Wednesday, December 10, 2014

THE LIST SO FAR....So This is Christmas Geneameme Bloggers

List of Blogs which participated in the So This Is Christmas 2014 Geneameme


Thankyou to the bloggers who are joining me in sharing precious childhood Christmas memories through my Christmas geneameme. The following blog posts are filled with most varied and entertaining Christmas anecdotes. For anyone who hasn't yet participated but wishes to do so, just leave me a link to your blog and I will add it to the following list of blogs and bloggers.

You Are Where You Came From   - Kathleen Scarlet O'Hara Naylor

Family history across the seas  - Pauleen Cass

Shauna Hicks Family Enterprises  - Shauna Hicks

GenieQ    - Helen O'Connor

lonetester HQ  - Alona Tester

That Moment in Time  - Chris Goopy

A Rebel Hand    - Frances Owen

Monday, December 8, 2014

So This is Christmas - and what have you done? My Christmas GeneaMeme

I My Response to my So this is Christmas and what have you done Geneameme?

Throughout the next few weeks of December, I will be publishing and updating a list of bloggers who participated in this Christmas GeneaMeme. Please leave a comment on my blog or send me a message if you wish for your blog to be included in the list. Some bloggers have already responded so I had better get moving and write my own response. Here is my own So This is Christmas Geneameme.....




Christmas, when I was a child, was always a time of year that I looked forward to with great excitement. Christmas in my home, was regarded as a religious celebration in that we always attended a church service on Christmas morning. I do recall as a very young child, thinking it unfair that I had to to go to church just after opening my lovely Christmas presents! From the age of 7 I sang in our church choir and my favourite time to be a chorister was during the Christmas service. I remember feeling very proud wearing my light blue chorister's gown and singing Away in a Manger, Silent Night and O Come All Ye Faithful with the children's choir on Christmas morning. Christmas day was spent with extended family, enjoying a delicious lunch at the home of one or the other grandparent. My favourite Christmas days were those where both sides of the family gathered together, although this did not happen often. My paternal family was very musical and Christmas day spent with my McDade grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins was a day of concerts and singing. Christmas Day with my maternal grandmother always meant a swim at the beach in the afternoon, because she lived at Maroochydore on the Sunshine Coast, north of Brisbane. This was always a much anticipated Christmas afternoon acitivity, since Christmas Day in Australia usually means very hot weather. My mother and my paternal grandmother were both amazing cooks so Christmas was very much about scrumptious food!


Very few Christmas days were spent in my own home as a child. My maternal grandmother lived on the Sunshine Coast, a drive of two and a half hours in those days (or longer if the car wouldn't make it up Buderim Mountain [showing my age here, for those who recall travelling to the North Coast years ago....]). We often spent Christmas at Maroochydore, but on those occasions, my paternal grandparents and cousins sometimes traveled north to have Christmas lunch with us. Other Christmas lunches were held at the home of my paternal grandparents at Garfield Drive, Paddington Heights, in Brisbane. One Christmas Day when I was 13 years old, my family, my parents and two sisters and myself, had Christmas lunch at the Aero Club at Archerfield where my father was a club member. I am not sure why we did that (my mother had cancer around that time so perhaps it was to save her from cooking) but I do remember thinking that it didn't really feel like Christmas day without my mother's lovely home cooking. 


As a child, my sisters and I always left out  delicious refreshments for Santa. After all, he did have a very long night and Australia was one of his first stops before heading all the way over to the other side of the world. So we fed him well. Our family tradition was to leave a plate of delicious fruit mince pies baked by my mother. They had a thick brandy sauce to accompany them. Santa also received a nice cold soft drink (fizzy drink for my American friends) to help him on his way. Not forgetting the reindeer, we put carrots and lettuce out. All of this was placed near the Christmas tree and Santa must have had quite an appetite because never once left even a crumb behind.
Pauleen Cass in her Christmas Geneameme post reminded me that we also left a Christmas beer out for the garbage collectors and the milkman. 


Today, my family has an artificial Christmas tree, but during my childhood we decorated a real tree every Christmas. The smell of a fresh pine tree to this day, evokes  childhood Christmas memories for me. The highway  to the Sunshine Coast north of Brisbane was bedecked with an alternate patchwork of pineapple plantations and pine forests and a more perfect place to cut  a Christmas tree you could not find.... so every December, at night,  my father drove us north along the Bruce highway where Christmas trees grew in abundance seemingly just for the taking.. There we joined other families also searching by torchlight for their perfect Christmas tree. As a child, I didn't once wonder why we always went Christmas tree hunting at night by the light of a torch or why we didn't simply cut down a tree  in broad daylight....Only later did I I realize that  my early childhood Christmas trees were saplings growing amidst state pine forestry plantations. The small trees we and other folk cut were mere saplings seeded from the larger trees and would have never been needed for timber, but  I can't help chuckling at my father's audacity! I have such joyous memories of  joining other families search ing for Christmas trees by torchlight in the eerie shadows of giant pines at the foot of the Glasshouse Mountains.  For me, the simple joy of cutting down our own Christmas tree, was an exciting adventure to look forward to every year. 


One of my favourite things to do as a child, in the months leading up to Christmas, was to make Christmas decorations to bedeck both the Christmas tree and our home. Each December, our house was filled with paper, glue, glitter and an assortment of other craft essentials. Towards the end of the school year, which is in December in Australia, hot classsrooms resounded with the sound of happy childrens' laughter as tired teachers abandoned learning in favour of Christmas craft activities. At home I created glittering decorations from dozens of gold and silver milk bottle tops strung together by means of a needle and thick coloured thread. Foil lids were washed and saved all year with the great anticipation of transforming these everyday items into wondrous Christmas ornaments. Milk bottle lids were also easily fashioned into pretty bells to be hung on the tree. 
Milk bottle lids such as this were used to make decorations Image Wikimedia ©©
Every piece of colourful wrapping paper from the previous Christmas was saved to make bright paper chains to bedeck the tree. Patiently my sister and I cut many even strips of paper and glued the first one into a circle. Each subsequent strip was joined to make long paper Christmas chains to be draped around the Christmas tree and also hung from window to window in our home.

Image ©©
Possibly my favourite Christmas decorations to make were paper lanterns. This involved folding and cutting and gluing a piece of paper into a lantern shape and adding a paper or string handle to hang it from a branch of the tree. 

paper lanterns Image labelled for reuse ©©
I am certain we must have had other Christmas tree decorations and ornaments but the only ones I can recall now are those colourful homemade decorations which adorned our tree year after year. Decorating the tree was a family affair although I don't recall my father helping. Sometimes he played Christmas carols on the piano while we sang and placed our decorations on the tree. 


My first home, where I lived until age seven, had a Christmas tree growing in the front yard so each Christmas, my parents put lights on it. At our next and subsequent homes we put a Wreath on the front door but no other outdoor decorations were used. When an umbrella tree grew high enough in our front garden at Jindalee, my mother decorated it with tinsel. I remember my father taking us for a drive to see a street where the owner of one house had put many Christmas lights outdoors. It seemed like a fairy wonderland to me as a young child.I don't recall homes or indeed entire streets being decorated with lights and decorations as they are in many places these days. Probably the highlight of each year for me as a child was a trip to the city centre to see the large Christmas tree which sat wondrously decorated in front of the City Hall.


Christmas cards we received were always hung on string on the wall between two windows in our lounge (living) room. My mother was the person who sent Christmas cards to family and friends. My sister and I made Christmas cards for family members. We loved craft activities so this was something we looked forward to each Christmas. 


When I was a child my 'Christmas stocking' was a pillow case which my mother had sewn and embroidered a Christmas design on the front of. We called these our Santa sacks. Our names were embroidered on the pillow cases as well. I carried this tradition on with my own children, although they also had a traditional stocking as well which an elderly neighbour made for them each. A stocking may be more traditional but I must say I didn't ever feel we missed out with our pillow cases....  Possibly because it takes quite a few toys to fill a pillow case! Our 'Santa sack' pillow cases were left at the foot of our beds and we awoke to find them filled on Christmas morning. Usually in the Santa Sack we found toys, books or things useful for our holidays at Maroochydore, such as goggles, flippers and snorkels, or a beach ball, buckets and spades, beach towels and bags as we grew older or other small gifts. I  recall thinking how amazing it was that Santa somehow always knew that we were having a trip to the beach and so provided us with appropriate gifts. One present, each Christmas, was wrapped and left under the Christmas tree and this was from my parents. When I was aged nine, I remember the excitement of receiving my first camera. But for the 1974 floods, I would still have the photographs I took with that camera on our Christmas holiday that year. 


Our immediate family opened presents on Christmas morning ( far too early for my parents I recall). Other gifts from grandparents were opened after lunch.
Our extended family all exchanged Christmas gifts and these were small presents such as brush and comb sets or jewelery boxes, books  or cars and trucks for my male cousins. My paternal grandmother, right up until her death aged 93, when blind, made our Christmas gifts. Each year we cherished the lovingly crocheted tops, dresses, bags, bikinis she made for us. As we grew older, she made items for our glory boxes and these were our Christmas gifts from her. I still have the beautiful tea towels she hand embroidered and crochet edged (I have never been able to use them) and the doilies, table cloths that she sewed. Some have been thoroughly made use of but I have kept a few items to pass down to my children.

One of the TeaTowels embroidered and edged by my grandmother.  Image sharnwhite©

Crocheted flowers on a 'hostesss' apron my grandmother made for my glory box Image sharnwhite©


My favourite Christmas present is easy to remember for two reasons. The first is that I had desperately wanted this present for many years but was told I must wait until I was twelve years old to be responsible enough to own it. It was a bicycle. Little did my parents know that I had been riding a friend's bicycle all around the locality in which we lived for some years. I was a competent rider but I couldn't tell them this because I was forbidden to ride until the age of twelve. The second reason I recall this gift is that my ten year old sister received a bicycle the same Christmas. As excited as I was to finally have the bicycle I had asked for every Christmas since I was seven, my joy was dampened by the fact that my sister not only received her bicycle two years early, but I was thoroughly convinced that her bright red bike was much prettier than my black one. I never let my parents know that I was disappointed and in the end it was much more fun riding with my sister than on my own and my disappointment was short lived. We lived on 12 1/2 acres on the outskirts of Brisbane and the very hilly roads were made of dirt and not sealed. Our father insisted he drive behind us when we first ventured on to the road. My parents, having no idea that I had been cycling on friend's bicycles for some years, could not believe how quickly I took to bicycle riding! 


Since my family was musical, Christmas gifts sometimes consisted of a musical instrument. One Christmas I received a flute and another, a guitar. I was pleased to learn to play these instruments, however, throughout my entire childhood years,  all I really wanted, was to learn to play the piano accordion. My Scottish born grandfather had taught me to play a small button accordion which he had brought to Australia from Glasgow and I desperately wanted to learn to play a 'proper' piano accordion.  This was one instrument that neither of my parents liked so there was never going to be an accordion sitting beneath the Christmas tree for me. I persistently put a request for an accordion in my letter to Santa every year and each Christmas I was certain that somehow my mother had been in touch with him to cancle my order! 
This was not the vision my mother had in mind for me..... Image Wikimedia ©©


At Primary School, each year I gave my teachers a Christmas present. I think these gift were usually handkerchiefs.  Now, after reading the Christmas memories of  others in their geneamemes,  I can't help thinking that our school teachers were possibly not as excited about Christmas as we children were, with the prospect looming each year of taking home all those hankies!  My close friends and I exchanged small gifts, however, I don't really recall what these were. 


With a mother and a paternal grandmother who were both excellent cooks, Christmas was always a time to enjoy scrumptious food. My grandmother who had been born in Northern Ireland, carried on her Irish family tradition of cooking a hot traditional roast turkey and vegetables for lunch on Christmas day, followed by a boiled plum pudding. Finding a threepence or a sixpence (later five cents ) in my piece of pudding was the highlight of Christmas lunch. My grandmother's custard, ice cream and Christmas shortbread stand out distinctly in my Christmas food memories. She passed on to me her secret recipes for these tasty treats after I married, and I will pass on the recipe to my own daughters. 

Christmas lunch at the beach  home of my maternal grandmother was much as mine is today - a cold lunch befitting the hot Australian Christmas weather. Ocasionally we enjoyed lunch outdoors if the day was not too hot. Usually our North Coast main meal in the middle of the day, consisted of a variety of cold meats, ham, turkey, chicken, pork, and many and a great variety of delicious salads. Mum was a very inventive cook! My mother spent the weeks leading up to Christmas day, in a frenzy of  cooking. There were Christmas cakes, fruit mince pies with brandy sauce (a recipe I dearly wish I had  asked for before she succumbed to Alzheimers in her late forties), coconut ice, fudge, turkish delight, and many other Christmas delicacies. My mother's salads were legendary among our family  and friends and her homemade mayonnaise is another recipe I wish I had today. 


My grandmother's shortbread recipe is still used today at for a Christmas treat in our home. It is still the best shortbread I have ever tasted!

Image Wikimedia Creative Commons ©©


When I was a child, each Christmas Eve we gathered as a family to admire the Christmas tree bedecked with splendid home made decorations and colourful Christmas lights (I had no idea then that it had been unlawfully obtained) and we sang Carols together. Either my mother or my father played the piano to accompany us and I remember when I was around 12 years old, my sister and I played the guitar to accompany the piano. My sister and I practiced singing harmonies for weeks and we often gave a small guitar accompanied concert for the family. Music was an important part of my family's life.
On Christmas Eve, before bedtime, we children placed our Santa sack pillow cases at the foot of our beds and tried to stay awake for as long as we could to see Santa arrive. One sister has always claimed that she caught a glimpse of Santa Clause in his red suit climbing out of the bedroom window (in Australia not all homes have fireplaces or chimneys) and who knows? Isn't it a good thing to have a little magic in life to believe in...

Did my sister see Santa? Image Wikimedia Creative Commons ©©


As a child I had two favourite Christmas carols that I sang incessantly around the house. I must have driven my family crazy! They weren't the usual childhood favourites, such as Away in a Manger or Jungle Bells or Silent Night. The song I sang the most was The Holy City.  I simply adored this Christmas Hymn which I had learned in the church choir and it still stirs emotion when I hear it.

My other favourite Christmas song was I saw Mummy Kissing Santa Clause.  


In Australia, the school year ends in December, and the last day of the school year was always spent having a Christmas party. Each child took a plate of party food to school and school uniforms were abandoned for the day. Children exchanged gifts with friends and teachers, and I remember many of these days as being much fun. 
My father's work parties were always very much child focused. When my father worked for Massey Ferguson Santa Clause arrived at the party every year on a tractor and gave every child a present. Hay rides in a wagon pulled by the tractor followed. 

Me, aged 5 at a Massey Ferguson Christmas Party © sharnwhite

I was fortunate to be involved in quite a few activities as a child so the month of December was a very busy one with parties to attend for Ballet, Tennis, Girl Guides and Gymnastics. 


I studied ballet, tap dancing and Irish dancing as a child and each year we had a ballet Concert just before Christmas. Along with other young dancers from the Audrey Buchanan Ballet School, I danced a number of times in the Christmas Pantomime which was held every Christmas at the Brisbane City Hall. Prior to each of those pantomimes I always had a vision of myself being given a part which required a flowinglong tutu or princess gown but... alas, I was from memory, a mouse, a Christmas present and a red striped candy cane. On a high note, I do get to boast that I danced with the Queensland and Australian Ballet Companies. If prancing around as a little grey mouse or struggling to dance at all in a tight red and white candy cane costume counts.....

I finally got to wear a tutu! Image sharnwhite ©


I was very fortunate that as a child, my maternal grandmother lived at Maroochydore, on the Sunshine Coast, north of Brisbane. I don't remember ever spending a school holiday, especially the long summer Christmas holidays at home. We had several holidays with my paternal grandparents, one at Caloundra  on the Sunshine Coast and another at Labrador on the Gold Coast. The Christmas holidays were a time of complete freedom. I grew up in an age of innocence at a time when children could wander freely about, without fear of danger. My sister and I walked to the beach on our own aged  7 and 9 years. We swam in the surf and rode inflated tubes on the waves. We ate ice-cream on the way home and got into trouble for staying too long in the sun and getting sunburned. I knew many of the local children and together with them, we played in the high sand dunes that lined the surf beach. At Cotton Tree, where the mouth of the Maroochy River reaches the ocean, we frolicked in the calm water. As we grew older a roller skating rink nearby became a favourite place to spend our time. My father didn't always have work holidays around Christmas time but when was able come with us, I loved going boating and fishing with him in the Maroochy River.  My Christmas holidays were idyllic. I look back on those days and I am very grateful for my wonderful Christmas holidays.


I don't have a very early memory of Christmas day itself, but I do remember  attending a Massey Ferguson Christmas Party when I was only four or five. It may even be the one I am pictured in below. Santa Clause arrived on a big red Massey Ferguson tractor which was very impressive! I recall being too shy to go up to Santa Clause to receive my present, and my father taking me by the hand and walking with me. I also remember wanting my ride on the hay wagon pulled by Santa's tractor, to go on forever! If it was the party I was attending in the below photo that I'm remembering, then I have other less happy childish memories. I was five years old and had lost my front two teeth. I did not want to be photographed because of this and I refused to smile properly. I also was upset that day that my mother had pulled my fringe back off my face. I did love my new blue and white dress which my mother had sewed especially for me with its lovely white broderie anglaise apron over it. That Christmas dress was probably my favourite childhood dress. 


CHRISTMAS 2014....