Grandchildren ask 3 heart warming questions about Christmas past

"What was Christmas really like in your day?” Three children quiz their grandparents on Christmas.

Peggy Alderson-Popovic, 10, speaks to Peggy Alderson, 90, from Hastings, East Sussex.

grandchildren ask about christmas

Lil' Peggy: I love getting all festive for Christmas—the songs, the snow, the shopping and cooking. Was it like that when you were a child?

Big Peggy: Not so much as it is now. Many of my early Christmases were spent in Leuchars, a small village in Fife, and the real celebrations were kept for New Year’s Eve. On Christmas morning, though, we’d go out to friends and relatives and have a mince pie at each house. For dinner, we might have a bowl of kale soup—that was delicious, made with cabbage and lamb and pearl barley.

But the thing you really looked forward to was the clootie dumpling. It was a bit like Christmas pudding—you tied it up in a great big piece of wet cloth and it boiled away for hours. There were charms hidden inside it. If you got the slice with the ring, it meant a wedding. If you got the thimble, you were going to remain a spinster.

Lil' Peggy: My favourite thing at Christmas is when the whole family gets together and I see all my cousins. What are your very best memories?

Big Peggy: I remember the excitement of shop windows coming up to Christmas. We didn’t have the non-stop advertising you have today—it seems to me now that Christmas starts in September and everyone’s fed up with it by the time it arrives. But all the shops really made an effort.

We’d spend hours looking at toys in windows and choosing our favourites. And there were things such as dates and crystallised ginger that only came into the shops at Christmas. Not like nowadays, when you can have anything you want all of the time!

There were only three shops in our village, so the great thing was going to do Christmas shopping in Dundee. You had to get a bus, and then a boat across the Tay. Sometimes the weather was too bad and you’d have to wait for the waves to calm down. I remember one year a ship sank near Leuchars. It was full of oranges and nuts, and they all bobbed onto the shore! I think every child’s stocking must have had a tangerine in the toe that year—a great treat, because there were a lot of poor people in the 1930s.

My father was wrecked by shell shock in the First World War. He never really talked about it, except at Christmas when he’d tell us how the British soldiers and German soldiers left their trenches on Christmas Day, and sang carols together in no man’s land. I loved to hear that story.

Lil' Peggy: Were there lots of parties?

Big Peggy: Not so much for adults. But the Sunday school would have a children’s party, and sometimes there were skating parties when this big lake froze. I didn’t have any skates and insisted on borrowing some that were far too big for me from an old man. It was a long walk to the lake, and, of course, it was dark about three o’clock. But there were lanterns all around the lake edge, and there was always a woman selling hot potatoes.

Lil' Peggy: That sounds really magical!

Big Peggy: It was rather. Thank you, Peggy. Telling you about it has brought back so many happy memories!

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