Christmas was a busy time on the farm. There were lots of calves to feed, lots of cows to milk, and lots of straw and hay to be spread. Unlike Dylan Thomas's memories of Christmas in
There are many traditions associated with Christmas in
These tasks were often done while listening to Christmas tunes on the radio. Feasting didn't start until Christmas Eve, when we would be allowed to eat nuts and sweets as we wrote our letters to Father Christmas, which would then be burned and sent up the chimney. Daddy peeled the chestnuts for the stuffing and prepared the sprouts (not forgetting the little crosses in the bottom so they'd cook properly). Because the running of the farm had to take precedence over Christmas preparations, there were years when we were still trimming the tree and icing the cake on Christmas Eve.
After the Disney movie it was off to bed, hanging our stockings at the foot of our bed - a British tradition. In the morning, we would always find an orange, some nuts, chocolate and a sugar mouse in our stockings, along with little toys and a comic book. These kept us going until we were allowed to get up for breakfast.
Music and food combined at the Carol Service. This was the traditional service of the twelve lessons, interspersed with carols, which usually took place on the Sunday evening nearest Christmas. Norman churches in rural
When they first moved in, my parents were asked if they would be willing to continue this tradition, which they are very happy to do. Other people bring mince pies too, which are enjoyed with sherry, mulled wine or coffee. When I was younger, this was the main Christmas service. Growing up in a small, rural community, there were not enough children to have a Sunday school, so there wasn't a pageant.
When my oldest son was a little boy we attended a vibrant Anglican church in Derbyshire which had a thriving Sunday school so there was a pageant, which was great fun. The other main family service at this church was on Christmas morning. The children were encouraged to bring one of their new (quiet) toys and the exchanging of the Peace was extra, extra long, to give the children time to show everyone their presents and the adults to exchange Christmas hugs and blessings.
As a child, I longed to attend the midnight service on Christmas Eve. I first got to go when I was fourteen. My father didn't attend this service because he always had to be up even earlier than usual at Christmas, so that he and our herdsman could get everything done as early as possible, in order to enjoy as much of Christmas Day in leisure as they could. My younger sister was too tired, so it was just my mother and me. Over the years this has become one of my favourite services. There is something very special about celebrating the birth of Christ and then coming home in the quiet of the "dark, sacred night". And I think to myself; what a wonderful world.