Val's Christmas Blog

Christmas 2017, where did that last year go?!  This is a time of many traditions, when families by and large get together to over-eat and over-drink, having over-spent. In our family, traditions are key to the smooth running of a successful few days of over-indulgence.

A Christmas Eve dinner starts the festivities, with last-minute present wrapping. A rather short sleep and then the excitement of opening stockings on Christmas morning as (now adult!) children still congregate into their respective parents’ rooms to open this increasingly expensive booty. A quick check of the turkey and then a gift from Father Christmas is opened to keep you going. Lots of phone call from family from around the world means lunch with all the trimmings is generally rather late, but afterwards the long-awaited opening of presents around the tree.

This differs from when I was a child - we were so excited that we took a torch to bed to open the stocking and selection boxes before the crack of dawn. Crunchie, Mars Bars, Dairy Milk, all eaten before 6am. Can you remember what you had in your selection box treat?

Right, take a short time out from scanning the best last-minute deals online and look back to a simpler time. We have a number of delightful family celebrations for you to watch to get you in the mood.

The first film was made just after WW2: Gilchrist Brothers’ & Children’s Christmas Parties (1945-46). There’s a black and white intro of people milling around and then we move into colour as children sit at a long table with cups of tea, sandwiches, and cake. Most are wearing home-made party hats, as they dance, laugh and chat.

I remember going to a Christmas party organised by my father’s workplace when I was about 7 years old. Very shy and not knowing anyone, I found it disorientating but here the children are all smiles and dressed up for the occasion.

Moving on, Christmas 1954 and 1958 is a series of colour home movies showing the McAdam family from Newcastle at Christmas between 1954 and 1958. The film includes scenes of the children writing their letters to Santa and throwing them onto the coal fire. Again how many of us remember our own children doing just that and trying to explain to them the magic of Father Christmas as we tried not to burn their letters? In the film we see children helping in the kitchen, decorating the Christmas tree and generally view the busyness of getting ready for Christmas, including a glimpse of the worst Christmas present wrapping I’ve ever seen! I love to check out the clothes people were wearing and food they were eating and here again we see children having a party all dutifully wearing their hats and looking beautifully dressed. The food looks familiar, actually not much different from now, apart from the lack of savoury snacks that now adorn our tables. Back with the family, on Christmas morning the lucky children receive some great presents including a fabulous American car.

Still in the ‘50s, A Merry Xmas (1957) shows a family of three in Bridlington, carrying out traditions such as decorating the tree, making mince pies, sledging and building a snowman. It looks cold but it is an idyllic Christmas setting.

Susan and her mother decorate the small silver artificial Christmas tree with pieces of tinsel, crackers and baubles and hang paper chains from the ceiling in the living room and cards on string. Susan’s hair is neatly combed and her pyjamas put on ready for bed. All very ordered, no groans, no tantrums, and no sign of television. But where would we be now without our screens?

This takes us to two of my favourite animation films. Firstly, Christmas Around the World (1979) is a short Christmas animation by Sheila Graber in which Santa Claus and his three robin helpers deliver presents all over the world. The film follows their adventures as they cross continents from Asia through Africa, Europe and the Americas. Along the way they deliver presents to a number of interesting characters including a lion in Africa and King Kong in America. The film ends with them making their way back to Santa’s grotto, collapsing with exhaustion into their comfy chairs.

Secondly, The Boy and the Cat (1974) was actually the first complete animation produced by Sheila Graber and set in her native South Shields. The film follows the adventures of a small boy and his cat as they walk through the snowy landscape, chase a Robin down onto the River Tyne and meet Father Christmas. Pure innocent joy.  

OK, back to shopping and the high street but still with animation, Fenwick of Newcastle Christmas Magic (1975) is a short animated advertisement based around the 1975 Fenwick's Christmas window theme of ‘Aladdin’ in which a genie tells Aladdin what is happening at Fenwick Newcastle at Christmas. I know many of us shop on the internet now but don’t you just love those high street shop windows. Go on, get togged up and enjoy some old fashioned shopping.

A very merry Christmas to all,