Remembrance of Things Past

Mostly about growing up the 1950s in Ilford, Essex.

[88] Christmas Comes but Once a Year


I am going to do a mixed post, partly about Christmas but also a reflection of a year of blogging. It’s more or less a year since I started.


I have done some memories of Christmas in [7] Christmas Preparations, [8] Christmas Day, [9] Christmas Carols and [10] Christmas Traditions. The first two are general memories of the festive season – when cooking a full Christmas dinner was a much more significant task than today. You may find more about our primitive kitchens and cooking in [68] Cooking with Gas and [76] Cooking Part 2

You will know how much Music can bring back memories – especially if you have read [26] Music (1), [32] Music (2) and [34] Music (3), which list my favourite musical memories, so you will understand why Christmas Carols concentrates on the carols we sing at Christmas. We still start our family Christmas family by listening to the carols from Kings College Chapel, Cambridge as we drive to visit relatives.

The last Christmas Blog is more of personal blog, concentrating on our family traditions. Even before Christmas proper we now always have to see the film It’s a Wonderful Life, although I suspect that this tradition may have started later than the sixties. (The film is much earlier.)

I could now add Miracle on 34th Street and many of the familiar Christmas pop songs. Rocking around the Christmas Tree by Brenda Lee was an old favourite.

As early as [3] The Church I wrote about the part that religion, particularly the Church of England, has played in my life, and of course this comes to the fore at Christmas. The series about St Andrew’s, only just starting with [81], will show other close connections with the Church that are gradually disappearing. It’s hard to explain but I like the words of hymns, Christmas carols and Bible readings partly because of the archaic language which we no longer have. Younger readers may not understand why it used to play such a dominant part in our lives. [15] Highlands School (1) and [16] Highlands School (2) in much the same way show the part religion used to play in schools.


[21] Review and [50] Half a Century looked backwards and forwards about this blog and I feel much the same now as I did when writing them. I would like suggestions from readers about possible topics but don’t seem to get them. Comments are always appreciated, preferably on the blog rather than Facebook. (When I post a link on Facebook with a picture I get many comments about the picture, generally points in the blog, which the Facebook viewers have not read.)

From the WordPress site and its apps I see the statistics about this blog and so far I’m up to 15000 hits. I put in lots of Tags and so some of these hits come from searches. It can be quite amusing to find what people look for.

What people see in Facebook is not predictable but posting on Saturday seems to get the most views. Very few actually follow the blog so I share each new post on several Facebook groups about the fifties and sixties. Most are now getting two to three hundred hits. The few comments I get have all been very positive. (I have been amazed at the spam comments. So far I have about 350 genuine comments, of which about half are my own internal cross-references. But over 800 spam comments have been automatically removed for me.)

I can still see at least another twenty topics that I am working on and expect to keep going at one a week for a few more months. After [69] Elizabeth Martha about my grandmother you can expect some more personal memories about Mum and Dad; there are several about St Andrews to come; and I have basic subjects not even started!


The Gospel of Saint John

I will end with the first words of this book of the Bible that somehow remind me always of Christmas. They are part of the traditional Service of Nine Lessons and Carols, where they form the last of nine ‘lessons’ (readings from the Bible). It’s the part I like best.

It’s a very philosophical (or theological?) passage and I can’t claim to know what it means. Perhaps it’s meant to be mysterious rather than literal. (The Church has argued for centuries about the precise definition of the Trinity of God.)

Here, firstly, is modern version, from a New Testament by J B Phillips:

At the beginning God expressed himself. That personal expression, that word, was with God, and was God, and he existed with God from the beginning. All creation took place through him, and none took place without him. In him appeared life and this life was the light of mankind. The light still shines in the darkness and the darkness has never put it out.

A man called John was sent by God as a witness to the light, so that any man who heard his testimony might believe in the light. This man was not himself the light: he was sent simply as a personal witness to that light.

That was the true light which shines upon every man as he comes into the world. He came into the world – the world he had created – and the world failed to recognise him. He came into his own creation, and his own people would not accept him. Yet wherever men did accept him he gave them the power to become sons of God. These were the men who truly believed in him, and their birth depended not on the course of nature nor on any impulse or plan of man, but on God.

So the word of God became a human being and lived among us. We saw his splendour (the splendour as of a father’s only son), full of grace and truth.

I can’t see this as either meaningful or mysterious.

Here is what I think of as the original version, the original Authorized Version (also known as the King James Version.) Perhaps the meaning is even less clear but the language is so much better.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

The same was in the beginning with God.

All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.

In him was life; and the life was the light of men.

And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.

The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the light, that all men through him might believe.

He was not that light, but was sent to bear witness of that light.

That was the true light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.

He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.

He came unto his own, and his own received him not.

But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:

Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.


You may take this passage how you like and you may draw your own conclusions about why I put it here. Perhaps it’s just because it reminds me of Christmas when I was younger.

To me Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without it.

Author: Alan

Retired, currently living in Cheltenham.

3 thoughts on “[88] Christmas Comes but Once a Year

  1. Happy Christmas to you both, Alan. I enjoy reading your blogs, having experienced such similar things! I think the union of spirits at all of our clubs and organisations at St. Andrews served as a family for so many of us whose parents were in the process of putting their lives back together after the war years. My father was away in India for four years and had to be introduced to my older sister, who had no idea who he was. It’s that sort of disruption that must have made our parents’ lives exceedingly difficult and stressful, along with new careers and moving to new locales. My friendships and acquaintanceships at St. Andrews were a lifesaver for me and, I think, for so many of us. Thank you for sharing your memories. Warmly, Hilary


  2. Happy Christmas Alan. Thank you for the memories.


  3. Pingback: [100] Long to Reign over us | Remembrance of Things Past

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