Memories are made of these

There’s a quote that goes - “Good days give happiness, bad days give experience, worst days give lessons, and best days give memories”. I couldn’t agree more that the best days give beautiful memories.

At this time every year, I always get a little nostalgic thinking of Christmas past as memories of wondrous childhood seasons of carols and cards and trees and family are rekindled. December opened the door to this magical other world of joyous anticipation, imagination and excitement and it was my favourite time of the year.

There was never anything grandiose about Christmas in our home – it was just simple decorations and some lights strung up around the house, a warm little live tree in the corner of the living room, Christmas cards put up every which creative way we could think of, delicious hearty food involving the Christmas pig of course and Mum’s cakes. The Christmas lights would blink out often and the tree would sometimes start shedding midway through causing a lot of stress and grief, but Jim Reeves crooning favourite Christmas songs on our beloved gramophone soothed nerves and made everything alright.

I remember these childhood family Christmases so vividly.

The excitement would start building up early November as we got our Christmas clothes ready. There would be a special outing day when Mum and Dad took us shopping to buy our dresses and shiny new shoes – another day was dedicated to the boys for their spiffy new threads. There were seven of us, imagine that! Now that I’m a parent myself (of one single son), I realise how much work it must have been for them and I really don’t know how they even managed.

When we were very young, it was identical frocks and coats for us girls. As we grew older, some of us weren’t too happy with being three peas in a pod forever and so different floral prints and colours started to separate us although the styles remained basically identical for a long time!

Official decorating day would be discussed and planned carefully and the decorations located and pulled out beforehand for the untangling and cleaning up process. When the day finally arrived, it was always a blast. There would be much back and forth on where and how to hang the tinsel and colourful glass balls interspersed with loud shrieks as some of these delicate ornaments fell and broke. The hoisting of the big red Christmas star outside would be met with delighted oohs and aahs and plenty of backseat instructions on getting the position just right.

The day Mum baked her Christmas cakes was always a high point of the season. It would be a day bustling with activity as we all tried to ‘lend a hand’ and, believe me, I was really good at buttering her cake pans. It was just simple butter cakes, nothing elaborate like the stuff they bake these days, but they tasted like heaven and I can still smell the amazing aroma of Mum’s freshly baked cakes wafting through the house. After they were all done, some of them would be wrapped up in pretty red and green wrappers ready to be gifted to family, friends and neighbours.

Another big event of the season was the day the Christmas pig was slaughtered…..and if Mum had her cake baking day, this was definitely Dad’s day. It always took place on December 23 and Dad was like an army General taking charge and barking orders to his troops where necessary. He would get everything ready the day before, the people who would help him, the equipment that would be needed and the utensils for cooking and storing – and not to forget the carving knives………they were sharpened to a tee ready for the job.

Dad would hustle his men for a very early start in the morning and the first parts that would reach the kitchen were the innards and the blood for the traditional dish of pig innards cooked in blood. Mum would prepare this along with the rice and vegetables and chutney and after the hard work of slaughtering the pig and sorting out the meat was done, we would all sit down for a scrumptious feast.

On the night before Christmas all the kids in the neighbourhood would go carolling together. It was safe and our parents were never worried about sending us out. They would simply bundle us up in warm clothes and off we would go to visit a few houses where we belted out carols at the top of our voices. Parents would come out and sing along with us and distribute candies or cakes. Oh, what fun it was and we were the happiest kids in the world!

I don’t know how I ever went to sleep on Christmas Eve after the excitement of the carolling round and the anticipation of Christmas morn and my brand new clothes waiting to be worn!

The smells, traditions, friends, the excitement, fun and laughter and family together at Christmastime, they come flooding back so easily at this time of year. Life was simple and good in those faraway days. And it’s as Winnie the Pooh said in his wisdom….”We didn’t realise we were making memories, we just knew we were having fun.”

Times have changed, of course, as it should and it will. I’m just thankful that I have these beautiful happy childhood memories to cherish and build on with my own son. The best things in life are the people we love and the moments and times that make memories along the way.