Imagine Christmas without online shopping, central heating, cars, TV, expensive gifts and supermarket deliveries.
A traditional Christmas would’ve been a major challenge
For someone who relies on a last minute online trolley dash for presents and who wouldn’t bat an eyelid opting for ready-made starters, pigs-in-blanket and pudding for the festive meal, a traditional Christmas would have been a major challenge, I’ve discovered.
So, when I was invited to attend a traditional Christmas weekend at the Chiltern Open Air Museum, an educational charity celebrating the historical heritage of the Chilterns, in Buckinghamshire, I didn’t expect to be inspired.
Yet walking among historical buildings decorated with holly and ivy and talking to volunteers of the museum about their memories of post-war Christmas, has made me question our usual orgy of bright lights, tinsel and high-tech presents.
How to have a more traditional Christmas – what we can learn from Christmases past
1. Make your own decorations:
Marina Long, 77, of Chalfont St Peter, moved to the countryside in Gloucestershire at the start of the Second World War.
“Everything was scarce because of the ration books, so we hoarded stuff. We never got rid of anything. We started preparing for Christmas months in advance,” she says.
Marina remembers collecting sweet wrappers and coloured pages from magazines, which would be turned into homemade decorations. They used flour and water paste to glue paper chains together, as glue was a luxury.
The children also collected fir cones and painted them white.
“We only had a few shop bought decorations from before the war.”
A kewpie doll with coloured wings dating back to around 1937 still features on the top of Marina’s Christmas tree today – although she’s shed her wings through the years.
What I learned: Instead of rushing out to a department store to buy the latest trend in Christmas decorations – I’m going to fall in love again with our battered collection of decorations on the loft (some dating from before my first child was born 11 years ago). We’ll also make our own paper chains, snowflakes and fir cones this year – or that’s the plan any way.
2. Ditch the remote, forget the Xbox – play parlour games
“We had no television, so we would play Blindman’s buff, charades, riddles or word games,” remembers Marina.
Gathering around the open fire toasting crumpets, is another favourite memory.
What I’ve learned: I was so inspired by this idea that I did a bit of research about traditional parlour games and I’ve come up with a list to try with my poor unsuspecting family this year. It will be tough dragging them away from various screens and getting buy-in from a cool, know-it-all tween, but I’m adamant to solicit a few giggles this way.
3. Useful and homemade presents – (OK, maybe just useful!)
Marina says Christmas presents were either homemade or useful in those days.
“I remember being very excited about my first fountain pen when I was about 11, as we’d had only dipping pens in primary school.”
Her parents were good with their hands and another favourite present was a wooden cot made by her dad and clothes and bedding knitted by her mum for her favourite doll. “It was the best present.”
The children were encouraged to make their own gifts for relatives such as pincushions or embroidery.
What I’ve learned:
Imagine the time, skill and consideration needed to make presents for your family – as opposed to clicking a few items into your online shopping basket.
Sadly, I’ve been blessed by two left hands and the idea of making anything frankly terrifies me and any homemade gift from me under the tree would only result in fits of tears. But, I’ll resist the urge to buy expensive presents and spend more time thinking about useful and meaningful gifts.
Other traditional Christmas events in the The Chilterns
Traditional craft workshops at the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre in Great Missenden during December include creating your own buzzwangling advent calendars, splendiferous Christmas stockings, crackling Christmas crafts and a Christmas rapping session with the Big Friendly Poet.
Find out how the Tudors celebrated Christmas at the Amersham Museum. Meet Tudor guests and find out how the Tudors decorated their homes. Write a parchment label, help decorate our kissing bough and make a decorated yule log to take home.
Take advantage of the two-for-one entry offer at any of the three museums during December by Quoting the word: FAMILIESCHRISTMAS
Disclosure: We’ve been invited to attend the Chiltern Open Air Museum’s traditional Christmas weekend as a family. All impressions and opinions are honest and my own.by
Sounds like a lovely time. Might get my boys doing the popcorn garland they would love that!
Yes, I’m going to do that too. Even I should be able to manage that one..
Thanks for stopping by
wow this looks like such a lovely event, i love the idea of making decs but popcorn ones are probably a no go for me its my fave thing to eat in the world! by the end of day one my tree would be bare x
Hi Jaime. It was lovely – and I’m all fired up to have a more traditional Christmas now – hopefully will save a bit of money too.
I have two left hands as well! I love the idea of crafts but the end result is never quite how I imagine it should look. Certainly not Pinterest worthy….
No I have massive pinteterest envy. I wish I’d paid more attention in sewing and art classes at school.
This sounds absolutely brilliant. Alas it is a bit too far for us but I SO would have taken Grace. I love that you are sharing with us what you learned Thank you for linking to PoCoLo x
HI! Thanks for stopping by. We had a great time and really trying to apply some of my little lessons this year. Just having a calmer Christmas – not go OTT.
I definitely value the time people put into home made gifts. I’ve heard people say they feel like a scrooge giving them, but in fact a lot of us (even though we complain about money) can pick up most of what we want (at least in the gift price bracket).
Time, though, is always a scarce and valuable resources, and I’m honoured when someone else gives me theirs.
Yes, I value it too – not sure people will value gifts homemade by me though. I so regret not having spent more time developing these type of skills. Might try some crafting and knitting this winter.
Some lovely ideas – I must check out the museum, I’m just down the road in Berkhamsted. Great post. Thanks #pocolo
Hi – The museum is keen to interact with bloggers – so I’ll include you on the list of bloggers for them to invite for future events. Thanks for stopping by.