Monday, 31 December 2012

Mystery Monday - "Are you going out, father?"

A photograph of Ellen Milton Palethorpe on her wedding day
Ellen Milton Palethorpe daughter of
Arthur Milton & cousin of novelist
As Aaron Sisson left his house on Christmas Eve his daughter Millicent called after him "You won't forget our candles, will you?".  It was the last time that Millicent would see her father.  He was meant to be going out to buy final decorations for the tree they had just decorated and to play his piccolo for Christmas carols at the pub in the Nottinghamshire mining village in which he lived. He didn't return and Millicent, her sister and mother never discovered what happened to him.

According to novelist D.H.Lawrence, Aaron left his wife and children that cold Christmas Eve in a search for freedom that took him first to London and then across Europe to Italy and finally Florence.  Lawrence, had no further interest in  Millicent and her sister but I find the story of the two little girls deserted by their father on Christmas night heart rending.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Memories of Christmas Past - Stir up Sunday

 "I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach." Charles Dickens - Christmas Carol

In the busy run up to Christmas my poor blog is getting a little neglected but a recent visit to my mum's for "Stir-up Sunday" gave me the idea that it would be interesting to explore my family's history by capturing the family's memories and stories of Christmas past.  Hopefully, this will help to pass on these memories to my daughter and future generations of the family.

"Stir-up-Sunday" is traditionally the last Sunday before Advent when British families would make Christmas pudding, Christmas cake and mincemeat with huge quantities of dried fruit and liberal doses of alcohol so that they all had time to "mature" for Christmas.  Whilst stirring the Christmas pudding everyone makes a wish.

At my mum's we had a wonderful time with three generations of the family busy stirring - some as you can see more vigorously than others!  For recipes we used my grandmother's fabulously named "Radiation Cookery Book" which was apparently a best seller in this country between the 1930s and 50s.

My grandmother, who came from a family of market gardeners, loved food and was a wonderful cook but on the first year after her mother's death was overwhelmed to discover that she inherited responsibility for making cake, pudding and mincemeat not only for her father but also for his four sisters and their families!

My grandmother took on all of this in at the height of the war in 1941 when her home city of Nottingham suffered it's own blitz in which over 100 Luftwaffe planes bombed the city for 2 consecutive nights.  She would also have had to produce all of this Christmas fare for five families with severely rationed food as in 1940 access to the butter, eggs, sugar and dried fruit essential for making it had been restricted.

Unfortunately, I never talked to my grandmother while she was alive of her experiences of Christmas during the war but would love to discover more, so if you have recorded any memories of your family's Christmas past please do add to the linky below.  Hopefully, I'll see you here again before Christmas but if not a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you and all your family!