For the first fifteen or so years of my life, our house in Stoke Newington was a bit of a hub, with relatives coming to stay for the duration. It probably wasn't much fun for my parents, but at least it meant my sister and I received more presents than we might have done. My grandma and (then) unmarried Uncle George (from Kensington or Shepherd's Bush, depending on whether you were in a charitable mood about the location of Addison Gardens), along with Uncle John and Auntie Florrie from Crystal Palace, were permanent fixtures at Christmas, but sometimes they were joined by others such as Gladys Shanagher, one-time Mayor of Stoke Newington (and didn't she know it!). Our parents taught us to give as well as receive presents , and my dad would give us ten shillings to add to our pocket money for this purpose. It was mostly tat from Woolworths or the gift shop on Church Street, but they were received as if they had been precious jewels.
Regrettably no photos were taken at any of the Christmases then. Oddly enough, the first Christmas photos I have were taken in Poland in 1972 when I was a student and went to stay with my friend, Barbara, and her parents in Łódź, a grim city in a grim time, but the Christmas celebrations seemed all the more welcome for that. Barbara is the one eating, and that was me in my moustache period.
Although I'm still in touch with Barbara and her children, and have been to Poland two or three times since, there were no more Christmases there. She was due to come just after Christmas 1981 but Martial Law was declared and that put an end to that. I kept the card and the envelope she sent that Christmas, amused by the rubber-stamped message on the front kindly informing me that her Christmas greetings had not been censored. That was so big of them that I will forever keep it as a reminder of what a generous time Christmas can be.