Part of being a father is remembering the good stuff from your own childhood, and trying as best you can to replicate it for your own Children.
My own childhood was full of ‘ups and downs’, but Christmas was always a time of joy. My dad, in particular, was really big on Christmas and was probably more excited about it that we were as children.
I don’t have a great many memories of the build-up to Christmas itself. I recall one occasion visiting Santa in his Grotto (which, if memory serves me right was in a shoe shop, of all places!). Aside from that, we didn’t do any other special activities. With that said, during the 80’s I don’t think there were anywhere near the number of activities available that there are today. Certainly, things like Christmas Markets, Christmas Fairs etc weren’t a think back then. If they were, they were well hidden from us!
While we’d obviously be excited in the lead up to Christmas, which always began armed with a pen and the Argos catalogue, it was Christmas eve where it peaked for us. The anticipation and excitement would reach fever point and we’d be counting down the hours till bedtime.
There were 2 highlights to Christmas Eve for us. The first was waiting for Santa to visit our street before bedtime. Our local council at the time used to decorate their tipper vans as sleighs and dress council workers as Santa. They would then visit every street in town. All of which I was blissfully unaware of as a child. As far as I was concerned, it was just ‘Santa’. We could hear him approaching as he’d ring out a large bell as he entered each street, stop for a few minutes to wish all the children that came out a Merry Christmas, then be on his way.
Looking back, it was such a special thing for the council to do. I know it added a lot of magic to our Christmas as we were growing up. Despite cutbacks, the same council have continued this tradition to this very day. Sadly I haven’t lived there for over 25 years, so my own children have never had the pleasure.
After Santa had been, it was bath and pyjama time – ready to watch ‘The Snowman’ on Channel 4. I was 4 or 5 years old when this was first released, and I always remember watching this before bed on Christmas eve. I’ve grown up thinking it was always broadcast at that time, but looking at the historical listings, it actually rarely was – especially through my childhood years. I can only assume therefore that we had it on VHS.
We’d then prepare the mince pies, a glass of sherry and a carrot for Rudolph and place them on the kitchen table before heading to bed. It used to take us HOURS to get to sleep. I recall wondering why it was my parents always chose that night of all to sort out the loft(!).
Christmas morning was always the same turn of events. Having taken so long to get to sleep, we were never the first to wake – it was always my Dad that would come bursting in at 3am announcing that ‘He’s been!’. Despite having been told this, we’d still tiptoe downstairs and peek through the door to see if there were indeed any presents there. We’d then burst in full of excitement. The sofas and chairs would all be crammed with presents for my brother and me. We’d both sit and work our way through the haul at the same time. Typically my Dad would sit with me, and my Mum with my brother. After each unwrapping, we’d show the other what we’d opened.
By the end, the living room was littered with discarded wrapping paper, and toys stacked in all directions. Breakfast was always a Kellogs multipack box. Christmas was the only time we ever had those, for some reason. This was followed by a choice from one of what was usually many selection boxes. My Dad would always drink a can of beer – which was odd as he wasn’t a big drinker. My Mum would always go back to bed.
The day would typically revolve around playing with the toys we’d received. I vividly remember spending all day playing with ‘Masters of the Universe’ toys with my brother. I’d received Snake Mountain, while my brother had Castle Grayskull. We’d usually visit our grandparents for Christmas Dinner – I don’t recall my mum ever making it. That in itself was something of a blessing, as her cooking abilities put me off ‘Sunday dinners’ for years.
By the end of the day, we’d be well and truly ready for sleep!