At our last writing group meeting, we agreed to try and give our blog postings in December a Christmas theme.
For Tracey, this is easier said than done. For the plain fact of the matter is that she does not know how her great-grandfather, Tom Robinson, and his family celebrated Christmas in the early years of the twentieth century. She can safely say that a relatively poor family such as her great-grandfather’s would not have had an elaborate Christmas. Her grandmother recalled receiving a satsuma or a few nuts in a stocking at Christmas – and even this seems extravagant, given that there were twelve children in the family.
Margaret’s Aunty May, born in 1909 into a poor Methodist family of nine children, like Tom Robinson’s, also said the only presents they got were an orange and a few nuts (the latter possibly gathered wild from the local woods). But this old aunty remembered one other present with great pleasure – her peg doll. The Museum of Wales says: ‘ during the 19th century Victorians used to make some of their peg dolls into pedlar dolls, adding little trinkets to the finished doll when they could. The tradition of making peg dolls out of wooden clothes pegs comes from a time when people had little money to spend on toys.’
It is also worth remembering how relatively modern some of our other Christmas traditions are – many of them originating in the Victorian period when a revival of pre-Cromwell Christmas traditions was gaining in popularity. Charles Dickens gave them a boost with the publication of ‘A Christmas Carol‘ in 1843. New traditions were added. Queen Caroline, wife of George lll, first brought a yew tree indoors at Christmas in Britain but it was Prince Albert who made it famous in 1848 when an engraving was published of the royal family around one.
Tracey notes that until about 1880, few Primitive Methodists would have celebrated Christmas, and there are no references to Christmas in the Primitive Methodist Magazine before this date. John Wesley himself never preached a ‘Christmas sermon’, although his brother, Charles, did compose one of our most famous Christmas carols, ‘Hark the Herald Angels Sing‘.
Tracey and Margaret