Christmas toys and games

It’s lovely the way people play games at Christmas in a way that they don’t at other times of year.  Granted we often take a couple of board games away with us in the caravan on regular holidays, but at Christmas in our family there are other sorts of games to look forward to.

Mum’s ring board makes its annual outing!  I’m not actually sure how old this is (1940s?), but it has given hours of amusement over the years as people attempt the deceptively hard art of throwing rubber rings at the hooks on the board, the first team reaching a score of 101 being the winner.  We took it to family parties at Aunty Betty’s in the 1970s and played it at home when Granny came to visit.  Despite only having sight in one eye, she was remarkably good at the game.  No doubt when the furniture is finally moved in Mum’s house we will find the missing rings down the back of the bureau!  This year the ring board had a very successful outing to Hertfordshire, when we visited my husband’s family.

My Granny (Emily George, nee Mitchell) was also a great one for a game of cribbage.  She had learnt as a girl in Sussex, looking over the shoulders of the menfolk in her family who played.  Her mental arithmetic, even in her 90s, was as sharp as anything.  The cibbage board came out this Christmas when my Mum and my daughter had a game.

Despite the somewhat eventful year that she has had, my Mum still somehow managed to put together the annual newspaper headlines competition, and the ‘feely sock’ kept people amused in between the washing up on Christmas Day.

Christmas Day was also an opportunity to talk about the tradition of Christmas stockings.  We always had stockings as children, as did my Mum as a child and I did (oh, sorry, Father Christmas filled) stockings for my daughters once more this Christmas although they are somewhat beyond childhood.  Mum said that as a child she always liked mechanical toys and one year she had a clockwork steam roller in her stocking.  She remembers winding it up and running it on her bed until the fluff from the blanket made it grind to a halt.  Her father had to remove the fluff from the cogs before she could run it again on the lino of the landing floor.

Well I hope Father Christmas visited you this Christmas and that you enjoyed the festive period, whether you had games and toys or not!

My Granny playing rings in 1982
My Granny playing rings in 1982
The same ringboard in use Christmas 2016
The same ringboard in use Christmas 2016

 

 

Cribbage
Granny playing cribbage in 1981
At home with the cribbage board, probably a different Christmas
At home with the cribbage board, probably a different Christmas
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Christmas is coming….

I have in my possession a rather battered little book called ‘Sussex in bygone days – reminiscences of Nathaniel Paine Blaker MRCS’, which was published in 1919 by my husband’s forbears, the Combridges of 56 Church Road, Hove.  It was first published privately in 1906.  Nathaniel grew up in Sussex, having been born in Selmeston in 1835, and eventually went on to work at the Sussex County Hospital in Brighton.  The book is a collection of memories of life in Sussex in former times and includes subjects such as old occupations, transport, sport, health and festivals as well as describing his medical training.

I wondered what Nathaniel might have to say about Christmas in days gone by.  In talking of agricultural labourers, he says “sheep-shearing, harvest-supper and Christmas were in those country villages the three festivals of the year, and were looked forward to and remembered for days or weeks: A Christmas gambol oft could cheer the poor man’s heart for half a year”.

In a later chapter, however, he talks of ‘Club Day’ being “the most festive day of the year”, when members of the Benefit Club marched to church with a band and subsequently proceeded to the pub where they “dined and spent the rest of the day in dancing and other games and amusements”.  He goes on to say “A little girl, when asked by a school inspector what were the chief festivals of the Church, replied ‘Christmas, Easter and Albourne Club’”.

Nathaniel’s other recollection of Christmas is of one year when he was about 11 or 12 years old (ie around 1847).  On Christmas Eve burglars got into the family house by removing the iron bars from the cellar window.  “They took nothing of value, only a gun, a few overcoats and other small articles, but they took what in those days I thought of great importance, namely, the beef and plum-pudding intended for the Christmas dinner next day.  Being six miles from any town, and all the shops being closed, no more beef or materials for plum-pudding could be got, and we were indebted to the Rector, Mr Tufnell, who kindly helped us out by sending some pork pies”.   (A quick check of the 1841 census reveals that Mr Tufnell and family and Nathaniel Blaker’s family lived in Edburton, a village on the north side of the Devil’s Dyke).  Somehow pork pies sound a poor substitute for Christmas dinner, but I’m sure the family were extremely grateful for at least something to eat.

Well, whatever you are planning to eat for your Christmas dinner, and whether or not you are planning a ‘Christmas gambol’, I hope you have a lovely time.

Happy Christmas!

Christmas Comes But Once A Year - Charles Green
Christmas Comes But Once A Year – Charles Green

Advent

My Granny, Emily Eliza Mitchell, was baptised at Shipley, in Sussex, on Advent Sunday in 1888, 128 years ago.

I learnt that piece of information 24 years ago, when, following a fairly traumatic birth, we took our first baby daughter to Church on Advent Sunday for a Thanksgiving Service.  She is partly named after her great grandmother, and my Mum remarked on how appropriate the day was.

I do like Advent.  There’s something about all those great Advent hymns in minor keys (‘O come, O come, Emmanuel’, ‘Come thou long-expected Jesus’, ‘Lo, he comes with clouds descending’ etc), the purple of altar frontals and liturgical robes and advent candles to light.  And of course Advent Calendars.  I remember as a child being thrilled when our neighbours the Madgwicks gave us an Advent calendar (no chocolate ones in those days!) and I still like to have one.  It brings out the child in me to count the days till Christmas!  When our children were small we made a large Blue Peter-inspired one which involved toilet rolls and lots of tissue paper, glue and paint.    It got re-used for a number of years.

Last Sunday being Advent Sunday it got me thinking about what my ancestors might have been doing during that period in years gone by.  Not counting the days with chocolate-filled Advent Calendars, that’s for sure.

David George, my earliest proven ancestor on my Norfolk George tree, married Elizabeth Jefferies on Sunday 7 December 1806 at East Dereham – the second Sunday in Advent, but only a year later they buried their first baby, Mary Ann, on 13 December 1807, the third Sunday in Advent.

David’s son John George married Emily White on Sunday 6 December 1840 – also the second Sunday in Advent.

His son David, my great grandfather, married Elizabeth Mayne in Croydon on a Saturday – the 29 November 1873 – the day before Advent Sunday.

On my Wakefield tree, my great grandfather William Wakefield married Annie Neighbour on 10 December 1893 in Newington, again the second Sunday in Advent.

Caleb Osborne, the cordwainer from Shipley in Sussex, married Mary Botting on the Tuesday after Advent Sunday in 1802 – the 30 November.

My Mitchell and Phipott ancestors, on the other hand, seem to have had a distinct aversion to doing anything like getting married or baptised during the back end of the year – apart from my Granny, that is.

I discovered  when Advent Sunday was in years gone by on this website: www.timeanddate.com/holidays/uk/first-day-advent , where you can also calculate all kinds of dates.

So Happy Advent!  I hope this season is not too frenetic for you and that you can find some space to welcome the coming light:

“O come, thou Dayspring, come and cheer
our spirits by thine advent here;
disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
and death’s dark shadows put to flight.” 

Advent