- Contributed by
- CSV Media NI
- People in story:
- June Martin
- Location of story:
- Belfast, Northern Ireland
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 26 April 2005
This story was gathered, written and submitted to the BBC Peoples War project by June Martin
The first Christmas I remember was in 1941 when I was 3 years old. On my breakfast plate I was surprised to find some cards —my Christmas cards from my 2 grannies and my 2 wee friends who lived next door. There was also a rosy red apple — a rare delicacy in those wartime years. It had come all the way from Canada in the Merchant Navy boat my mother’s cousin served in as an engineer.
Christmas dinner was always a treat. We usually had a turkey, but once we had a goose and another time my father killed a white Aylesbury duck that for a few weeks before Christmas had waddled round the garden with the hens. On Christmas Eve night he sometimes had to pluck the bird but always he had to “draw” it i.e. clean it by removing all the guts and offal etc. On Christmas morning my mother made her own stuffing. We always had two stuffings, one based on breadcrumbs, parsley and onion and the other made from mashed potatoes, onion and cooking apples. The heart and liver and kidneys were used for the soup. To finish we had home made plum pudding and trifle, made from jelly, tinned fruit and cream skimmed off from the “top of the bottles” of milk and then whipped.
As soon as my grandmother, aunt and uncle arrived, by bus, from the other side of town, we had our soup. Then I would dress in my “fairy dress”, a white ballet dress all covered in sequins, and holding my fairy wand in one hand, I would distribute the presents from under the Christmas tree. This was always a spruce fir and was decorated with electric “fairy lights” which were carefully stored from Christmas to Christmas. Before erecting the tree my father would spend hours testing the lights, repairing them, as new lights were impossible to get during the war. Most of the ornaments, sometimes btoken, dated back to pre-war days, and were supplemented by my home- made efforts of painted fir cones and tinfoil cut outs. There was always a fairy — or was it an angel? - at the top of the tree.
We were still at the dinner table at 3p.m. when we would listen to the King’s speech on the wireless.. Everybody stood up at the end and toasted the King. As we were a tee- total family the toasts were made either with brown lemonade (a special Christmas treat) or ginger wine. This my mother made every year from ginger wine essence and water.
In the afternoon we would play board games, such as Snakes and Ladders and Monopoly. My mother would indulge in chocolates galore as my father had saved our sweet rations for several weeks to buy her Milk Tray or Dairy Box. I would also play with any special toys that Santa had put into my pillowcase on Christmas Eve night. One year he brought me a sweet shop. My cousin got a nearly identical one and the following year we each received almost identical dolls’ houses. I later learned that my father and uncle had made these since you just couldn’t buy such things. They had saved tiny jars for the dolly mixture sweets and made miniature scales for the shops while with odd pieces of varnished wood they had fashioned wee tables, dining chairs, beds and wireless sets for the houses.
The next day, Boxing Day, my relatives came again when we finished the turkey, plum pudding and trifle. But I always enjoyed the brown stew my mother conjured up from the last remnants of turkey on the third day for after that we were back to basic rations!
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