Christmas was when the caravan became magically transformed.
Around a week before Christmas, Mum and Dad would get out our little artificial tree and boxes of decorations. The tree was mounted on a square block of wood which was painted red. They would bend the branches out to form a standard fir tree shape and then hang the ornaments. Many of the ornaments were familiar to us as they had managed to survive when others (the fragile ones) had broken, and so it was exciting to see them coming out once again. The final ornaments to hang were the icicles. I do not recall any lights at that time but there certainly were lights hanging on that same tree in later years.
After the tree was done, Dad would then start hanging paper decorations around the top of the walls (in long loops) all around the living room. He would then hang some more corner to corner thereby crossing over in the middle of the ceiling. There were usually one or two decorations left over so he then hung them in our bedroom. The whole inside of our caravan was therefore a very colorful spectacle which must have raised our anticipation about Christmas coming!
Christmas eve was always fun! It was our family’s tradition to put the presents in spare pillow cases, and then set them alongside our beds when we were asleep. Keeping in mind that I had the top bunk (my pillow case was therefore on the floor and out of reach), the following dialogue would have been typical for that time and at around 6:00am :
“Hey Col………. are you asleep?”
“Want me to pass up one of your presents?”
“Here you are” (present is held up on outstretched arm)
“Thanks” (present goes under blankets where it can be unwrapped quietly)
Voice from other room “Go back to sleep. It’s not Christmas yet!”
(A momentary silence)
“So what did you get?”
“Don’t know yet.” (Lots of rustling)
Voice from other room “Will you two go back to sleep. You can open them in a couple of hours.”
(A momentary silence)
“Got another one for me?”
“Guess what I got.”
“I don’t know…… what?”
Voice from other room “How many times do I have to tell you to go back to sleep?”
……………….. and so the early hours of Christmas day would continue!
After Mum had cleaned up all our wrappings and generally got things organized once again, she would put the chicken in the oven and we would be smelling “cooking chicken” for quite some time. I do not recall ever having turkey for Christmas, but then it was probably very expensive. Even a whole chicken was a treat for us!
Usually our only “conventional” dinner was on Sunday when we would have roast beef or ham. The rest of the week was planned around finishing everything as nothing was to be wasted. Even if we had salad during the week, what little meat we had with it would have been inexpensive luncheon meat or corned beef.
After our Christmas dinner we would have Christmas pudding which Mum would have made, and she always told us that if we were lucky, we might find (in our pudding) a sixpence*(silver coin) which the Christmas fairy would have put in the mix. Although Mum told us only one sixpence was in it, some how or other, both Valerie and I always used to be lucky!
After the Christmas pudding, we would go and play with our new toys until Mum called us with a plate of freshly made mince pies! Boxing day was also fun in that we were finishing off Christmas food which included more mince pies but, after that, we had to adjust to more routine meals. On December 31, the trimmings were taken down and put away, and the tree was once more folded up and put in its box. Christmas was put away for another year!
*For a perspective, sixpence would buy at least 6 sticks of liquorice!