Monday, 1 December 2014

Looking back at Christmas

December. It's like a whole month of Mondays. To work round the schedules of people at various factories, all sorts of things get rescheduled and I usually have two print deadlines in December. At least this year neither of them clash with the work party. However, one of them is usually pretty short, and that means late nights, which is not what you want when you're trying to organise presents and food and housework too.

Go, go, gadget organisational skills...

I now have a monster to-do list covering everything from individuals to post cards to and items to shop for (Bath Christmas Market is is full swing, which means hordes of tourists, which means I try to get into town early and do my shopping bit-by-bit before starting work at 9:30 to avoid the crush). It's doable. It is doable.

Anyway, because I have lots to do and time is precious, I thought I'd waste some of it taking a look at what some of my older books and magazines suggest, giving, doing and making for Christmas.



There weren't actually many suggestions at all. As a lot of my magazines are craft ones, it's no surprise that most of the gifts mentioned were home-made, though the 1930s advert suggesting that 'When he asks you "What would you like for Christmas"' you should ask for a Triplex Grate made me chuckle. I don't care if it 'does such beautiful cooking' and 'gives hot water galore for baths', if Mr Robot bought me a domestic appliance for Christmas he'd be taking it back to the shop on Boxing Day or else. He can ignore the little cartoon where one chap is saying 'Can't think what to give her this Christmas' and receives the advice, 'Why not a Hoover? She's always wanted one' too. Those are gifts for the house and I am not the house!

I suppose that tells me a lot about how lives have changed, though. Domestic work must've been incredibly arduous a hundred years ago, with coal fires sending out dust that constantly needed cleaning up, and a kettle had to be boiled before you could even wash up. A Triplex Grate or a Hoover probably represented a gift of time - but I'd rather have the scarf and gloves from the knitting magazine, or a glamorous new pullover. How about you?

Then there was the recipe for 'An Empire Christmas Pudding' supplied by the King's chef. The first ingredient was 5lbs of currants. And 5lbs of raisins. Well, that's my mixing bowl full - I'll just have to leave everything else on the shelf, though the gill of brandy and two quarts of beer further down the ingredients list could be, ahem, put to alternate use. Good Housekeeping sold ready-made cakes anyhow, with a choice of three decorations: snow scene (appropriate), fruit basket (eh?) or chintz (double eh?). Very little changed between the 1930s Christmas recipes and the 1950s ones, except the quantities got smaller.

Still, for all that I laugh at their oddities, the Christmasses in my books and magazines aren't that dissimilar to modern ones, with the pleasure of giving people things that make them happy, and a very familiar meal for everyone to enjoy, including mince pies and turkey. If I want mine to be enjoyed by everyone, I'd better pull my socks up and make sure I've completed everything on that to-do list by the 25th! How is your planning going? Halfway done? Nearly complete? Or being left until the 23rd?

12 comments :

  1. I think we're about halfway there gift wise. I have a few and some others are mentally sorted, just the rare few remain a mystery, I just have no clue. I've been gradually buying Christmas goodies since early November and have a basket which is filling nicely. I make sure I only buy special offers on such things and like to spread the cost.

    I mostly agree on the utensils front, though I really would like a chalky pink stove top whistling kettle! Each time we watch anything American and their stove and kettle is visible, I will absolutely chime out, "I REALLY want a pink whistling kettle." But I'm a fusspot as to the right shade of pink!

    Andy suggested I might want to go to Bath on my birthday but I think the crowds for the market would bother me (not so good with crowds) so I think we'll go east again, to Brighton.

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    1. Oooh, you have been good, to get it done so early. (Does Bob get a treat too?) I've been trying to spread the cost.

      Bath is extremely hectic at Christmas market time, and if you're not good with crowds, it's best to avoid it.

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    2. When we got Bob's advent calendar we also got him his Christmas gift. It was a small piece of hollowed out wood with a tasty treat stuffed inside, which he really has to work at to get the treats out. It was on offer, two for £5 so we let him have one now. I'd like to get him another Christmas gift though, as I have visions of him thinking, "Another one? I already have one of those!"

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  2. Talking of gifts for the house, a friend of mine received a bread bin from her husband on their first Christmas as a married couple. It was promptly exchanged for a rather luxurious handbag within a few days!

    x

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    1. Bread bin? AY CARAMBA. There's no excuse for that!

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    2. I bought Danny a programmable toaster for Christmas. He's obsessed with toast (and gadgets), so it seemed the perfect fit. We're going to wrap up a loaf of bread and give it to him first to watch the perplexed expression. Don't worry, he's getting other gifts as well, but I'm sure the toaster will be the thing he loves best. Ten year old boys are strange creatures.

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    3. Well, if toasters are his thing that's a great present! I can now picture him trying out various bread/preserve combinations, looking for the perfect pairing.

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  3. I'm getting there... We keep things pretty low key, and I have lists and plans, so it should be OK. I hope!
    I can understand why a time and labour-saving domestic appliance was considered a good gift back in the day, but now? No thanks! xx

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    1. Lists are GOOD. I'd be a mess without mine.

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  4. I would rather have that hat and mitten set then a household gadget. Those sort of old adverts do make me giggle. I am slowly getting there but have had to scale back some ambitions, not everyone is going to get a handmade card for example. Good luck with all your organising.

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    1. Yeah, I've had to buy an alternate present for my mum and she can have her handmade one in the new year. So easy to be really ambitious at this time of year.

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