Your Christmas memories...
Pack a family into a room, ply them with food and wine, add the political pressure cooker of buying the right gifts into the mix, and it's no wonder Christmas tends to create so many memorable occasions...
Originally published in Surrey Life magazine December 2010
Pack a family into a room, ply them with food and wine, add the political pressure cooker of buying the right gifts into the mix, and it’s no wonder Christmas tends to create so many memorable occasions. Here, Surrey Life staff and readers share their favourite festive anecdotes: the good, the bad and the downright hilarious...
We want to hear your favourite festive stories! It could be anything from a quirky family tradition to a stand out Christmas moment. Perhaps your other half proposed? Or maybe the dog ate the turkey and you forgot the nut roast for your vegetarian niece? Whatever it is, we’d love to hear from you, so drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or comment below...
A flock of black sheep, by Sian Rowland, contributor, Surrey Life“When I was a primary school teacher, it was Year One’s duty to put on the nativity play. Casting a whole class of five and six-year-olds is always tricky so we ended up with a veritable army of boy shepherds.
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“The parents dutifully provided dressing-gown robes and tea-towel head-dresses for their small sons. It would be nice, we suggested, if one or two children even had a toy sheep to lay at the crib.
“Taking us at our word, each and every shepherd arrived clutching a cuddly sheep ready for the performance. As the big moment arrived, the first shepherd stomped onto stage, tripped over the hem of his robe and plonked his toy at the feet of baby Jesus. Not known for his previous acting prowess but obviously inspired by the scene, he declared in a loud monotone, ‘I bring you the gift of a lamb.’ The audience was clearly moved as shepherd number two, inspired by his friend’s Shakespearian performance, tripped onto stage intoning, ‘I bring you the gift of a lamb.’ “The entire shepherd army decided that these were wise words indeed so one by one as they tripped over their hems they tonelessly uttered the now immortal lines, ‘I bring you the gift of a lamb.’ By now, the audience was in tears of laughter as the pile of lambs grew ever taller and ‘I bring you the gift of a lamb’ was droned out yet again. We teachers were mortified but the parents adored the whole thing.”
Going cold turkey, by Brenda Painter, reader, Copthorne“My widowed mother was with us all for Christmas, as always. Everything was prepared and turkey duly placed in the oven early in the day. I went to check that the turkey was ready only to find that the electric oven had given up the ghost part way through cooking and the turkey was nowhere near ready. Panicking, I chopped off the wings and legs to put in the microwave and took the body of the bird round to a neighbour to finish off cooking. Obviously, I was completely distraught, but after a couple of glasses of wine, relaxed and saw the funny side of the situation. Needless to say, next day my poor husband was dragged out to find a new cooker, which we still have to this day!”
Peace and goodwill to all men, by Emma Ward, columnist, Surrey Life“When it comes to deciding which Christmas has been my most memorable, I have a fair selection to choose from. Nine years ago, my new husband and I spent a wonderful first Christmas together in our home with only a few sticks of tatty donated furniture to eat our turkey on. A few years later, I lost my voice over Christmas week due to a nasty bout of laryngitis. I lost count of the number of wise-cracking friends and family who congratulated my husband on discovering the true meaning of yuletide peace over the holidays. Very funny, I’m sure...
“But I think my most memorable Christmas of all has to be that of 2008; just two weeks after the birth of my youngest son, Jonathan. Destined to be a Christmas baby, he was too impatient to wait, and arrived early to join in the fun.
“I don’t know about Father Christmas not getting much sleep that Christmas Eve but we must have managed about two hours kip overall, what with feeding/calming/changing Jonathan and stopping his over-excited older brother from ripping open his stocking presents right then and there, in the small hours of the morning.
“Still, our very own Yuletide miracle more than made up for our lack of sleep. Jonathan gurgled and cooed his way through his inaugural Christmas like a pro, delighting in rustling wrapping paper, chewing on boxes and taking naps in front of the fire. Not sure we’ll ever get a Christmas present to top that.”
Please, don’t pass the wine! by Nicholas Owen, contributor, Surrey Life“The TV news world has changed a great deal. There is much less money about today, and much more hard work. Things were easier in 1989, when I was asked to present the ITN news on Christmas Day itself. It is never a popular shift.
There was a carrot, however. ‘Take yourself and the family to a good London hotel and have lunch on ITN,’ said my boss. So my wife, two children, mother-in-law and I sat down to a magnificent Christmas spread at Claridges, no less. I wasn’t due on air till about 5pm, so there was plenty of time to enjoy ourselves. Oh, except for one thing… I was the one person who could not touch a drop of the enticing alcohol. A booze-free Christmas!”
Firing the festive flames, by Matthew Williams, staff writer, Surrey Life“My grandfather is always the life and soul of the Christmas party but one year he took centre stage in an even more spectacular way than is traditional.
"Crackers had been pulled, wine quaffed and turkey stuffed, as events reached their crescendo. Time for the Christmas pud (...and the brandy).
"Proud as punch, our protagonist proceeded to douse the humble pudding with his finest. The struck match had barely caressed the alcohol fumes when a pyre that Guy Fawkes himself would have been proud of erupted, consuming both the cake and the overhanging Christmas decorations.
"Panic ensued as family members threw whatever was closest to hand at the enveloping flames in their efforts to save the wooden Tudor cottage, which had previously stood so peacefully for centuries.
"Suffice to say, once the situation was rescued, Grandpa resumed his usual air of perfect calm and control and slept well through the festive movie selection that evening.”
What every woman really wants… by Diana Roberts, contributor, Surrey Life
“On my last Christmas as a 40-something, my mother decided to prepare me for the shock of the Big-50! Her present to me was a very elaborate Christmas stocking in the shape of a high-heeled boot (very appropriate I thought!), but inside I found: a book of jokes about aging; some anti-aging hand cream; a torch; a magnetic bracelet for arthritis; a notebook (so I could write reminders for all the things I’d forget); and some relaxing bubble bath to ease aches and pains! Although grateful, I did quickly remind her that I might be approaching 50, but she had a 50-year-old daughter and now might be a good time to start lying about MY age – as well as hers!”
It was the night before Christmas… by Tracy Cook, contributor, Surrey Life“It was Christmas Eve, the end of a busy day and we were exhausted. The final hurdle, before we could sleep, was to play Father Christmas and deliver presents to our over-excited children. At midnight, we started the vigil, sitting up in bed to stay awake, matchsticks propping open our eyelids. But my nine-year-old son, who still fervently believed in Santa, would not fall asleep. We kept peering round his bedroom door on the darkened landing at half-hourly intervals, only to hear him humming Jingle Bells enthusiastically under the covers.
“Finally, at 3.30am, as we were nodding off with exhaustion, all seemed quiet. Holding my breath in the chilly dark, I crept to his room to deliver his laden sack, stiffening at every crackle of the wrapping paper, before carefully depositing it at the foot of his bed.
“Early the next morning, he sat up in bed and surveyed his presents with sorrowful dismay. Eyes brimming with tears, he said he knew the bitter truth. Santa did not exist! He’d seen me coming in the night. Yikes! I’d just blown his Christmas dream...”
A special delivery, by Vanessa King, reader, Woking“Oh, I’m so fed up with being pregnant! My pelvis hurts, I can hardly walk, when is this baby coming out?!
“I go to St Peter’s Chertsey for my weekly check-up on Thursday December 20, 2007 and, joy, my blood pressure is high! The reason for my excitement was not my high blood pressure but that I was (not very) secretly looking for a reason to ask for an induction and nature provided. I rejoice and go home to pack my things.
“Monday 24 arrives, and I make my way back to the hospital with my husband, freezing! I settle into the ward, have the gel for induction and sit, reading and talking with my husband. Labour pains start pretty promptly and since this is my third child I have a pretty good idea what to expect. However, my labour progresses much more quickly than I anticipate and, after less than three hours of labour, I feel myself needing to push.
“Midwife, Clemie (who is a complete angel; there must be more of her!), says: ‘You can’t push yet, I want the Christmas baby!’ ‘Fine,’ I yell, ‘you have her then!’ and try not to push anyway. I really can be quite obliging when I feel like it.
“Sure enough my little darling makes her way into the world at 0.41am on Christmas Day 2007 – the first one at St Peter’s. All is well, although I’m a bit shocked with how fast it all happened.
“We are wheeled back to the ward and Naomi is put into a special cot with a sweet little blanket that has ‘Merry Christmas, Happy Birthday’ embroidered on it. She sleeps fantastically, as do I. At lunchtime, the midwife comes to my bedside and asks if I’d like to go home. I eye the Christmas lunch coming around the ward and say, ‘yes please!’
“By 1pm, my husband, three children and I are enjoying lunch at a friend’s house. Well, they’re enjoying lunch. I pass out on the bed and don’t come to until about 4pm!
“So Christmas 2007 will always be a very special day for us, and now we celebrate Christmas on December 26, so Naomi doesn’t have to share her birthday.”
It’s better to give than to receive, by Alison Bridge, columnist, Surrey Life“One year, I had 18 family and friends for Christmas lunch – about 12 more than I’m used to cooking for. A few were vegetarians, so as well as what I thought was an enormous turkey, I also cooked a big spinach and feta pie. I pushed three of my tables together, making one very long one that stretched from my conservatory into my husband’s study. We served up the food – turkey on a big platter, pie cut up in a huge tin and everyone seemed happy. Only a year or so later did my brother tell me that the turkey didn’t even reach the end of the table, and that everyone else ate spinach pie – and loved it!
Oh well, at least only the turkey was stuffed that year!”
What’s your favourite Christmas memory? Get in touch with your anecdotes at email@example.com or comment below...