Sunday, December 17, 2006

Mistletoe, Holly wreaths and Christmas trees

In the course of researching some events during and after WW2 I came across an interesting family 'Christmas story' in the West Cumbrian local newspaper 'The Whitehaven News' from Thursday 19 December 1946. This was about the local supply situation of Christmas trees, mistletoe and holly. Many servicemen had only returned to civilian life during 1946. For many families this was the first time in many years they would all "... be home for Christmas" but it seems there was a shortage of many of the basic decorations people wanted for their homes.

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Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

According to the 1946 newspaper article the Lake District (which is wholly in present-day Cumbria) is described as being "... the English home of Christmas trees". However, even the local shops in Cumbria in 1946 smaller trees (three to four feet high) for use in homes were in short supply and were having to be imported from southern England. Where Christmas trees were available, prices ranged from 1/- to 2/6d per foot of tree (i.e. one shilling to two shillings and sixpence). There was better news regarding supplies of larger Christmas trees which it says were in plentiful supply in the Lake District and being exported.

Unfortunately for young (and old) people in love the newspaper article also refers to mistletoe being "... very scarce and very expensive in the Lake District". The wholesale price was 4d per ounce. As the song might have said, Mummy was going to find it difficult to kiss Santa Claus underneath the mistletoe at night (at least in 1946)! There was better news about holly: it was said to be plentiful and "... very well berried". The wholesale price was 25 shillings per hundredweight. Among the dealers who had travelled to the Lake District for their seasonal supply of holly were some from central and South Lancashire. Holly could be used for wreaths, either to place on the outside of the front door or to place on the graves of loved ones in the local cemetery. Holly is still used to make wreaths at Christmastime to this day and, in Cumbria at least, are still placed on graves of loved ones just before Christmas each year.

So that was Christmas in 1946. How much was it different to the Christmas times between 1939 and 1945? Other contributors to this forum will have their own memories of what they feel was different for them, and what was much the same.

Sunday, 17 December, 2006  
Blogger Frank Mee said...

Joseph, 1939-45 were much as Christmas has always been. Parents did their best to give us youngsters at least a couple of good days even in war time.
Our run down started with the killing of a pig for the pork and everything else you could eat, the rest was salted down and hung for the next year. The christmas pork was also hung to mature, the ham was last years which had hung in the tall ceiling of the passage way to my bedroom.
Then we killed the geese and chickens for ourselves family and to sell. The Christmas meal was always goose before during and after the war. They too would be hung until mother ploated them with one very intersted boy watching her and what came out of them. I would take a hand at the plucking as there were usually about a dozen to do. They would be washed and rehung until the people came for them.
All the vegetables came from the garden, some fresh like the sprouts and winter cabbage some had been in what we called pies, they were dug up covered with straw and then earth thus lasting until the next years new growth.
1939 I got a new Hercules bike 18 inch frame and the cost was £4/19/6 a small fortune in those days but that year there were quite a few new bikes on the Green, our parents had seen one war and knew this would not be a short one so gave us a Christmas to remember.
We always had the stocking with apples an orange if available some wrapped sweets dinky toys and some socks gloves or a scarf.
One year I got roller scates with ball bearing wheels, they were the rolls royce of scates. Another year Dad walked in with a steam engine in full working order. I would lay out the straight track fire it up and wait until it got steam up then run it to the end and back over and over. I learned about inside and outside cylinders push rods steam valves reducers and reverse valves from that machine as well as the mysteries of steam plus a few scalds and burns of course.
I got a hornby train set one year and Mechano another so really we did as well as the children today. Those things were still available in wartime and I had a fleet of dinky warships.
In 1938 Mother had bought a set of Arthur Mee's encyclopedias and that was one of the best used sets of books ever, I read them from cover to cover many times over.
There it is Joseph a beakfast of porridge bacon and fried bread then church, almost the whole village went. Home to a nicly browning goose and the women put the vegetables on to cook. A wonderful meal of mainly home produced food and the present giving. That would be followed by the relatives coming in with more presents and usually ended up with a carol singing session, Uncle Peter or myself doing the honours on the piano and then we would go to bed often with a lamp to read our Adventure year books. We were happy and full of food a good way to forget what was going on elswhere in the world for a few hours.

Monday, 18 December, 2006  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Your Christmas sounds much like the ones I remember from my own childhood in the 1960s. The Arthur Mee "Children's Encyclopedia" edition we had was really bought for my older sister, but I made good use of it as well. I still have it AND look through some of the the volumes occasionally.

For those in the Forces, I have heard it is the one day in the year that officers serve up lunch for the ORs. At Christmas 1914 some of my relatives were in the trenches on the Western Front when they met with the Germans in "No Man's Land". Sadly, it did not lead to a peace settlement and look what happened between then and 1918.

Anyway, all the best to you Frank and all the other contributors.

Thursday, 21 December, 2006  
Blogger Frank Mee said...

Yes that is true the Officers and SNCO's served the men theier Christmas meal through my time and even today.
We then all retired to the Sergeants Mess for drinks with the Officers, afterwards we would be served our meal by the mess servants and the Officers being posh had theirs in the evening.
In todays Daily Mail Saturday December 23rd you will find the diary of Sergeant Major George Beck who wrote up the events of those few days of peace during the famous Christmas truce of 1914.
His Granddaughter has given the diary to the local museum. S/Major Beck survived the war even though gassed he died at the age of 48 and this is the first time the diary has been seen.

Saturday, 23 December, 2006  

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