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Friday, 19 December 2014

Children make Christmas

Down here in the Southern Hemisphere, Christmas takes place in summer and the weather is usually hot. Often a backyard game of cricket with friends and family or a beach walk can follow the excesses of a hot Xmas dinner.  The first photo here is of my mother and her siblings Pat, Ken and Derek playing cricket at home in Aylmer St, Christchurch NZ on Christmas Day 1932. Young Derek the batsman was born in 1929.  I imagine the bowler must have been either the children's father Jack or their mother Mona, and that one of them took the photo.

The next photo shows my mother Jean helping Santa hand out gifts at a Christmas party for Cholmondeley, a children's home in the Christchurch area. It was Christmas 1944, when Jean would have been aged 18, and she and her friend Betty (standing behind Santa) must have been doing volunteer work at the home. Cholmondeley provides short term emergency care for vulnerable children from families in crisis, and these may have been the only presents these children received that Christmas. Jean and Betty met in their early teens and became lifelong friends. I discovered that the Cholmondeley home was badly damaged in the earthquakes of 2010/2011 and had to be demolished as a result, but that a new building is expected to be completed by mid 2015. I've since made a small donation towards the rebuilding fund and have also sent a copy of this photo to the home for their records, as any they might have had could well have been lost in the quake.

In 1953 I enjoyed a cold Christmas in Cambridge, England in the back garden with my parents, and went for a walk in the afternoon, so the weather can't have been too wintery. I think the first snow fell a couple of weeks later, as documented here in an earlier blog.

This next group of three photos shows our elder daughter Claire enjoying the fun of her first Christmas in 1980, with grandmother Mary for Christmas lunch and then back at her other grandparents' home for Christmas tea, where she wore her party hat and pulled a Christmas cracker with me.

Eight Christmases and three children later, here's a collage showing them opening a rather excessive number of presents from both sets of grandparents. Our younger daughter Laura looks quite overwhelmed in some of these shots, but there are also moments of joy.  The grandparents lived in neighbouring suburbs of Canberra, so it was not too difficult to stay at one home, open presents there after breakfast, then go to the other for Christmas lunch and more present opening, and then return to the first for Christmas tea.

All ready for a lovely roast lunch and plum pudding with the children's paternal grandparents Bob and Mary and their Aunty Ann ...

...and later a beautiful Christmas tea with Jean and Ian, which would have routinely included a glazed ham, salads of various kinds, meringues sandwiched together with cream, and fruit punch to wash it all down. We always pulled Xmas crackers at tea time, read out the silly jokes they contained and wore the party hats.

The other side of the table shows my mother's sister Pat, the former wicket keeper from the first photo above. She must have been visiting Jean and Ian, either on a trip from NZ or on her way home from one of her overseas assignments. I've written previously about Pat and her life's work here. Jean is on Pat's left. Our younger daughter Laura looks rather solemn in her Christmas dress and matching bib that I had made specially that year. She would have been around 21 months at the time, and it had been a big day!  Click photo to enlarge and pick out the bib.


I don't have that little Xmas dress any more, but both the bib and a matching Xmas stocking will get another airing this Christmas, when our little English granddaughter Isabelle is here with us. It's been a while since we've had a Christmas with children, so this year will be quite special in that respect. We will be sad that Isabelle's great grandmother Jean who passed away in August won't be with us around the family dinner table, and that other great grandmother Mary won't be with us either, but hopefully she will be able to come and meet her first great grandchild in early January. With luck we'll be able to get a four generation photo of baby, mother, grandfather and great grandmother. And a photo of the bib with its latest wearer.

Merry Christmas and all the best for 2015 to you all! For other Sepians' Christmas memories, just click here.
Sepia Saturday #259


  1. It is interesting learning about Christmas customs in the southern hemisphere. It isn't just the weather that is different.

  2. Merry Christmas Jo. Yes - a game of cricket or bocce is almost mandatory isn't it?

  3. Sending a photo to Chomondeley was an excellent idea, I’m sure they will be pleased to have it.
    We were lucky enough to enjoy Christmas in Australia two years ago (our son lives in Adelaide). It felt just the same as at home except it was hot! Santa was pretty warm by the time he finished handing out the presents, I was surprised to see him all dressed up in the same suit he wears in England I was expecting him to arrive in shorts and thongs!
    Have a wonderful Christmas.

  4. I keep forgetting that "crackers" aren't things to eat, as they are in the US...they're party favors, right? And you pull the ends? They bang?

  5. I'm sure the cameras will be out again this Christmas to record Isabelle wearing the lovely bib. You have a fantastic series of photos Jo.

  6. A fabulous collection of Christmas memories.

  7. I always associate Christmas with winter and snow, so it takes some adjustment to imagine Christmas in summer. I am sure you are really looking forward to having Isabelle with you this year. The 4-gen photo is a must!! Merry Christmas, Jo.

  8. Loved the Christmas cracker crowns! I'd never heard of Christmas Crackers until my first Christmas with my new in-laws. A fun custom!

  9. I think I would enjoy the contrast of a Christmas holiday in the southern hemisphere. Santa in shorts and sandals sounds great. I suspect a lot of the music and imagery of our northern snow would get left out of your traditions as just silly.

    1. We still have plenty of mock snow decorations here, and the song 'dreaming of a white Christmas' is regularly heard, even though dreaming of it is all we can really do!

  10. The magic of Christmas is sadly lost for us once we grow up. I think many of us spend the rest of our lives trying to grasp a moment of the magic once more. It really does shine within a child.

    I went from one year on the mainland in snow to the next year in Hawaii with Santa on a surfboard. I get the idea of Christmas in warm weather. It required an adjustment.

    Have a wonderful holiday!

    1. Today (Christmas Eve here) we went down to the bay for a walk and saw a kite surfing Santa, in full outfit including beard and hat. He was pretty good, with great acrobatic moves metres above the water in the gusty winds. Shame I did not have my phone or camera with me to record a few shots.

  11. You’re absolutely right about children making Christmas and we enjoyed watching the grandchildren opening their presents, albeit on Skype. You’ve shared some lovely Christmas moments and we look forward to seeing that bib again.

  12. Cricket on Xmas day?!?
    That is a foreign notion for me.
    The advantage of having Xmas in summertime, I guess...
    I was moved by the Chomondeley story.
    Thanks for sharing all of this.
    Happy new year!!