Advent Calendar 2013: Day 16 – Christmas Travel

The theme for Day 16’s Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories was Christmas Travel: “Over the river and through the woods” as the song goes . . . Christmas time can often mean travel home or meeting up with family at a special destination. Do you remember traveling back home for Christmas? Were there any trips that standout in your memory? What methods of travel have you used to make the trip home?

I first wrote on this topic in 2011 in terms of my childhood Christmases, and one special one Mr Cassmob and I made in 1992.

Xmas lunch L&RSince our children reached adulthood, Christmas travel has pretty much fallen to them. My first thoughts were that we’ve been fortunate to mainly have them all around at Christmas time but when I tallied up the absences I was surprised that there’d been an unavoidable few. Thanks to technology we’ve been able to Skype the missing person in recent years, with calls to Africa or Italy, but back when our youngest was doing her Aussie-ritual year abroad in Hook Norton, we had to suffice with phone calls. Calls also had to suffice when DD#1 and DD#2 celebrated Christmas Day in New York. It was hard to feel sorry for them when they had Christmas lunch at a restaurant overlooking the Rockerfeller Plaza ice rink then went to Central Park. They even had Darwin friends who they met up with so weren’t on their Pat Malone (own).

Peter and Pauleen Xmas 2008 cropOur home gatherings have involved very long drives or long flights for whoever is the farthest from the bulk of the Cass mob, now concentrated in Darwin. One year the shoe was on the other foot and we took a driving trip to Tasmania where we met our eldest daughter and had a delightful Christmas on the gorgeous Freycinet Peninsular. It was chilly but sunny and we were able to go for a short drive to the magnificent beaches nearby. Tassie is also noted for its fine fresh produce and wine, so we had a splash-up Christmas meal with Tasmanian bubbles, lobster, prawns and scallops bought from the fish co-op the day before and fresh-from-the-vine raspberries and blueberries. DD#1 was the chef (I was the sous-chef) so we had a fabulous meal of lobster risotto with a starter of scallops on cauliflower puree. Delizioso!! Oh, yes, this is supposed to be about travel not food!

Image from Shutterstock.com

Image from Shutterstock.com

Only once have we been home alone as empty nesters, and that was our first year in Darwin. We coped quite well and thought in future we’d volunteer to serve community meals. So much for our good intentions, as never again have we been alone.

While we’ve travelled close to Christmas, we’ve always made sure we’re home for the big day (excl Tasmania).  As Darwin is so far from many people’s homes, we’ve also included friends who can’t make it home to family for the holidays. This Top End tradition is about sharing the joy with the so-called “orphans”.  When it’s not too hot, there’s been the chance for cricket or the pool.

However back in 1989 my youngest daughter, my mother and myself travelled to Europe and Christmas was spent in Lucerne. Calls home to the family didn’t really cut it for us and it was sad to be so far from them. Not one of my wisest decisions for a variety of reasons.

So there you have it, planes and cars for our distance travel but no boats and trains, unless you count the ferry to Tasmania. In fact sometimes our car can look like this one just travelling across town with gifts and a stash of food.

christmas-travel-300x164

This post is part of the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories (ACCM) which allows you to share your family’s holiday history twenty-four different ways during December! Learn more at http://adventcalendar.geneabloggers.com. You can see the posts others have submitted on the Advent Calendar Pinterest site.

Advent Calendar: Day 15 – Christmas Tree Decorations

The Advent Calendar of Memories for 15th December was Christmas Tree decorations: Do you have unique decorations that you use each Christmas? How did you get them or were they passed down to you from family members? Do you have certain traditions surrounding Christmas decorations such as purchasing one from every state or country you visit? Describe your favourite decorations!  Once again I’m behind with the topics.

Xmas decorations collage

Collage made using photovisio.com

Yes, we have a stash of Christmas tree ornaments that are put up every year in the first week of December. Some are common or garden ones from department stores but many are special ones that we’ve bought while travelling: in Ireland, England, France, Bavaria and Africa. Just as well we often travel around that time of year (another post!) Strangely while we were in the USA just before Xmas once we don’t have any ornaments from there, or indeed from Scotland.

Our daughter bought us a beautiful Inuit Christmas ball a while ago but when hers bit the tiled floor a few years ago we passed ours on to her. This year the glue on my Tara bell suffered from tropical melt, and it too fell to the floor. Thank heavens for super-glue, and it’s only missing a tiny piece!

We have only one bright-pinks 70s ornament from our very first Xmas trees but when Target had some similar ones a few years back I bought some more in similar colours.

It’s always interesting to “tour” our daughters’ trees each year as among their collection are ones we passed on to them when they set up home and we became empty nesters. Craft they made as littlies and some of our Bavarian wooden ornaments from Nuremberg. Hopefully they will eventually pass down to our grandchildren, and at the rate we insist on buying more, despite a total over-supply, there’ll be plenty to go around.

A while ago I mentioned I should do an A to Z of our Christmas ornaments which decorate our tree and house.

A is for a choir of angels, in all manner of styles.

B is for baubles (flash glass ones or newer plastic ones), multi-coloured butterflies and birds

C is for craft (made by family or friends), crystal danglies and cherries

D is for a tiny drummer boy

E is for recycled Xmas earrings and Eeyore with gift

F is for French birds –lovely ornaments bought in Provence

G is for geese, mainly from Bavaria, or hand-crafted cross-stitch;  blogging gift swaps or gift ornaments

H is for a beating of hearts –all over the tree, and for heirlooms

I is for my Irish ornaments –a Royal Tara bell and Waterford china angel

DSC_0524J is for Jingle bells – some of the bells jingle when touched

K is for our kids’ craft: special things like mushrooms we’ve made from the Gnome Book of Christmas

L is for the strand of lights which circles the tree

M is for our Maasai decorations from Kenya: birds, hearts, angels

N is for Noel and the nativity set (manger)

O is for Ornaments and the orange ball which is a flash back to our original set

P is for a Procession of Pusscats with Puddings which marches up our stair-rail

Q is for a quirky mermaid ornament a friend gave me

R is for ribbon bows and the reindeer from a gift swap.

S is for a heaven of stars from around the world, sleds, snowflakes and snowmen

T is for tinsel and Tigger

U is for uncoordinated – our tree does not have a uniform style

V is for vibrant – colourful, varied and very evocative

W is for tiny wreaths on the tree, large ones on the doors, and world ornaments

X is for eXtra special but not eXpensive (unless you count the airfares to get some!)

Y is for a little yellow bird, the only splash of yellow on the tree

Z is for the Zanzibari dhow hearts which I bought for the tree.

christmas-ornaments-300x224

This post is part of the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories (ACCM) which allows you to share your family’s holiday history twenty-four different ways during December! Learn more at http://adventcalendar.geneabloggers.com. You can see the posts others have submitted on the Advent Calendar Pinterest site.

Advent Calendar of Memories: Day 11 – Christmas at Church

The topic for Day 11 of the Advent Calendar of Memories 2013 is Christmas at Church: There are a variety of activities at Church during Christmastime, and they can vary based on your denomination or church. From the lighting of the Advent Wreath to Midnight Mass or Christmas Eve church services, for many, church is a central focus of the Christmas holiday.

A Christmas crib in Bavaria.

A Christmas crib in Bavaria.

My mother and I were always church goers and my father would very occasionally join us for Midnight Mass even though he wasn’t a Catholic. Christmas, like Easter, had many phases to the preparation for Christmas including the priest wearing purple vestments throughout Advent then wearing white on Christmas Day.

In more recent times the church has had Advent wreaths with various coloured candles for each week of Advent and while I don’t really recall this from my childhood, I do distinctly remember the Easter candle being re-lit at Christmas. The crib would be set up in the church and the baby Jesus added, I think, on Christmas Eve. We did the same thing at home: the crib was set up on a large corner display table with an angel hovering over it and suspended by the glass top of the table. Again, the baby would not be added until Christmas Day.

It was traditional to go to Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve when I was a child and this was a tradition we continued with our own children for many decades. It was part of what made Christmas special, including the sleepiness, darkness, and then the candles. The band at the church we attended would play subdued carols throughout Midnight Mass, then when then as everyone left, full of the spirit of Christmas, they’d launch into rocking versions of carols with full acoustics. It was fun, and very different from the churches overseas.

Of course in Australia, we had the advantage that we didn’t have to contend with snow, jackets or the freezing cold. Even at midnight it was often still quite hot.

christmas-church-280x170When we came home we’d have shortbread and a hot drink. Midnight Mass also had a good off-spin which is that the kids were then tired enough to sleep in a little on Christmas morning and not wake us up at 4am! One of our traditions was that they had to roll over and go back to sleep when they first woke up, then they could look at one of the parcels on the end of their beds. Between this tradition and not getting to sleep until 1am, we were rarely awakened at an unholy hour on Christmas morning.

christmas-school-angel-300x201I’m not going to re-submit a response for the Christmas at School(day 13) topic, but if you would like to read my 2011 post, you’ll find it here.

This post is part of the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories (ACCM) which allows you to share your family’s holiday history twenty-four different ways during December. Learn more at http://adventcalendar.geneabloggers.com. You can see the posts others have submitted on the Advent Calendar Pinterest site. My post today is a minor re-working of my 2011 one.

.

Advent Calendar of Memories: Day 8 – Christmas Shopping & Kiva

The topic for Day 8 of the Advent Calendar of Memories was Christmas ShoppingFor many of us, the focus of the Christmas season isn’t on “things” but on family and friends. Still, we like to give presents – large and small – to those we love. Do you shop during Christmastime or do you shop much earlier in the year to get it out of the way? Have you seen a change in your shopping habits as you’ve gotten older? Do you shop online? Do you participate in Black Friday or Cyber Monday activities? What was Christmas shopping like for your family and ancestors?

blogged on this topic back in 2011 so I’m not going to add much to that. Yes, I shop online for some gifts. I also do lay-bys for the grandchildren some time during the year. When I have to go shopping in the real world I try to get there before school closes to minimise the aggravation factor. Just yesterday there were several people in the toy aisles saying “I’m over this!”

As a family we decided that we were getting carried away with gifts so some years ago we swapped to the Secret Santa model where each family draws another family for a large-ish gift (about $75) and then each person draws another (<$20). The grandchildren of course get their own gifts but we try to contain our shopping spree so they don’t come to expect that every thing they want, everything they get.

kiva lge

We have also used Kiva as one of our nominated gifts. In only two years, our original gift has grown from three normal donations to 11 donations, with four having been fully paid out already and further loans paid from those repayments. Talk about the gift that keeps on giving!

Back in late 2011, Judy Webster established the Genealogists for Families group within Kiva and what an impact it’s had! Thanks to the generosity of genealogists world-wide, other less advantaged people have had the opportunity to further their economic independence. Here’s some stats to show just what we’ve achieved in a couple of short years. It would have been great to reach the $100,000 mark by end 2013 but that may be a goal too far. Why not join us in making a difference for other families around the world, surely the essence of the Christmas spirit. You can read a bit more about the process here. Just think, not only can you make a difference, you don’t have to go anywhere near the shops!

Team Impact Report

In 2011 the group made $US 6,675 loans. In 2012 this grew to $32,200 and in 2013 to date, $US42,700. Total $
A few breakdowns in the stats – the female:male distribution probably reflects the gender distribution of the team of genealogists making the loans.
Gender of Borrowers
74% Female (2,272)
26% Male (819)
Category of Loan
  • Agriculture  693 loans 
  •  Food 693 loans
  •  Retail 471 loans
  •  Services 355 loans
  •  Arts 190 loans
  •  Housing 156 loanssanta-shopping-300x199

This post is part of the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories (ACCM) which allows you to share your family’s holiday history twenty-four different ways during December! 

Learn more at http://adventcalendar.geneabloggers.com. You can see the posts others have submitted on the Advent Calendar Pinterest site.

Advent Calendar: Day 4 – Christmas Lights & Illuminations

The Christmas light prompt is: Some families string up a few lights each year while others go nuclear and are destined to force their neighbours into a brown out situation. Did your family put up lights and outdoor decorations around Christmas time? What about the neighbours? And was it a favourite family activity to drive around to look at Christmas lights? What about any local attractions such as parks, zoos and the like which put up displays of lights and outdoor decorations?

Christmas Lights in Darwin 2012

Christmas Lights in Darwin 2012: a very Aussie set of lights with Santa and his snow white boomers (kangaroos) in lieu of reindeer.

As a child, lights were mainly restricted to shops and city streets. With long summer nights the further south you go, the less the impact of house or street lighting, unlike colder climates where the sparkle of lights everywhere brightens the darkness and the spirits.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A Christmas window display in the David Jones’ window in Sydney 2006.

Instead it was traditional in those long-ago years to visit the city and see the wonderful Christmas displays (including pretty illumination and moving models) in the windows of our big department stores, like Myer or David Jones (or McWhirter or TC Beirnes). At different times we’ve seen similar window displays in Sydney as well and even in Dublin. Still I think that amazement that one has as a child remains untouched. It’s still lovely to see them but it’s just not as awe-inspiring.

I have no recollection of any houses displaying lights as happens today. It’s only in recent times (relatively) that the Christmas lights tours have taken off. We’ve only been checking out the Darwin lights for a few years and now regret we hadn’t realised the extent of the displays earlier.

christmas-lights-300x300For our family, Christmas lights were probably as much about the Christmas Carols by Candlelight which we attended every year for decades, even when our littlest was only a few weeks old. It was so atmospheric to be in a park singing away to the performers on the stage and with candles swaying. Quite beautiful and helped to define Christmas and our own family’s tradition. Unfortunately, to our minds, the Carols by Candlelight became increasingly commercialised and tacky so we ended up no longer attending in person.

However one tradition that remains is that we watch Carols by Candlelight from the Myer Music Bowl on Christmas Eve: it’s our only Christmas television tradition. Sometimes all the chores are done and we’re chilled out, some years it’s still a mad panic to get presents wrapped. Whatever the day brings, we find the enthusiasm of the crowd is infectious, and the camera crews always manage to find some super-cute babies to profile in their vision.

I was quite astonished today to discover that the Carols by Candlelight tradition started in Australia –well at least according to Wikipedia. Perhaps that’s because our climate is more conducive to spending hours out doors at that time of the year.

This post combines several topics for the Advent Calendar: Christmas lights, Christmas TV/Movies and a dab of Christmas Tradition. The 2011 topic was slightly different focusing on outdoor decorations: you can read my post here.

This post is part of the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories (ACCM) which allows you to share your family’s holiday history twenty-four different ways during December! Learn more at http://adventcalendar.geneabloggers.com. You can see the posts others have submitted on the Advent Calendar Pinterest site.

Advent Calendar 2013: Day 5 – Christmas Recipes (and food)

christmas-recipe-200x300I’d guess that for many of us, one of the key elements of celebrating Christmas is the sharing of food with family and/or friends. No wonder then that the topic for Day 5 (I’m late, again!) is Christmas Recipes. The prompt: The smell of cookies baking in the oven or perhaps mulled wine on the stove top. What are your favorite recipes during Christmastime? Are they different than the Christmas foods your mother made? What about your ancestors – what were their favorite recipes and Christmas foods? Share your favorite recipe and the story behind it.

After seeing the delicious pavlova as the feature image my thoughts are straying to a new tradition. Maybe we’ll have pavlova this year, along with a new easy-peasy recipe from a friend for marinated fresh fruit.

Smell is definitely a powerful memory invoker, and the smell of cooking and baking in the kitchen echoes down the years, no doubt aided by my own repetition of the same cooking and baking. So what foods does Christmas bring to mind? Well shortbread is right near the top and I always use my paternal grandmother’s recipe. The trick is cooking it just right, not too dark, not too light, not too soft and just crunchy right.

Of course Christmas cakes are in a league of their own because the fragrances are so pervasive: spices, rum, fruit, all marinading to perfection before being baked for hours, filling the house with even more wonderful aromas.

Green Peppercorn Xmas cake recipe from the Australian Women's Weekly (I think) circa 1990

Green Peppercorn Xmas cake recipe from the Australian Women’s Weekly (I think) circa 1990

As I mentioned in 2011 I always cooked the same recipe as my mother. It’s deliciously moist and fruity….a Christmas cake really has to be moist in my opinion. And then I defected: I found an unusual recipe (above) which is perfect for those who like something different and even spicier. For a while I cooked both cakes but eventually settled on the Green Peppercorn cake.

This may be the first year in over 40, when I no longer cook a cake – though perhaps I’ll weaken: maybe I should consult the family. I love Christmas Cake but it no longer loves me and, getting ahead on the topics, is more foe than friend these days, sadly. Christmas pudding, complete with sixpences and threepences, was a feature of all my childhood Christmases and again has been something I’ve cooked for over 40 years.

However we’ve also started a new family tradition with tiramisu for dessert and that has largely overtaken the fan club for pudding. My grandmother’s and mother’s recipe makes two puddings so I’ve had one frozen since last year, half of which has gone to my mother, and the other half will likely satisfy those who hang out for Christmas pudd.

The main Christmas course is where the changes have come to pass over time. We might still have a roast but it’s more likely to be on Christmas Eve with cold slices for lunch on the big day. In my childhood the roast would be chicken which was then expensive and not eaten often, unlike today. Our own preference has turned to roast pork, cooked in the oven or the BBQ, ironically a nod back to my Kunkel ancestor’s heritage.

Ham is always on the menu too, but the feature is now the fresh prawns from the trawlers that come into Darwin around this time of the year, with an entrée of Coffin Bay oysters which our son-in-law prepares. So much more suitable in a tropical climate, even in the air-conditioning. As a child the Christmas table would always include lollies, nuts and crystallised ginger (one of my mother’s favourites). These days we have “only” a tiny sample of lollies and nuts, and some yummy Swiss chocolates.

For Christmas Dad would have a beer, a relatively unusual event as his mother, living next door and a good Presbyterian, didn’t approve. For years our own family would make Sangria as the day’s tipple, along with a fruit punch for the kids. But I’ve diverted from recipes to food: the joys and memories of Christmases past.

Why not pop over to my Tropical Territory blog and see some of those delicious spices where they are grown in Zanzibar. It was so interesting to see them outside the Masterfoods spice bottle.

This post is part of the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories (ACCM) which allows you to share your family’s holiday history twenty-four different ways during December! Learn more at http://adventcalendar.geneabloggers.com. You can see the posts others have submitted on the Advent Calendar Pinterest site.

Advent Calendar: Day 6 – Santa Claus

santa-cookies-milkThe Prompt for the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories 2013, Day 6, is Santa Claus. Geneabloggers prompt says “Today is the Feast of Saint Nicholas and the origin of Santa Claus. What are your memories of Santa Claus and waiting for him to come at Christmas? What does Santa mean to you today and how do you pass along that meaning to family and to others?

Post your best Santa story and your memories of Christmases past.”

I wrote a little about my own memories of Santa as a child in the ACCM 2011. During my teens I also had penfriends, one of whom came from the Netherlands, and that was my first exposure to Saint Nicholas and the different gift-giving traditions. We still have a book we bought for our children which tells the stories of Christmas celebrations world-wide.

In my 2011 story I made a passing reference to the different ways our children had experienced Santa’s arrival. On reflection it’s also interesting because I suspect that Santa has been nudged out of schools in our multi-cultural, religiously diverse society even though the kids still sing Christmas songs at pre-school, at least. Our youngest grandchild recently sang of Santa in his red, red hat, carrying a sack. The kids were just oh so cute, but of course privacy prevents including their photos here. Meanwhile the family’s littlies are preparing their Santa lists and sending our letters with their wishes.

However back to a “best Santa story”. When we lived in Port Moresby one of my work colleagues invited us to a Christmas party hosted by their club or society. I no longer have the faintest idea which club it actually was, but a great troop of people travelled by various boats to one of Moresby’s offshore islands where everyone had fun in the sun, swimming, playing in the sand, getting sunburnt, and having one or two cold beers and a picnic.

The highlight of the day was Santa’s arrival by small single-engined aircraft, in fact the very one I took flying lessons on a year or two later. Having landed the red-robed gentleman made his way up the beach where small children rushed to greet him. Our eldest, then about five, was among the forefront of the fan club. The sheer delight and admiration on her face as she walked along the beach holding Santa’s hand and swinging it back and forth, devotedly looking up at him, is an image that’s very precious to both of us.

Santa arrives by fire engine at Boroko East Pre-School in Port Moresby 1977.

Santa arrives by fire engine at Boroko East Pre-School in Port Moresby 1977. The children combined it with a fancy-dress day.

Our younger daughter was far more cautious and only reluctantly reached from Mum’s arms to snatch her present from Santa. She wasn’t about to trust any stranger in such cold-weather clothes! She was far happier when they undid their parcels with their red-dressed Barbie dolls but it didn’t change her opinion of Santa that year.

Unfortunately while we have it on old Super 8 film (and now on DVD) we don’t have a still of it, so your imaginations will have to suffice. I really do need to learn how to take still clips from movies.

Since I don’t have a photo of the flying Santa I’ll make do with one of Santa’s arrival at pre-school in a red, red fire-truck to go with his red, red suit.

Did your family leave cookies/biscuits and milk out for Santa and carrots for his reindeer? I never did as a child, but we did in a low-key way with our children.

This post is part of the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories (ACCM) which allows you to share your family’s holiday history twenty-four different ways during December! Learn more at http://adventcalendar.geneabloggers.com. You can see the posts others have submitted on the Advent Calendar Pinterest site.

Advent Calendar: Christmas Music

christmas-music-02-209x300The prompts for the Advent Calendar’s Christmas Music topic are: Christmas carols, church music and even more modern novelty songs are all a big part of our Christmas memories. What songs were your favorites as a child and are they still your favorites or do you have new ones? What about your parents or family members – were there certain songs or types of Christmas music played during the season? And how would you describe the type of Christmas music you like?

My grandmother owned a gramophone (which I’ve now inherited) but I don’t recall her having any Christmas music for it – perhaps that was to do with her more serious Presbyterian upbringing. I guess we listened to carols on the radio but to be honest I have no clear memory of doing so. It was at church where carols were sung, old favourites like Adeste Fidelis and Silent Night.…there wasn’t a lot of musical diversification, and the very religious hymns were the staff and clefs of Christmas music (well I couldn’t say bread and butter, now could I?).

Nor did we have a parish choir to lead us, in contrast to the rather grand choir we heard at Christmas Eve Mass in Lucerne in 1989.  The rise and fall of voices and the grandeur of the organ were a huge contrast to our usual experiences. Another form of music happened after Mass, as well as on Christmas morning. The pealing of bells around the lake is a distinctive memory which seems to fit perfectly with a winter’s day. In Australia church bells are rarely rung, and I suspect there’d be riots if the bells pealed across the night sky at Christmas.

Mum was always a great one for singing around the house so I guess that would have happened at Christmas, yet I don’t remember it specifically at Christmas – perhaps just the fabric of day-to-day life. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that she’s just been taking part in the choir at the retirement village where’s she recently relocated. Unfortunately I didn’t inherit her singing voice but at least I knew the rhythm and words, unlike Dad who was tone deaf.

When I passed Junior (Year 10, aged 14) I was given a portable record player as an achievement present. This opened up our musical repertoire and I remember clearly hearing Oh Tannenbaum for the first time and being thrilled that I could make sense of some of the words, thanks to my German classes. It was a thrill to be able to listen to whatever music we liked whenever we liked. Mum was particularly fond of Bing Crosby’s White Christmas.

One of our first Christmas albums as a couple.

One of our first Christmas albums as a couple, now well into its 40th decade.

One of our earliest Christmas LP purchases as a married couple was Nana Mouskouri’s Christmas record and I fell in love with Little Drummer Boy and Mary’s Boy Child. Feliz Navidad entered the family’s music lexicon quite a few years later and I love its exuberance and sense of celebration.

In some respects my Christmas music preferences have reverted to their origins. My favourite music is now the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah, Joy to the World and serious choral performances like the album we have of the Oxford Boys Choir.

We store our Christmas CDs with the decorations, so once the tree goes up (which will happen this weekend) we will bring out the CDs as well and start playing them. The two go together because our family tradition is that carols must be played as the tree is decorated.

If you’re interested you can find my 2011 Christmas Music post here. The questions that year were slightly different so it has a very slightly different spin, appropriately for music.

This post is part of the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories (ACCM) which allows you to share your family’s holiday history twenty-four different ways during December! Learn more at http://adventcalendar.geneabloggers.com.

Advent Calendar: Day 2 – Christmas Cards

christmas-card-280x170Initially I was disinclined to post again on the topic of Christmas cards as I wrote this story back in 2011. Then I started thinking about the background of card-sending and the potential importance to family history.

I’d guess that in most families there’s at least one person who writes to every member of the family as well as friends, each and every year. In my family that would have been my Aunty Mary who faithfully sent cards despite the ups and downs of her own, or the recipients’, lives that year. Certainly she was a family lifeline through some difficult years for me.

Grandmas address book_edited-1

A page from my grandmother’s address book.

Another distant, fourth, cousin also sends out masses of cards, keeping up the links with extended families both in Australia and overseas. This is the cousin who broke open my links back to County Clare with my 2xgreat grandmother Mary O’Brien. Nora’s family were master achievers of staying in touch with family and had all the oral history as well as relatively current contacts.

Nora is also the one who holds a vast repository of family and friend photos, just like the one I posted recently for Remembrance Day. This led, as chains of thoughts do, to the reflection that in days past families, and friends, would sometimes (often?) send family photos together with their Christmas cards. So, have you thought about who might have your family’s photos as a result of Christmas-card exchanges?

Aunty Mary's diary became her address book. What's interesting about it is that includes a list of saint's days in the front.

Aunty Mary’s diary became her address book. What’s interesting about it is that includes a list of saint’s days in the front.

When my Aunty Mary died I helped to clear out her house, and to salvage any genealogy-precious items like photos and certificates etc. Among her things was her own address book and a couple of my grandmother’s. These would have been their source when they started sending out their cards each year, just as mine is my memory-check. If you’ve been lucky enough to inherit a relative’s address book have you tried to identify who each person is/was? And maybe think about making contact to see if they have any family photos?

Christmas memories may be about our own and our family’s lives but they can also open the gate to further family history research. One idea I’ve taken away from reading various posts is that I want to write a Christmas card with a special message to each of my grandchildren, each year. I still have a couple of cards my own grandmother gave me, and it’s precious to have her greetings handwritten in my card. She had a quirky way of signing on cards – she always wrote across the corner, diagonally, on the inside flap. Perhaps because in those days cards were often used for craft.

Would you like to read my 2011 post on Christmas cards?

This post is part of the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories (ACCM) which allows you to share your family’s holiday history twenty-four different ways during December! Learn more at http://adventcalendar.geneabloggers.com.

Christmas Memories 2011

As people go back to work and family return to their homes, I think we can declare Christmas 2011 over for the Cass Mob. The fridge has some space in it, the wine rack has been decimated, Cyclone Grant averted in Darwin, and everything is getting back to normal, including the grandchildren’s excitement levels. To our surprise the smallest grandchild didn’t undecorate the Christmas tree and the cat also had only one or two goes at climbing it and settled for lying decoratively near the silver tinsel.

Springer and "his" tinsel.

One daughter has returned south, ready for a move to Kenya in the New Year and the round of celebrations have finished for those of us still in Darwin. We had a great time even though it was all low key. The Christmas pudding was steamed, the cake and my Grandma’s shortbread recipe were ready on time and my grandson and I made up my best friend’s shortbread (her Grandmother’s recipe). We also had a craft day some weeks ago, making up some bon-bons (crackers) – I’m pleased to report that the jokes I got off the internet were greeted with the requisite groans! Xmas Eve was our traditional ham and prawns with interesting salads, plus some Christmas pudding and sweet-treats for afters. We all loved our eldest grandchild doing a reprise of Christmas carols from his pre-school concert. Christmas Day with our son-in-law’s family was traditional Christmas fare, all gathered around a long table mixing the families…thanks go to the other Nanna, ably assisted by Chef Jamie, for the wonderful meal and the Tiramisu queen for her dessert!. Christmas 2011 was a relaxed and happy time.

So, thinking that all the celebrations were complete, how delightful to open the computer yesterday and find wonderfully kind and supportive blogiversary greetings from my genie buddies. It was as much fun as opening Christmas presents from under the tree! Thank you for your virtual gifts!