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Cockermouth Post Article December 2015 – Christmases past

Here we are at the end of another year, about to celebrate Christmas. Not so very long ago Christmas was a much simpler affair for most people because there was not much money about. Back in the early 1900s:

“People didn’t have Christmas trees then; they had a Kissing Bush which hung from the ceiling in the living-room. It was made of holly and had all sorts of little toys on it and was kept up until New Year when the children got the toys. We always had full stockings on Christmas Day, with a sixpenny piece, sweets and small things like that. Then we went to church … someone stayed at home to make the dinner. This was usually chicken and Christmas pudding, which I didn’t like …”
(Annie Robinson of Maryport, in June Thistlethwaite’s ‘Cumbrian Women Remember’, 1995)

Or how about Adela Wright’s Christmas in the 1930s:

“We didn’t have much money but we always managed to fill their pillow cases. In those days Woolworth’s was a 3d and a 6d store, nothing cost more than 6d and they had all the games, dolls, toys cars and trinkets which were always appreciated … In the bottom of the Christmas stocking would be some pennies, nuts, sweets and fruit. Roast goose seemed popular for Christmas dinner and a jar of goose grease was kept as an old remedy for rubbing the chest when you had a bad cold. I can still remember the smell. Whether it did any good I don’t know.”
(from ‘Yance Ower’ – ‘Once Upon a Time’, by Clifton Oral History Group, editor Michael Gregson, n.d.)

A very different view of Christmas can be found in ‘The Diary of Isaac Fletcher of Underwood’ back in the 18th century. Isaac was a lawyer and a Quaker, living in the Mosser area. He kept a diary (1756-1781), which gives a unique view of everyday, local life. Quakers did not celebrate Christmas, and Isaac seems to have had a dim view of the festivities:

December 1775
Mon 25th – “This being Christmas Day, idleness, gaming and luxury much abound in these parts amongst most ranks of people, to the great scandal of themselves and the religious principles they pretend to profess …” (from ‘The Diary of Isaac Fletcher of Underwood, Cumberland 1756-1781, ed. Angus Winchester, 1994)

Whichever way you choose to celebrate your Christmas, we hope you enjoy it!

Gloria Edwards

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