Ghost of Christmas Past and Christmas Now

Ghost of Christmas Past and Christmas Now | ghost of christmas past and christmas now


At this wonderful time of the year, do you think back at the #ghosofChristmaspastandChristmasnow? We all have of our memories of Christmas as children and remember the anticipation of Santa arriving during the night with a bag full of toys and goodies.

The cookies and milk would be left for Santa and greens for the reindeer.

We try so hard to be good, in the days running up to Christmas, just in case, he might just go flying by on his sleigh with his reindeer and not stop off at your house.


What excitement pervaded our household of four little children, when our mother began making the Christmas Cake and put us to work making decorations. They were made of crepe paper strips which we carefully cut and then by gently pulling the edge, thereby making it flute the edges.

These streamers were strung up from a center point in the ceiling out to the edges of the room. In the middle, a carefully kept, fold out bell, was hung with great ceremony.

Each year we would try something new with the crepe paper but the bell was always in the middle. We had a branch cut as a Christmas tree and we made all the decorations for that too.


Moms Edible Christmas Tree

Mom sometimes made an edible tree. She would string popcorn and wind it around the tree. Hang up brightly covered sweeties, baked gingerbread biscuits, etc. What fun this all was.

We children made our own ornaments out of whatever we could find and these were kept for many years. Certainly, the three girls were crafty but our little brother would try his hand at making things too.


Oh, what an affair this was. First, it meant boiling the tickeys and sixpences (now you know how long ago this was). They were made of silver in those far off days and these had to be boiled before being inserted to the pudding which was set in a special tin and then set in a pot of water to boil for a certain number of hours.

Once it came off the stove and was tipped on a plate to cool down, then it was time for the inserting of the precious coins. The excitement built up as we watched Mom carefully inserting the tickeys and sixpences, we wanted to try to imprint in our minds where the larger coins were placed (as if we would remember on Christmas Day?)


As in many households across the world, t was a very hard job for our parents to get us settled into bed, as we would want to watch out for the arrival of Father Christmas.

Poor exhausted Mom and Dad would have to wait for all four of us to be sound asleep before putting the presents around the tree, knowing full well that we would be up bright and early and then pandemonium would prevail.

Often we would creep down while they were asleep and try by shaking, smelling or feeling each parcel, to guess what was inside. We couldn’t take the chance of opening a corner to peek through.

If we made enough noise waking up, that was the signal for Mom and Dad to get up and then the magic of Christmas day began.

Dad played the role of Father Christmas and doled out a gift to each of us in turn. We would watch carefully to see what was given and received, and especially if the recipient had liked the gift we had made for him/her. We made most of our gifts or in later years, used our pocket money which we had saved to buy something small for each member of the family.

Ghost of Christmas Past and Christmas Now

The tradition in our household was that we were only allowed to choose one gift to open before going to Church for our Christmas Service. Gosh, the anticipation and excitement to get home was quite overwhelming and we hoped that the Minister’s sermon would be brief. I bet that his family felt the same way.


When living in Redcliff. When I was around 10years of age, my father worked at Risco, (Rhodesian Iron and Steel Commission) and they held a party for all the children in the large Club House. We received wonderful gifts which Mom and Dad had chosen from the list which they received and knew we would like.

A friend Brenda and I danced as Christmas fairies the one year and it was so funny as half-way through the dance someone bumped the record player and the music changed dramatically, as you can imagine, we carried on dancing but didn’t know quite where we were in the dance, so just improvised. It was quite a hoot.


The year after the Christmas fairy debacle, we had a totally different way of celebrating Christmas. For one thing, we all had to go to the local clinic for a polio vaccine. The queue was so long that I passed out and had to be taken in before some of the others who had waited far longer than I and then taken home by ambulance. This happened on both the occasions we had to go for the polio vaccine.

My mother was quite used to be blacking out now and then, as I had done so on occasions when she was pinning up a hem and I had to stand on a chair. She was relieved for us to be taken home in the ambulance so we avoided the long walk home.

Naturally, that year we could not have our usual Christmas party at the Club and it was very disappointing until on Christmas day we got such a lovely surprise to hear Carol singers in the street outside, and there down the road came a large flatbed truck with a pianist, carol singers, singing all the lovely well-known carols and there was Santa with a very large bag of gifts.

The children from the entire street, crowded around the truck and as our names were called out, we went forward to collect the gift and a bag with sweets, and fruit, from Santa Claus. My special gift that year was a tennis racket. What joy.


New blended tradition needs to be formed. Matthew’s family did things differently. I found it quite difficult to adapt to the changes but to keep the peace (very important) especially at this time, accepted them.

When our children came along though, I stuck to my guns about the presents around the tree as they got older. When they were little they each had a pillowcase in which we put the presents. That really was not my idea of fun as I loved to see their reactions to the presents which were so carefully made or bought for them.

None of the children cared for Christmas cake but loved the mince pies I made, so we compromised with that and it was not a problem.


Although our Christmas traditions have changed over the years as when one marries, one also has to marry the traditions of both households. This is not always as easy as it sounds, but it pays to compromise and keep the very essence of what Christmas is all about.

Over the years of my married life, I have loved to carry on making the Christmas gifts and have tried so many varied Art and Craft and Sewing ideas during this time.

  • Sewing – quilted cushion covers
  • Net Food Protectors
  • Embroidered items – peg aprons, Christmas runners and serviettes
  • Decoupage boxes and home crafts, door stops. Pots for indoor plants.
  • Painting
  • mosaic – lamps, pot plant pots
  • Sewing children’s clothing for my own children and also the children we used to host for the holidays from the Johannesburg Children’s Home.
  • Rag Dolls and toy frogs for Maitland Cottage Hospital


Have been through many stages and the family has had gifts made in varied mediums and I am always on the lookout for new ideas.

Chalk Couture Christmas Crafts


Fortunately for me, my daughter has just interviewed Melissa Hancock, a lovely young Stay-at-Home Mom in the States who is a Chalk Couture Designer.

What a fantastic interview Lauren conducted with Melissa. Knowing that I am a ” craft nut” she asked me to see what I thought and my thought was, WOW!  What a lot of fun and I can’t wait for it to come to South Africa.

Chalk Couture Love is BlondeHave you heard about Chalk Couture craze? I had not and am thrilled to come across a fabulous new craft, to try out for next years gifts.

You can find Melissa on ChalkCouture/LoveisBlonde.


With Melissa and Lauren’s blessing, I am sharing these lovely articles using Chalk Couture Melissa has made for her home.


So much planning goes into making Christmas a special time for all and this year,  son Greg and daughter-in-law, Kelly and their family, are kindly hosting 19 of us in their home.

We shall all be contributing something towards the meal but have decided on no presents.

Our thought is that we really have enough and it is our presence and not the presents that count to make Christmas special. We are giving of ourselves. Spending happy times together.

One thing I find is that not many of the young people, I know, like the traditional Christmas cake that I grew up with. Our Christmas’s here in this hot climate are a very different affair to what others in colder climes enjoy.

No snow here, perhaps a slight drizzle on Christmas day, but usually sunny and hot.

A good day to enjoy a Braai (Barbeque).


My, that seems so very far away but at my age, I find that time absolutely flies and one must just be grateful for the wonderful times we can enjoy as families and friends, each and every day of 2019.

Not to wish our time away but fill it with what makes you and others happy.


Jill Alexa

Jill of all Trades. Master of Many. Too busy to die.


  1. Jill, Wow, the memories you relate are all right down my alley, I pictured myself sitting in that pew on Christmas morning about to BURST!  Then later when I, as the youngest, learned all about Santa, we moved the gift opening to Christmas Eve.  I miss those times!  You brought back some wonderful memories, thanks for that!

    Have a Wonderful Holiday,


    • Hi Steve,

      Glad my post brought back memories you could relate to. The Church service on Christmas morning always seemed so very long but I guess it wasn’t really as I do know from loads of first hand experience, that the Minister especially preaches a short homily on Christmas Day. In our house it was a must, as the Minister was my husband and the children (PK’s) would have had his guts for garters, otherwise.

      Enjoy your Christmas.

      Kind Regards,


  2. Reading your article reminds me of when I was younger and there was always snow and had the large extended family around Christmas. I’ve since moved to a warmer climate, so no snow, and gotten married which brings in the compromising traditions aspect  you mentioned. But those new traditions I will be introduced to will be the traditions that my children will remember

    • Hi Derek,

      It is lovely to begin new tradition for your own family and I am sure they will treasure them as I treasure mine, both now and then. 

      Wishing you all the best, and a very happy Christmas with your family.


  3. Hello Jill,

    I LOVE the good vibes of this blog post. What a lovely read! 

    I had not heard about Chalk Couture craze. I’m curious and shall check it out… 

    I completely agree with you when you say that we must be “grateful for the wonderful times we can enjoy as families and friends”.  and I also really like that you and your family have decided on no presents this year because you have enough and it is your “presence and not the presents” that count to make Christmas special. Yes! To me, this is what Christmas and any other celebration is about… 

    Oh and your minced pies sound delicious!! 

    Christmas for me has also been very different from year to year. Especially since I left my home country France to study abroad when I was 19 (I am 45 now)… I have experienced Christmas in various countries and cultures. I don’t personally celebrate Christmas myself anymore (I’m a Baha’i and we have other celebrations) but I still truly enjoy the togetherness with my family during that time. Last year, I was in France with my family and this year it looks like it’s going to be my first Dutch Christmas in Holland… 🙂 

    Thanks again for the lovely read,


    • Hi Nathalie, It must have been so difficult to leave your home Country and study abroad. It did however, give you some wonderful insights into how people celebrate Christmas in other parts of the world.

      Blessings to you. Kind Regards,


    • Hi Nathalie, thanks for your interest! If you have a chance to read Lauren’s article it will give you all kinds of information about me and what I’m doing. There are also a lot of comments and questions I’ve answered at the bottom of her article. Feel free to email me anytime with questions!

  4. Alot has now changed about the celebration of Christmas that sometimes I wonder if it is because we are now grown-up and no longer kids but how about those who are kids now,  why are parents no longer taking out time and putting in the effort to make the Christmas season as memorable.  These and many more are questions left un unanswered

    My thought is that the Christmas traditions is changing rapidly things that were once considered special are no longer as special. who knows in the future Christmas might just be marked as a public holiday without any form of special celebration.

    • Hi Zuchii, Wouldn’t that be a great shame. We so loved the build up to Christmas. My Mother had a way of making it special. It was lovely having all the little secrets going on. We couldn’t wait for Christmas Day.

      Wishing you all the best. Jill

  5. This does bring a lot of memories back for me. My parents when I was young did all the great thing you could for Christmas and by the time Christmas Eve rolled around we were so not going to sleep.

    Now we are 5 years after adopting our 2 wonderful young daughters and are returning what I learned.  Feel very blessed.

    • Hi Stew, Am so happy for you that you have the happy times to share with your two little girls. I am sure you are going to make really great memories for them like your Mom and Dad did for you.

      Wishing you and your family a very Happy and Blessed Christmas and all Happiness in 2019.

      Kind Regards,


  6. I loved reading your post. It seemed like you had a very good Christmas growing up, and that you still hold many of those traditions for your children.

    Like you I love Christmas and look forward to it every year. Funny thing is a a kid I looked forward to presents, and know I look forward to family and friends. But I always enjoy that Christmas tree smell.

    What do you think Knenkf the best gifts you got for Christmas? Also what’s your favorite show?

    • Hi Michael,

      Thank you for the great comments. Christmas to me is spending happy times with people I love. My special present as a child was my tennis racket and I honestly can’t recall any Christmas Shows. We grew up without television and in the bush so didn’t have access to too many movies. Do recall going on a Saturday morning to watch cowboy movies like Roy Rogers. Now I am really giving my age away. A movie I enjoyed was Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. None of these were Christmas movies.

      Happy Christmas to you and your family and all good things for 2019.


  7. Hi Jill, it was refreshing to look back at some of the Christmas traditions and how, at least once a year, we can have a happy time with our families. I live in Jamaica, where Christmas is sunny and everyone prepares their version of Christmas pudding and sorrel ( a drink made from a fruit that ripens at that time). Your article helped me note differences. My family of origin exchanged gifts, whereas my husband’s family never dealt with gift exchange. He compromised and came to enjoy the annual tradition. Best wishes to you and loved ones for Christmas 2018. 

    • Hi JJ, Thank you for reading my post and the great comments. Yes it really does take some getting used to when you marry and blend traditions but it is also special as you are building up your own traditions for your family.

      We mostly have sunny Christmas days but sometimes a little drizzle. Hope not this year as there will be so many of us and outdoors will be best. 

      Wishing you and your loved ones a Blessed Christmas and all Happiness in 2019.


  8. Yes, christmas was very much fun in the early years with so much good memories. I realized this was made possible because mom and dad build up such wonderful traditions and made sure they brought so much joy to their children. Now all grown up and playing the role of mom, I have to create my own traditions and make sure my family has memorable times just as I did as i kid. I must say, mom’s role in this is so tiring be you get fulfillment in seeing your kids happy.

    • Hi Anita, We are so fortunate to have this time to spend with our families and make it special for them. My Mom and Dad had it in them to also make it such a happy time for us. We were not wealthy in the monetary sense but that didn’t stop them from making it a joyous time. 

      May you be blessed this Christmas and enjoy every moment with your family. 

      Kind Regards,


  9. Well, for me when I was little it was different, we didn’t have a tree, because it was not really our tradition to have Christmas tree, but we had good food on Christmas day.

    We would go to church on the 24th of December, and we would stay for the service until midnight. then we would go home and sleep and wait for next day  to have all kinds of food, we would eat a lot on that day. we really didn’t do the presents either, we just got new clothes (maybe) to wear on Christmas day, but the clothes were given long before Christmas so you would be looking at that dress for like two weeks waiting to wear it.

      then we would be sad when the day is over, because the following day the relatives who had visited would leave, so  all the children would be sad on 26th 

    Then we would look forward to new year.

    • Hi Rose, The gifts we gave each other we made, most of the time and my Mom would make us girls a Christmas dress, so I know exactly what it was like to wait to wear that special dress. I did the same for my daughter. Often, part of our present would be our new school shoes for the following year and gosh did we treasure those.

      You are so right about the sharing of the great food with friends and family makes Christmas such a special time.It was also the singing of the beautiful Carols in Church which was so much part of Christmas that I loved.

      Wishing you and your family a very Blessed and Happy Christmas and Healthy and Happy New Year.

      Kind Regards,


  10. Hello Jill,

    Christmas is very close, and how many beautiful memories come to my mind. 

    Normally, we have a warmer climate in Argentina, but we also had a wonderful time.

    I remember the children as they expected Santa Claus, where he would appear, where he came from and especially the gifts he left us.

    Thank you for sharing such beautiful moments, wishing you a wonderful Christmas and a very good end of the year in peace.

    Regards! Claudio

    • Hi Claudio,

      Thank you for reading my Christmas post and the great comments. As you say,Christmas is just about here and I can imagine all the little children getting just as excited about it as you and I did when we were little.

      Wishing you a very Blessed Christmas and all peace and happiness for 2019.

      Kind Regards,


  11. Christmas was a very exciting time for me growing up. I can definitely relate to you as far as anticipation of opening presents came up. I was always excited about the amount of presents I would receive.

    Like most people, as I got older these things become less important and more important became the memories that I created with my loved ones.

    I hope you get some wonderful memories this Christmas,


    • Hi Jessie, You are so right, Christmas is special but for us as we grow older, it is the people we share it with that is more important than the presents. 

      Wishing you the same. Lots of wonderful times to remember as the years go by.

      Kind Regards,


  12. Christmas has always been the best time of the year. First growing up as a kid was the best times of Christmas.

    Then it was the kids growing up with Christmas and opening presents and just great family memories.There was always big family gatherings and parties and getting together with relatives and neighbors.

    And it was always special when it was a white Christmas.Now in Florida and being retired it’s a bit different but still fun time with the people who are here.

    Christmas will always be the same no matter where you are, right?

    • Hi Rob, Thank you for commenting on my post. You must miss the snow, although as one retires the warmer weather probably suits us best. I think that as long as you have loving people around you, Christmas is always special. Christmas Greetings to you and your loved ones.

      Kind Regards, Jill

  13. Hi Ma, this post made me so nostalgic. Thanks for sharing these beautiful memories and also for spreading the word about Melissa Hancock’s Chalk Couture venture. Looking forward to another magical Christmas with you and the rest of the family. Mwah!

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