Treasured Christmas Memories
Once Upon a Time
Christmas looked like this! Well, in 1948 it was a black and white happening . . . but only on film.
How about this Father Christmas?
NOT one of the best of the friends and helpers of the 'real' Father Christmas I've ever seen, but obviously the man for the job on that particular day on that particular year! We can definitely see that Father Christmas on the main float at the Adelaide Christmas Pageant that year was the REAL one! This was obviously one of Santa's helpers, and he's actually lucky I didn't choose to hold on to his beard, for comfort or good luck or whatever. Could have been disastrous for all concerned.
I REALLY like my smile 'through gritted teeth' - don't you?
Thinking of Father Christmas reminds me of my Ted Bear story and one of the many Christmas Eves we shared, recounted on my lens about him - and I quote:
Didn't we sweat it out one hot Xmas eve, 'bearied' together deep beneath the covers, when we could hear Father Christmas at the foot of our bed, filling our stockings, as we lay there in mortal fear of the tiniest breath or movement betraying our wakefulness! Because everybody knows that if HE finds you awake, all bets are off, and there will be no presents for you this year, no sir - no way! Even all these years later, Ted and I agree that this was one of our 'closest encounters'.
This was one Christmas memory that lives on in both our hearts forever.
Adelaide's Christmas Pageant
The John Martin's Christmas Pageant began in 1933, at the height of the Great Depression. It was a Christmas gift to Adelaide's families, to gladden the hearts of all, particularly the children. The extremely generous and altruistic benefactor was Sir Edward Hayward - the owner of the John Martin's department store in the heart of Adelaide. Of course, there will always be cynics to say it did his business no harm, and was a great PR job for the store - but he always insisted it was to bring some joy and colour back into many weary hearts, after the dreary Depression days.
Personally, I can tell you, he succeeded - big time. I was there from at least 1948, maybe earlier. My heart fills with happy memories still, and my eyes are getting suspiciously watery as I write about it.
History records the first procession comprised just 8 floats and 3 bands, with an estimated 200,000 spectators. Recent statistics suggest 60 floats, 15 bands, 164 clowns, etc.And whilst the spectators actually at the event number under 500,000, millions of people watch the televised event - all around the world. It has taken place every year, except for the war years of 1941-1944 - reinstated in the year of my birth. How thoughtful of Sir Edward!
Since 1934, the Pageant has ended with an impressive float with that grand old man - Father Christmas himself atop, waving and blowing kisses to all. He ends his journey at the John Martins' store, containing the beloved 'Magic Cave'. This is where he and his helpers take up residence to see and hear all the children's Christmas wishes and hopes for their Christmas presents. Careful records are kept, and copious lists made - and checked twice, we are told in a popular song.
For more information about the old beloved store 'Johnnies' and this rich tradition - you can visit Wikipedia -
And for the full story - I really think I have to write another lens about this phenomenon and the amazing man behind it all. Having researched this subject, and being, shall we say 'personally involved' - I can promise you, it's most interesting.
PS This year, the limited TV coverage here in South Australia was pretty rugged for the 79th anniversary of a pageant that draws the largest physical crowd in the world, and is televised to more people around the world than any other. Another treasured piece of history dropped. I'm sure it has a lot to do with the change of ownership of this great event - first to another Department Store, then a bunch of Credit Unions (who are claiming this as the 80th anniversary?? One of us can't count, it would seem.)
How incredibly sad for all the children who cannot physically be part of this wondrous pre-Christmas show - like country kids; those in hospital or sick or incapacitated at home; those whose parents can't even afford to bring them into the city - the list goes on.
A financially correct and sound decision, no doubt. Tell that to the little children!
Remembering the reason for it's beginning, it's a bitter pill to swallow for the child within those of us who well remember when . . .
The Famous Pageant - ...in Adelaide, South Australia
Christmas lights display on the banks of the River Torrens, near Adelaide, at the old Southwark brewery (now West End Brewery).
Mum & Dad took us there every year on Christmas Eve to enjoy the whole display from the footpath high above, on the other side of the river. How absolutely beautiful they were, twinkling away on the river bank, as a million stars twinkled in the clear skies above us. And then Dad would take us for a long and leisurely drive around other Adelaide suburbs to see the Xmas lights in shops along the way - but mostly to see individual houses that had gone all out in decorations of their homes. In those years, in Australia, only the wealthy could afford to do this - and provide so much happiness for we 'average' families. (Might add, Mum & Dad's plan with this big drive around was to tire us out so Father Christmas could make his visit to the pillowcase on the end of our beds - and not find us still awake!)
As adults, and before the additions to our own family, we often took my widowed Mum there to revisit - usually around midnight - following a wonderful Danish Christmas Dinner the extended family all shared at our in-laws, on our way home to our dairy farm at Parawa, about 1-1/2 hours drive south of Adelaide. It was a wonderful trip down memory lane for us all. Many years later, we would do the same with our three kids, (and still with my Mum...their beloved Gran, too). Again, it would usually be around midnight - and again, on our way home to Parawa, to have our Christmas Day on the farm - after milking.
This display is added to every year - and I believe, is still beautiful to this day. We have not seen it for the past 12 years we have lived in the South East, some 5 hours away from Adelaide . . . but the memories are as clear and treasured as ever.
This was a daytime photo from the very first display in 1959.
The following are the promised photos I now have permission to use. In South Australia we had a special TV program - 'Postcards', showcasing many special things to see and do in South Australia. The host of this show was a 'true gentleman' named Keith Conlon. I would like to demonstrate his generosity - and my sincere gratitude - by showing you exactly what he wrote to me, himself:-
Delighted to grant permission for the pix to be used in your Squidoo article. Do you need them in higher resolution?
Please send me a link to your piece when it goes up.
And the best and most blessed Christmas to you too, Keith.
PS: This beautiful TV program 'Postcards' was abruptly and without warning, axed due to budget cuts - to the deep sorrow of countless South Australians - and many viewers and tourists from around the world. Read Keith Conlon's farewell. - a fine gentleman to the last. Another hard-nosed executive decision. Another precious baby tossed out with the bathwater. Another unfathomable decision, despite top ratings and public outcry against this lopping, despite 16 highly successful years. How we treasure the memories of having lived most of our lives in another era, when priorities were chosen 'for' the benefit and well-being - and desires of the average man. Those were the days . . .
The West End Brewery Christmas Lights 2009 - ...as featured on 'Postcards'Click thumbnail to view full-size
A Sobering (?) Story
. . . of Christmas Past
Read All About It In My Ezine article
Christmas Tree...Oh Christmas Tree - ...being decorated by 'Our Cherubs Three'
Some years after we discovered we could not have children - and had spent much time impatiently waiting for a baby to adopt - we gave deep consideration to 'special needs' kids, and made the decision to adopt an older child. Our first was Brett - aged 4years and 3 months. In the next few years we would add Nicky, aged 18 months, and then Michaela, also 4+ years old. They each came to us with huge emotional problems. It was a bitter-sweet experience for us to create and share SO many 'firsts' with each of them. (Can you imagine having your 'first' birthday party - when you are 5 years old?!)
Prior to our first 'with child' Christmas, we took Brett to see the famous Adelaide Christmas Pageant, followed by a visit to the equally famous 'Magic Cave' in John Martins' department store. I honestly believe the three of us enjoyed it all equally. It was really something for me, having grown up attending this event every year . . . now revisiting after so many years - and as seen through the eyes of a child once again. I get teary in the remembering.
Some days later, as another 'early' Christmas present, I put up and decorated our Xmas tree, plus other decorations all around the house, while Brett was having his afternoon nap. When he woke, he came out of his bedroom, into my arms for cuddles, rubbing sleepy eyes and not focussing on anything past nuzzling into my neck for a bit. Then suddenly, he was wide awake - eyes huge as he saw all the glitter and glow of tinsel and baubles and Xmas lights on the tree, and everywhere he looked. At first he was speechless and gasping, "oh...oh...oh-h-h!" And then,
"Oh WOW! It's Mummy's Magic Cave!"
And I had thought I was the one giving the 'early' Christmas present!!
But Sometimes, Downunder in Oz
. . . it Looked Like This!
NOT a pretty picture . . . but FUNNY!
Father Christmas certainly does have some questionable friends and helpers! Despite the best efforts of another 'Mother Christmas' (not the 'real' one) to feed this one up, there was no chance to fatten this dairy farmer at the busiest time of his life!
Once we became parents, our tradtion on the farm, was always to leave a bucket of water, a couple of carrots and a small pile of hay outside for the reindeers - and a glass of Raspberry cordial and the first piece cut from the Christmas Cake for Father Christmas (everyone else had to wait until Christmas Day!). We agonised at length about wishing to leave OUR drink of choice - Port - for the jolly old gentleman, but the final decision was reached that his drink MUST be non-alcoholic due to all the miles he still had to drive to get home to the North Pole . . . but it was unanimously agreed it MUST be a red drink - and that we maybe should include a few of my special homemade Xmas bikkies, too.
An old friend and neighbour thought it a great idea to hand-make a tiny bale of hay, for their firstborn to put outside the door on the first Christmas Eve he could understand it all. Great idea Dad - except that two more kids and some 10 Christmases later he was still making . . . 3 hand-made bales of hay, annually - whilst assuring himself (with a very tight grin) that he really was having a great Christmas . . . so far!
Gold Wrapping Paper
..a Beautiful Xmas Story
The story goes that some time ago a mother punished her five year old daughter for wasting a roll of expensive gold wrapping paper. Money was tight and she became even more upset when the child used the gold paper to decorate a box to put under the Christmas tree.
Nevertheless, the little girl brought the gift box to her mother the next morning and then said,
"This is for you, Momma."
The mother was embarrassed by her earlier over reaction, but her anger flared again when she opened the box and found it was empty. She spoke to her daughter in a harsh manner.
"Don't you know, young lady, when you give someone a present there's supposed to be something inside the package?"
She had tears in her eyes and said, "Oh, Momma, it's not empty! I blew kisses into it until it was full."
The mother was crushed. She fell on her knees and put her arms around her little girl, and she begged her forgiveness for her thoughtless anger.
An accident took the life of the child only a short time later, and it is told that the mother kept that gold box by her bed for all the years of her life.
Whenever she was discouraged or faced difficult problems she would open the box and take out an imaginary kiss and remember the love of the child who had put it there.
In a very real sense, each of us, as human beings, have been given a Golden box filled with unconditional love and kisses from our children, family, friends and GOD. There is no more precious possession anyone could hold
Is there anyone out there who doesn't have Treasured Memories of this Celebration of Love and Joy?