat is very large, the most in almost every case being decorated with holly.  Last night the shops of the various butchers were lighted with gas in many devices, principally supplied by Mr. Highfield.
Mr. T. Jones exhibited a fine Hereford bull, fed by Croxon, Esq. of Oswestry, and a Welsh mutton from the stock of Evan William, Esq. of Rhosllannerchrugog.
Mr. J. Crewe’s show consisted of some large and uncommonly fine looking Irish beef and sheep fed by Sir Arthur Aston, Bart.
Mr. Gray showed a very large fat sheep, fed by Mr. Humble of Sealand; his beef was from the Marquis of Westminster’s stock and his porkers weighed 45 to 50 lbs; two heifers head were over his door.  The veal which Mr. Gray exhibited had been fed by Mr. J.R. Dutton of Saughall.
Mr. Henry Maddock had a remarkably fine sheep, which was particularly noticed; his beef and pork were unequalled, and were all fed by himself.
At Mr. Hughes’s, in Northgate Street we saw a pig fed by Mr. Bate of Keisterton, which must have weighed at least 20 stone.
Mr. Crewe’s (Watergate Street) sheep were much admired, they were from Aston Grange and the beef had been fed by P.S. Humberston, Esq. at Mollington.  It had a first rate appearance.
Mr. Taylor’s bullocks were fed in Shropshire; a heifer was from Mr. Palin of Stapleford, sheep from Mr. Arden of Hawarden and porkers from Mr. Salmon of Hatton.
Mr. Lunt’s mutton and beef were from Blacon and had been fed by Wm. Cooper, Esq., as also exhibited by Mr. Davies son.  Mr. Davies, jun, had a good show of Irish beef.
Mr. Dunwoodie, Mr. Jackson and Mr. Williams, jun. had each a large show of fine beasts.
Mr. Healey’s stock consisted of Irish cattle.  Mr. Jones, Watergate Street, had a nice exhibition.  We saw a fine collection of cheese, Cheddar, Stilton, Cheshire, etc., as also a number of Cumberland ham, adorned with holly, in the shop of Mrs. Griffith, Bridge Street.
All the meat was decorated with holly laden berries, and the last evening crowds of persons perambulated the streets, looking at the show, and choosing the materials for their Christmas dinner.
Today we anticipate that the market will be large, the poultry market doubtless will be well supplied.  Game of all kinds has been abundantly displayed at the poulterers’ shops and if the weather is duller that usual at this season, the genial appliances that are available and the bustle that animates the thoroughfare, promise that our discomfort will be no drawback to the enjoyment of the festal table of the hilarity of the circle round the family hearth.  We wish plenty and happiness to every fireside.

There are a couple of things in the above article that jump out at me as major differences as seen today.  There is no way any store would be open on Christmas Day in 2016, other than perhaps a local convenience store and I don’t think my local store knows where the beef or poultry comes from. I love the way the article describes the shops, it’s like out of a Charles Dickens story.  The one thing, the one tradition that has stayed the same is shopping for and wanting the best for our Christmas feast!

I found articles describing the Christmas balls, the Christmas concerts, and of course the Christmas sharing.  The next article was found in Folkestone, Hythe, Sandgate & Cheriton Herald December 16, 1922.

Pride of the Hythe Lodge, R.A.O.B.
Annual Visit to Guardians Institution

On Tuesday evening last members of the Pride of the Hythe Lodge of the Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes paid their annual visit to the old folks at the Guardians Institution at Etchinghill.  Four hampers of gifts were taken.
Mr. J.E. Fagg was in the chair, supported by other members of the Order.  With Miss Whitehorn at the piano, a fine programme was rendered, and the large gathering of old folks present testified it approval by according the artistes well merited applause.  The artistes consisted of Miss K. Whitehorn, Mr Meades, Miss Winsdale, Mr. Walbourne, Miss Smith, Mr. Morris Durban, Miss Paula Hoffman, Mr. Thompson, Miss Baldwin, Mr. Blackwell and Mr. Amy.
Duringt he interval the gifts were to the old folk by members of the committee and friends.  It was a pleasing duty to perform and was carried out successfully, each of the old folk being presented with gifts.
Among those present was Colonel G.W. Palin, the representative of the British Legion, who at the close of the programme gave a short address, referring to the Oder of Buffaloes as a young body of men belonging to the ancient organization which as the British Legion represented the Army and Navy, so this organization represented the civil and social life of their empire.  They both stood for Truth.  They both stood for Justice, and they were there that night to do their little to brighten the lived of those older ones, amongst whom he had no doubt, were a number of soldiers and sailors.  Well, as a soldier he said, “old soldiers never die!” (loud cheers), “they simply fade away!” (laughter).  Then Colonel Palin told the story of Christmas, the spirit of giving to one another, and said that they were present that evening to give a little joy and happiness to all the old folks present.  (Loud cheers from the old folk).
In response to the address the Master of the Institution (Mr. A. Milson) thanked all members present for the kindness shown to the old folk, and on their behalf, expressed his appreciation for what they had done.  The evening closed with three hearty cheers by the old folk with a big tiger, and to strains of God Save the King.

I remember one year going with my daughter’s school choir going into an old folk’s home and putting on a little Christmas concert.  The seniors loved it and so did the kids. I hope this is one tradition that continues through time!

So from my home to yours, I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas!

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