Here we are in the last month of what has been a very interesting year. We have become familiar with social distancing, lockdowns, masks, different colours for stages of how areas are doing, and daily updates on COVID-19’s spread. This a lot of things we wish we hadn’t become familiar with, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel as we hear that vaccines have begun rolling out across the country.

Let’s hope that we can get through Christmas with some of the joy of the season. For me, the most disappointing aspect of the pandemic was having to miss a cruise in September that had been booked a year and a half before. I was going to take my son and my grandson on the Queen Mary 2 across the Atlantic from New York to Southampton, England and back. Now that my grandson has turned sixteen, I wonder when I will get a chance to go on a cruise with him.

I’ve been spreading my Christmas decorations around the house. It takes some time as I have eight Rubbermaid bins of decorations. This year I had wondered whether I should be doing a lot of decorating when I won’t even be able to have people in to see them. But I think it is important to have some sort of sense of normalcy.

My Mam loved Christmas. Preparation started in September with the making of the Christmas cakes. She was always picking up stuff (mostly chocolate) “for Christmas.” My Dad had a great dry sense of humour and as he unpacked the groceries he often held items up and asked “Is this for Christmas?” Her love for Christmas was passed on to my sister and I, and we continue to copy her Christmas ways. One day I said to my sister, “Mam is watching you know!”

For many years I made shortbread to give as part of gifts. This recipe is one that came from a Scottish friend of Mam’s. It makes a lot of them, and a bit of patience is needed as you make them. Everyone seemed to like them. While I was teaching, different people would call me and ask me for the recipe every year. So they must have been good. It would probably be a good recipe to cut in half.
3 cups of butter (one and a half pounds)
1 ½ cups of sugar
8 oz package of rice flour (1 ½ cups)
6 cups of all-purpose flour
Cream butter and sugar.
Blend in rice flour and white flour.
It will be very crumbly. This is where you need the patience. You knead the mixture until it holds together. Roll it out to about 2 cm thick or so. Put it on a cookie sheet. Prick it all over with a fork. Then use a table knife to mark out the size of the cookies. Bake in a 250F oven. To be honest, the only recipe I had was the list of the four ingredients. The rest I figured out for myself. After about half an hour, start checking for readiness. When they come out of the oven, let them sit until they are cool enough to touch. Then take the table knife and cut them all the way to the bottom on the lines you drew. Enjoy!

Stockings were always full for everyone in the family along with wonderful gifts under the tree. Christmas morning started with Dad cooking a big breakfast with bacon, sausage, fried potatoes, eggs and some sort of buns. The turkey went into the oven with Mam’s usual bread stuffing made with parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. But the thing that made it special was a pound of sausage meat that she added. For the rest of the day until supper time, we noshed. The dining room table was filled with sausage rolls, cheese and crackers, Cadbury’s chocolate fingers, dishes of colourful candy, and probably a box of chocolates or two. The goodies were emptied from the table when it was time to set it for supper. Some years Mam rented the dishes so when we finished, everything was put back in the boxes ready to return the next day.

Christmas dinner was always a lavish affair. Along with the turkey and dressing, we usually had mashed and roast potatoes for starters, then Mam and Dad probably prepared every vegetable known to man! Before we could eat, we had to pull the Christmas crackers and put on our paper hats. We had to look at the toys that fell out of the crackers and listen as everyone competed to read their joke. All these years later, since my sister and I were young, we still do the same things. At the end of the meal the Christmas pudding was brought to the table. A lavish amount of brandy made sure that there was a bright flame as it was carried in! Everyone got a coin in their dish of pudding topped with a custard, and rum sauce. We’d all go to bed tired but happy. Mam’s tradition still lives on! 

Over the years, I have taken pictures of my son with the Christmas stocking I made him forty-four years ago. Now I do my son and my grandson!

In spite of the kind of year most of us have had, I’m looking forward to Christmas. I hope you are too,

Wishing you all a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

About the Author

Linda Calder is a retired teacher. She likes to write and enjoys spending time with her family. She also enjoys going on cruises, taking pictures and scrapbooking.