Christmas Nostalgia

GREAT Time

If, like me, you are part of the last generation who played in the street, you’ll probably guess where this post is going, if the title didn’t give it away. That’s right dear blog reader, it’s nostalgia time. This year I feel Christmas has snook up on me like a jolly fat ninja in a red suit. With just over a week to go until the big day I’m feeling somewhat underwhelmed this year.

I’m not going all “bah humbug” on the merry season. Not one bit. I’m looking forward to stuffing the hole in my face with turkey, choccies, a splash or eight of wine and spending the day in the company of family and friends.

Grab a glass of wine, a mug of something hot, and perhaps a snack or two, this is going to be a long one!

This year I haven’t had much money to splash out on gifts so I’ve given it a lot of thought before reaching for my wallet. I’d rather give a gift with good thought behind it than grabbing arm fulls of disposable junk to be unwrapped and forgotten in hours. I’m increasingly aware of how our society has evolved into one of materialistic ecstasy, where mass-produced cheap junk is gobbled down by the masses, in a futile attempt to satisfy a thirst we don’t understand.

Does recycling really work?

Before I get to the nostalgic bit I want to ask a question, well, maybe go off on a mini rant actually. A chance conversation at work today surprised me. A colleague told me about a high street supermarket who were selling off items from last Christmas at ridiculous prices. Items that would have cost, say £15 for a sweater or £4 for a scarf, were going for 10p – that’s TEN PENCE! And the reason why is because the supermarket was going to throw them away.

Can you believe that?

For them it’s more cost-effective to throw entire boxes or pallets of clothes in the bin than actually try to sell them. The same with books. Some supermarkets will rip off the back cover of a book that cost £5 or £7 and sell it for 50p. By tearing off the cover they’re essentially writing off the stock as a loss. I’ve been looking around the internet at similar stories.

Stuff, good stuff, is being thrown in the bin because it’s too costly to sell it! So, whilst we’re urged to recycle our glass, plastic, paper etc, it seems we’re still filling up landfill sites with all this other stuff simply because it’s in the way! Considering what a massively wasteful society we’ve managed to cultivate due to mass consumerism, do you think recycling really works the way it should? Are we all too happy to “do our bit” so long as everything else that can be recycled is ignored?

Seems to me that so long as we keep chucking the bottles in the bottle bank we can give ourselves a pat on the back for being kind to mother nature. I don’t know if I’m suggesting we recycle every single thing on the planet (well, maybe we should!) but imagine how much stuff is binned all over the world because it’s “easier” than trying to put it to good use.

Sell? Are you mad? That costs money you  know!

All that sparkly stuff you see in the shop windows at this time of year will likely end up binned by January to make way for the New Years sales push.

Rinse and repeat for every season, every month, week, day, maybe even hour. For example, have you ever wondered what happens to all the pre-packed sandwiches when they reach their sell by date? They get binned. Sure, some places give them to homeless shelters. The majority is thrown away. Why don’t we try making less sandwiches in the first place! Think of how much food is wasted all over the world, every day. Tens of thousands of tons tossed in the garbage!

Makes me sick.

Okay, mini rant over. I had to get that out of my system.

Nostalgia Time!

Christmas was awesome when I was a kid. It was so unbelievably exciting. Sparkly lights on the tree, the rustle of prezzies all wrapped up, the whiff of snow in the air, the big fat turkey in the oven and the itchy tingly feeling that the big box with the bright red ribbon around it might…might, just be that special toy I’ve been dreaming off for seemingly forever – well, a few months anyway.

These days it seems kids are able to get what they want pretty much whenever they want it. Stuff is cheaper that it used to be. Old folks out there in Internetland might grumble and say: “bah, kids today don’t know they’re born” or “it’s all so expensive nowadays.”

It really isn’t.

Back when my Nan was a kid, a loaf of bread or a chunk of “meat” for a cauldron of “stew” might have cost her Mum half a days wages, or a week of washing clothes and scrubbing the neighbours fode. Right now I can feed the whole family a good meal for less than an hours pay.

The reason why things look expensive is because there’s just more stuff to buy than ever before.

Download. Use once – chuck away.

There doesn’t seem to be much to look forward to these days. Kids can download music, movies, games and so on with such ease. Lots of teenagers have part-time jobs and spend their easy come easy go disposable income on high street junk just to stay in fashion. Baa aaaa!

Okay, I’m generalising here, using my bubble as a reference. I know there are many children all over the world who go without. That disgusts me when I see people in town buying mass-produced crap simply because an advert in a magazine or the internet tells them they must have it.

I didn’t just look forward to Christmas as a kid. I yearned for it. I ached to discover the treasures locked away under the protective wrapping. My friends and I would spend endless hours debating what our parents had bought us.

This wasn’t idle chit-chat.

We didn’t shoot the breeze whilst blasting bad guys on our XBox, wondering almost absently what bit of tatt we’d get on the big day. No. We were devoted to the IDEAL behind Christmas – the magic and beauty of it.

Yes we craved those special toys, like all kids still do, to a certain degree, but it was more than that. In the 80’s Christmas had yet to become the disposable, easy come easy go, quick to forget event it seems to be these days.

Christmas didn’t arrive on an app.

It couldn’t be downloaded.

It couldn’t be summed up in an abbreviation like LOL.

My Christmas’s weren’t restricted to a games machine.

You might have read about the obesity epidemic that’s running rife through the younger generations. Too much fatty food and not enough exercise. We’ve allowed this to happen by pandering to every gadget and fashion that encourages kids to sit and stare at one screen or another instead of being active.

Like I said way up the top there, I’m part of the last generation who played in the street. I rode my bike everywhere, for fun. I played cricket and football (soccer for you Yankie Doodle Dandies) until it was too dark to see the ball! In the woods I built dens with my friends, went fishing, climbed trees and went on adventures.

And Christmas was a huge event, not merely a filler between Halloween and Summer Break.

Such wonderful toys!

One year I got the best present a young boy could ask for. The Optimus Prime rig thingy and trailer. The cab transformed into a robot! How cool is that! Well, maybe not so cool these days since kids don’t seem interested unless their socks come with Blue Tooth or WIFI or an app. Optimus Prime was the perfect ticket to Imaginationland.

optimus_prime

I’d brum it all around the carpet, then once old Optimus had established a base camp he’d transform and go hunting my sisters Barbie dolls in order to infiltrate their sect and expose their deadly secret. Whatever that was. Joining Optimus were a mish-mash of Corgi toy cars, old and new, Action Men, bits of old Lego, Star Wars figures and a range of cardboard box fashioned into secret bases.

Every nook and cranny of the living room was a potential hide-out, a secret base, a toy friendly area where the real world gave way to a landscape of endless imaginary possibility.

Cave Man!!

One of the most memorable Christmas toys was an electronic game called Cave Man. This was pre-SEGA and pre-Nintendo (I think) and it gave me endless hours of entertainment. By today’s standards it’s as basic as you can get without using finger puppets for fun.

caveman_lcd_game

The entire game consisted of making the little cave man run across the screen to steal eggs from the nest of a wily Pterodactyl, then get back to his cave before he got et. Later levels included avoiding a big fire-breathing dinosaur intent on turning the cave man into a tasty LCD snack, and a rain of lava bombs from a nearby volcano.

caveman_screenshot

And there he is. Cute little fella isn’t he? Ah, I’ve just remembered that the cave man had a little axe he could chuck at the Pterodactyl and knock it out of the sky. It’s weird that I can still remember every blip and beep from that game! My Dad took a photo of me playing Cave Man, arms in the air as I celebrated a high score. Wish I had a copy of it. Good times.

My sister has reminded me of a few of her memorable Christmas toys – she had a dress up nurses outfit with a medical bag, baby dolls, prams and a Victorian dolls house which she cut out of a special card book and stuck together.

Other toys included Stretch Armstrong, Big Trax, Cross Fire, Scalextric and Action Man – the space man edition with realistic voice sounds from pulling a string from his back: “Prepare to repel invaders” and “I’m going in!”

Fan-bloody-tastic!

Christmas was more than toys.

My childhood Christmas’s were also about the smells. Smell is a big memory nudger for me. Here’s some of what brings back quality childhood Christmas memories:

  • Turkey, obviously. And gravy.
  • Mince pies. Thick gloopy custard.
  • My Dad’s home-made wine – amazing aromas!
  • That metallic tinge in the air from the glittery tinsel on the tree.
  • The strange way clothes still smelt of damp snow after making snowmen in the garden.
  • That frosty bite in the morning air that hints at snow on the way.
  • Cardboard boxes. I’d always keep one or two to make a base or fort to protect my toys.
  • The musty wood and metal smell in my Grandparent’s garage.

Christmas was an adventure.

Back in the day Christmas was a huge event. The build up was almost too much to bear. The day itself seemed to last weeks. Presents, food, choccies, playing, snow (when it fell) watching those films on TV you weren’t likely to see again for ages – no internet streaming or many video rental places in those days. Even after the adventure continued when I played with my friends – cruising the neighbourhood on brand new bikes, skateboards and roller boots. I enjoyed every action packed moment until school started in the New Year.

New Year school was weird and wonderful. After only a few weeks off I’d be sat in class worrying how I’d forgotten how to use a pen!

It still is, but for different reasons.

Now I look forward to good company, good food, remembering those no longer with us, and looking ahead to what the New Year will bring. Now it’s about those special moments. Capturing memories in my mind or as a photo, I take loads of photos on Christmas day! It’s about the excitement of watching family and friends open their gifts and taking time to enjoy good conversation over turkey, trifle and a glass or eight of sherry.

I look forward to the japes and jokes whilst washing up the mountain of crockery while the older folks succumb to a turkey induced snooze slouched in front of the TV.

I guess this means I’m all grown up, doesn’t it?

Maybe. But you know what, dear blog reader? I’m okay with that. Despite my change in priorities, needs, wants, desires, hopes and dreams, Christmas is still special. The build up certainly feels different but no less exciting. The day is over far too quickly for my tastes but it is still filled with memories that are equally as powerful as those from my childhood.

From childhood to adulthood, the magic of Christmas may have changed yet it hasn’t lost any of its rich potency.

So now I ask you, dear blog reader, what makes Christmas special for you?

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14 thoughts on “Christmas Nostalgia

  1. Dave, this post is right on the button.

    Last year we were in France and as I watched my nine month old granddaughter unwrap all her presents (she had loads of them).Most were very expensive, I felt sad. Sad for all the children who had nothing and just one of these toys would bring such great happiness.

    Throughout the year on my various visits I observed as my little granddaughter was bought more expenisve toys – not for Birthdays, Easter or whatever, just because a doting Friend grandparents, aunt or friend liked the toy. I sighed – what will this little one have to look forward to in life.

    I pray our little granddaughter will not look to us her Portuguese grandparents for expensive gifts. As she gets older we can only give her our love. In a way this makes me sad…but in another it’s a reality check on life and what is actually important.

    Your words made me think back to when my kids were young and the prospect of Christmas…the anticipation…and then the delight when they opened little gifts on Christmas day. Yes my kids could play in the streets, they did not have mobile phones nor did they have their own computers. If they wanted designer gear as their peers had they had to work for it. Yes they had a paper round…and my daughter sold Avon, made cross stitch cards and jewelery which I accompanied her to craft fairs to sell. We had no money but we had fun and they learned the true meaning of money.

    As for recyling I can’t even begin. It’s perhaps the biggest political spin there is. I used to watch great 4×4 drive up to the bottle or clothing banks and smile.
    Last time I was in the UK I was amazed that 6 different lorries came to collect 6 different twee little recycling boxes from each household. It may have been 5 , but anyway you follow my drift. Clothes, bottles, cardboard and paper, tins, plastic and of course discarded food.
    Ah yes, that is 6.

    Here in Portugal we have to take our rubbish yes all our rubbish to central bins. Anthing of value ie clothes I usually hang up on the railings. It’s amazing what people throw away. I’ve found laundry baskets, sack barrow, large plant pots and a whole range or misc items which I’ve recyled I’m always bringing stuff home to the point Mr Piglet says our garden looks like Steptoe and sons scrap yard.

    So I raise my glass to kids playing in the street, recycling in the home, and simple presents for Christmas. Turkey, mince pies and Christmas pud with brandy butter. Maybe as we are in the UK this year it will even snow.

    Merry Christmas!

    • You make a good point there, PiP, about handing out gifts for no particular reason. This is partly the reason why so many youngsters are growing up assuming the world owes them something, that they deserve to get things – just because they always have. There’s nothing wrong with giving gifts but it really needs to be within a certain context or with a valid reason.

      “Oh well done little Jonny, you’ve painted a picture of a…blob with another blob that could look like a head or a balloon or something. You deserve a huge toy that costs way more than I can afford. Hey everyone! Come see the wonderful piece of art little 4 year old Jonny has created. Isn’t it spit-on-your-neck awesome!! That should be in an art gallery and admired by the world!!”

      NO! Bad parent. That’s wrong. Try this:

      “Oh that’s lovely Jonny. You’re a good lad for doing well in school today. Let’s stick that on the fridge shall we? Maybe next week we can put a different one there. Now, how about you help with the [insert activity here] and then you can go watch TV.”

      Much better. Little Jonny has earned congratulations relative to his efforts. Therefore he stands a better chance to grow up with a decent outlook on life, without an over inflated sense of self importance. He will know that the world isn’t pleased to see him and that hard work, social skills and manners will go further than being angry at the world for not giving him what he wants the moment he wants it.

      Praise where praise is due. Gifts where they are earned.

      And a Merry Christmas to you too PiP!

  2. Lovely nostalgic post. We used to get one present each from our parents – and we were very happy with it. I also remember a similar game to your caveman one – this one had ambulance men catching people from a falling building in a stretcher and putting them in an ambulance. We didn’t own it, I only got to play it when we visited our grandparents.
    Thanks for triggering the memories 🙂

    • Thanks! When you have very little you treasure what you do have. Commonplace things might seem irrelevant to others who live in a world of abundance, yet they remain so very special to those with less, and maybe cherished that little bit more.

  3. Nice one Bro – so true! The smells we experienced back then we real smells! Weird comment i know! Love this blog, how things have changed in such a short time. But what makes Christmas so special for me now is the pleasure of seeing such magical excitement in my children’s faces, not just on Christmas Day but the days and weeks before. This year I decorated the tree myself to surprise my 4 year old daughter, her face was priceless when she saw it all lit up, she was in awe of it and as she stared at it daydreaming she said “now I know it’s Christams because I can see the angels”. How wonderful to hear that, as most children these days just want to know where their presents are, what chocolates can they eat?
    Also for me, there’s nothing more satisfying and special as getting together round the table with family for a good old Christmas dinner, good wine and plenty of laughter!
    David – You’ve brought back some memories for us here! Well done.
    Merry Crimbo! Love ya loads, ickle sis xxxx

    • Thanks Sis! You captured the essence of Christmas there with the way her face lit up at the sight of the Christmas tree. It’s that look of wonder, amazement and excitement that moves me. There is something beyond the presents and glitter, the coming together of people sharing a day of moments – true connections of the heart that are often few and far between, or seldom rejoiced because we’re always busy.

      Merry Crimbo to you, Sis, may your big day be filled with laughter, wine, good company and lots of moments for the memory bank.

  4. A wonderful collection of more little posts really, I can identify with some, as I am a 60’s child, but not have celebrated Christmas in the English style as a child. It was always more serious with lots of singing, no turkey or paperhats. I like Christmas not because of the food or presents but because everyone seems to make an effort to be nicer and merry. Shame it does not last all year round! Enjoyed reading it.

    • Thanks for your comment, and I agree whole heartedly, why can’t more of us share that compassion, kindness and togetherness all year round? It’s as if we bank all our niceness and spend it on one day each year!

  5. Pingback: A Bit of Nostalgia: Those Moments You Wish Lasted Forever « THE SCARECROW

  6. I must confess, one of my favourite Christmas gifts is still the PONG system I got when it first came out. HEY! That was the Wi of its time, dontcha know 😉 Personally, I still think I’d enjoy playing it LOL 🙂

    • I have a hazy memory of Pong, I was more the Spectrum generation before moving to Sonic the AnnoyingHog. Nostalgia sure is awesome! Thanks for your comment!

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