My grandma’s fifteenth Christmas was 55 years ago. She was raised near the railway crossing not far from Saxmundham. On Boxing Day this year, we sat down for ‘left overs lunch’ together as she shared some of her memories of Christmas.
In a small house with three siblings, their Christmases were humble. She would receive three presents in her sock or stocking, one of which was an orange or satsuma (some things never change!), a small piece of chocolate and one present from under the tree.
Instead of turkey they had chicken as a rare and expensive alternative to the usual Sunday roast beef. One year they couldn’t have a Christmas tree, so Grandma’s brother went out to the woods and cut the top off a small holly tree. They dressed it with homemade decorations. Her mum would normally sew or knit them or they would make them from folded paper.
Like us, they played games and went for walks on Christmas Day. Living in the countryside back then, they didn’t have electricity so there were no Strictly or Bake Off Christmas specials, no playing of online Xbox games with friends.
From what she said, it’s clear they still enjoyed a magical day being together.
This year, my fifteenth Christmas, was somewhat different. My oversized stocking was bulging and our tree stood in a sea of presents. I received eight different types of chocolate from biscuits and bars to boxes from Belgium. On Christmas Day itself, my friends regularly updated me about their presents through social media. We all opened many gifts with cosmetics and perfumes from Ted Baker and co, Beats wireless headphones, Fitbits and iPads.
Christmas dinner was an eclectic mix of traditions. We sourced local fruit and vegetables from Bury market, homemade nut roast and gravy (Jamie’s recipe from the internet) and wine, juices and cheeses from far and wide.
Using Facetime I was able to laugh with my other grandparents who were spending their first Christmas with my uncle’s family in Sydney. I watched my cousin frown as she interpreted the instructions for her new Lego toys. I listened to Nanny (my other grandmother) tell me about how in Australia they were low-key in their celebrations. They enjoyed fresh fish and octopus from the market and went for a walk along the beach in the afternoon in a glorious thirty five degrees Celsius (not Fahrenheit).
Although I was unable to be with them physically this year, through the wonders of technology we celebrated together.
So what does the future hold for Christmas? Times change, but does the meaning change as well? Will my future granddaughter’s fifteenth Christmas be consumed with ever greater gifts, bigger Boxing Day sales and even more exotic flavours and TV feasts?
Whatever the future holds, for Grandma and me, time with family and friends whether virtual or physical, was, is and will always be the most important part of any Christmas. Some things never change.
-- Matilda Potter is a student at King Edward VI School, Bury St Edmunds