In the run up to Christmas Day I am going to share some of my memories of this time of year, some favourite food and drinks, plus some music you might enjoy. I have taken snippets from 2016 and 2018 to share with you.
First to get you in the mood…. one of the iconic Christmas songs is given the Mel Torme touch...Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas..
My Christmas memories
I love Christmas as you have probably gathered over the last few days with my memories and adventures. There was a time in my life when Christmas was not really a time of celebration and it culminated in the November of 1977 when at age 24 my first marriage of four years finally fell apart. It is a long time in the past now but I do remember that particular Christmas as being the hardest I had ever faced.
Divorce in those days was still very frowned upon and appearances could be very important. Especially as I was the one walking away. At a distance over 40 years later it is easier to put things into perspective, but at the time the hurt was very real, and there was little sympathy for those who gave up on their vows however valid the reasons.
I gave up everything I owned except for two small suit cases. It broke my heart to leave behind my beloved collie, but I knew that he would be well taken care of by my husband’s family. I had no roof over my head or any prospects, and it is one of those times in your life when you have to make a decision to save yourself and take the consequences. I had about £50 that I had taken out of our joint savings account and that had to last me until I found a job. I stayed with a friend of my mother’s in her small house and paid £5 per week for full board. I earned some cash in hand by helping a local dress shop owner get a cafe started in the back of the store, while I looked around for something more permanent.
In those days there was no Internet and few recruitment agencies. I had been a senior receptionist in a hotel, and thankfully done management training with a restaurant chain as well as run my own kitchen in a large public house that I co-managed. I needed a roof over my head and fast before my money ran out, and in those days the top magazine for all domestic and hotel jobs was The Lady. I applied to one or two live in housekeeper jobs but heard nothing back, but then I spotted an advert for a housekeeper/caterer for a public school in Sussex. They were looking for a manager who was older and more experienced than I was, and when I was asked for an interview there was quite a bit of scepticism about the likelihood of me being hired from family and friends.
I returned from Sussex on the train with £15 left in my purse and facing Christmas four days away. That was the lowest point in my life and I struggled against the general belief that I should return to my husband whatever the circumstances and accept the situation. On Christmas Eve just before my resolve was about to be broken, I received a telegram from the the delightful headmaster and his wife at the school. I was sure that it was going to be a rejection and it took me a while to open the envelope.
Me and the school mascot!
They wanted me to start in the first week of January before the children returned to school after the holidays. I would have my own self contained flat in one of the school cottages and £25 per week. I think that you can imagine how I felt on receiving this very special Christmas Gift. That is why I love Christmas. It was a defining moment in my life and the road I then followed, eventually led to me to meet my husband David three years later, and funnily enough when I had moved to another job that had been advertised in The Lady….lucky magazine that and still going strong.
Two more iconic performers now put on a display that would make any Christmas Party go with a swing..James Cagney and Bob Hope dance off.
The Twelve Days of Christmas.
Day 7 (31st December): New Years Eve (known as Hogmanay in Scotland). One of the earliest Popes Sylvester I is celebrated on this day. He is still remembered across central and eastern Europe and you will often find New Year’s Eve referred to as ‘Silvester’ New Year’s Eve in the UK was celebrated from medieval times but with sport particularly archery which was mandatory for all men between the ages of 17-60 – the territorial army of its day with men trained to fight.
Over the years many interesting traditions have developed for celebrating the turn of the old year to the new and of course the making of resolutions….
It is rumoured that all the gifts of Christmas originally were code references to various Catholic beliefs that had to be kept secret during the various persecutions that occurred over the centuries from around 1530. There is little evidence this is the case but the Seven Swans Swimming were said to represent the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. The first time the carol was sung in Britain was in the 18th Century and was a game where if you forgot a verse you paid the price in the form of sweets or a kiss…I think I played that game once.
I can beat the Seven Swans – feeding time at Bray Harbour in Southern Ireland…
If you have not yet listened to the amazing Pentonix then here is there version of Deck the Halls…from their Youtube channel..PTXofficial
The carol dates back to the 16th century and actually started a Welsh song usually sung on New Year’s Eve… “Nos Galan” was published in English with lyrics by Thomas Oliphant.
The popular “Deck the Halls” song is a Christmas carol that dates back to the sixteenth century. It wasn’t always associated with Christmas, however; the melody comes from a Welsh winter song called “Nos Galan,” which is actually about New Year’s Eve.
The first time “Deck the Halls” was published with English lyrics was in 1862, in Welsh Melodies, Vol. 2, featuring Welsh lyrics by John Jones and English lyrics written by Thomas Oliphant.
Now time for some Christmas food traditions… no turkey would be complete without the stuffing.
As always Carol Taylor has this covered and you will wow the family with her take on this important element of Christmas dinner including Rice, walnut and Squash, Date and Bacon, Mushroom and the traditional Pork, Sage and Onion stuffing: Homemade Stuffing at Carol Taylor’s Blog
I do enjoy a good sherry before a meal and of course living in Spain there was a plentiful selection of excellent varieties. We did travel through the country in the 17 years that we lived in Madrid, and a visit to Jerez is intoxicating…..and you can also find some of the most beautiful Andulsian horses combined with Flamenco.. I have seen this live as part of the Andulsian version of Carmen.
There are three main types of sherry – dry, medium and sweet. You would probably enjoy a chilled dry sherry before a heavier fatty meal, a medium with a lighter fish meal perhaps and the sweet goes well with dessert.
The supermarkets are producing some great dry sherry and you might try an Oloroso or Fino and chill in the fridge first… For a medium – Amontillado Sherry and a richer Cream Sherry both available from Jerez and in supermarkets.
For more information on top of the range sherries and their origins: Liquorista Best Sherry 2020
Thank you for dropping in today and as always I love to receive your feedback.. thanks Sally.