What Christmas was like in my grandparents childhood.
My story is about Christmas in the time of my mum’s parents, who were children during ‘The Emergency’ in Ireland (the 2nd World War 1939-45). My Dad’s parents were born during the First World War are not alive anymore so I couldn’t write about them. My Grandad was born in 1934 brought up on a farm in a rural village called Garryvoe in East Cork. My Granny was brought up in Blackrock in Cork City. She would have been three when World War 2 began and nine when it ended. My granddad would have been two years older.
At this time most of the world was at war and food was being rationed greatly to keep the armies going. And the other thing was Ireland was in an emergency because there was the threat of being invaded by the Allies if they joined the Axis power, or being invaded by the Axis powers if they joined the Allies. A lot of people had a grudge with the English over the War of Independence and wanted to join the Axis powers and others wanted to join the Allies to defeat the Axis powers and the rest want to stay neutral which they did. My other grandparents went and fought with the Royal Airforce.
The church played a big role in life and people washed and dressed in their best clothes to go to mass. Neither of my Grand parents had Christmas trees, it was not a tradition at the time. The crib was more important. My Grand mother remembers snow and the cold when walking to mass in Blackrock. My Grandad said he was an altar boy and had to walk from Garryvoe to Ballymacoda to serve the half eight Christmas morning mass. He said it was freezing. This walk would have taken about an hour so he would have had an early start. The rules for taking communion were different then, so he would not have eaten since the night before and would have gone to mass without a breakfast.
My Granddad’s family ate goose and my Granny’s ate turkey (My Granddad who lived on a farm reared his goose for Christmas). Goose is a very fatty meat so they had potato stuffing. They also had bread sauce, brussel spouts and plum pudding. There wasn’t much because of the rationing due to the war. Sugar in particular was in short supply.
My grand dad didn’t write letters to ‘Santa’ but my Granny did and her Dad had a tradition to bring his children to go into Cork city to see ‘Santa’ who gave her and her siblings balloons as the present that you get when you go to see ‘Santa’. For both of my grand parents ‘Santa’ brought very little compared to what ‘Santa’ brings today. ‘Santa’ brought dolls, hats, scarves and gloves for the girls and he brought wooden toys like hurls for the boys. And for my Granny ‘Santa’ put oranges in the Christmas stockings. You might say ‘An orange, Why an orange?’ The reason she got oranges in her stocking was because at the time oranges were considered exotic.
On the day after Christmas, Stephen’s Day people would call round to each other to visit and a group called the Wren Boys called round to the houses singing carols. The Wren boys were thought as being the hard lads from around the town. My granddad used go with them. If he made a half a crown he’d be very happy. This is about 25 cent today. Christmas was very different when my grandparents were young.