But it is Not the Winter Wonderland
In Australia we celebrate Christmas in most ways the same as our English forbears celebrated it.
I remember spending early childhood Christmases with my grandparents, who were born in the 1870s, and remember them saying that they celebrated Christmas in the same way as their grandparents. I am sure that the traditions observed by my grandparents would have been similar to those in Gainsborough (where our forbears originated) and in Melbourne in the 1860's (where our Jerrems great grandparents Charles, Robert, Arthur and William spent the later days of their childhood).
I have also recorded some of the experiences of my mother-in-law (Nancy) who was born in the famous mining town of Ballarat before the First World War.
I will now put the major traditions into categories.
Exchange of Presents
A highlight of Christmas is the wrapping and handing out of presents. Our forbears in Gainsborough and Richmond (in Melbourne) would certainly have observed this practice. However , in the case of middle class people the presents were small. The main emphasis was on the family reunion.
Christmas Fruit Cakes
Grandpa Big Bill, the patriarch of the family, issued an edict that this year the family Christmas dinner would be held on the old family farm at Stow (7 miles from Gainsborough) and everyone had been invited. Assembled at the farm for Christmas dinner, after attending St Helens Church on the way at Willingham (pictured), are Thomas and Elizabeth and their tribe of 8 children, Thomas (13), Sophia (12), Frances (10), William (8), Edwin (6) , Charles (4), Robert (2) and Catherine (1) (Arthur came later). Jane Jerrems, the widow of Big Bill's brother John, and her 2 daughters Mary (17) and Jane (16), came from nearby Willingham to attend the celebration.
Melbourne Christmas, 1861
This is a time for great celebration. It is the first Christmas that the family has been back together after seven long years, Elizabeth and the younger children having joined Thomas Snr and Thomas Jnr in Melbourne earlier that year. Elizabeth has organised a slap-up celebration at the house in Richmond, Melbourne.
The children, including Thomas Jnr who is now 23, have pitched in to help. Even the youngest child, Arthur (now 9 years old) has contributed, and Frances and young Kate (now 11) have been helping their mother with Xmas preparations for days. The only family member missing is Sophia (aged 22), who only stayed a short while in Melbourne with her husband and baby before returning to England earlier in the year.
This Xmas is a quieter affair than the Gainsborough Christmases where the extended family attended, but there is a lot to celebrate. William (now 18) and Edwin (now 16) have jobs in the city and Charles will be starting his apprenticeship to a printer and bookbinder in the new year. The 3 youngest children (Robert, Kate and Arthur) have settled into school and are enjoying living in Richmond.
Richmond has a lot of small farms and market gardens, so Elizabeth has been able to assemble the usual fare for the Christmas dinner, with the welcome addition of fresh fruit and some vegetables not available to her in Gainsborough in winter. It is only a 3 mile trip for Elizabeth to the Melbourne city shops, so if necessary she can buy things there.
Melbourne Christmas, 1873
We now fast forward to 1873. As Elizabeth sits at the dinner table on Christmas Day surveying the depleted ranks of her family one could forgive her for concluding that the move from Gainsborough to Melbourne had turned out to be a failure from her point of view. Briefly, her husband Thomas had died 7 years earlier, and her son Edwin had died in Adelaide earlier that year, leaving 3 infant children. Her son William had moved to distant Sydney in the mid 1860s, followed several years later by Charles.
Kate was a schoolteacher and mostly lived away from home, but at least she came home for the school holidays. Robert had married in 1870 but at least he lived close by, and she saw a lot of his children Edwin and Edie. This left only Thomas Jnr, Frances and Arthur living at home.
Merry Christmas to our Readers
From Long Beach, CA - Fred Hewston and Leila Menzies send Christmas greetings to the world-wide Jerrems clan. It has been a busy year in Long Beach. Fred continues to study to become a lawyer- he enters his 3rd year (of 4) this January 2008. Leila has greeted a new sister-in-law from China, Shuying Cui, and her daughter Guiyu Cui. Shuying was a widow of 6 years and my brother James Leonard, a widower of 3 years when they met through Internet match service for engineers.
(Donald: Leila and I "met" when she was researching her family. She is distantly related to Mary Bell who married your great uncle Alexander Nicholl Jerrems in about 1896. Ray)
From the shores of Sydney Beach (Manley Point): Old Ray, the Family Ghost. Greetings to all the non-Ghosts in the family. For 2008, I resolve to be a better ghost and try not to embarrass you with my wispy behavior. But you never know.
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