As a young boy, during the war years, Christmas celebrations were at least as important as now but they weren’t marked with Xmas shopping that started in November. Money was short, almost everything was rationed and so festivities resolved down to carol-singing at school and adult parties at home or in a pub. Whenever we as kids wanted something Christmassy, my mother would say, “You have to wait for Christmas!” Her words still ring in my ears. We would wait and wait until Christmas Day and Boxing Day, and then it was all over; a two-day Christmas!
In those days, we had paper chains and paper bells as decoration but no Christmas trees in the home that I can recall, so the Christmas cards added some colour and decoration to the mantelpiece above the fireplace. There was mistletoe suspended below the doorway for those who craved a kiss. (I was a late starter and still too young to know much about that!) Decorations were in the living room only, no electric lights (because we didn’t have electricity!), no decorative wreaths outside, no street lights or gas-lighted windows because of the blackout, something that was closely watched for by policemen on their bicycles looking for chinks of light. If they saw one, they came knocking on your door! From a distance, it was “Put that light OUT!”. At your front door, it would be “Excuse me ma’am (or missus), but you’re showing a chink of light!” Both meant the same!
So, yes, the Christmas Card was important! But so much has changed and so much is still changing that today I see two worlds, the new and the old; one inside the phone the computer and the all-powerful retail blitz, and the other a melting-pot of religious, cultural and generational changes in which all the old ideas have crumbled or are crumbling. And the mantelpiece? That’s no longer a necessary central location for THE clock of the house and the real fireplaces below it are also a practically a thing of the past, too. So, yes, maybe we should hang on to the Christmas Card a little longer. Hang on, that’s what old folk try to do!