Well, it’s here again, the second Christmas without the usual festivities. Hopefully, this Christmas can be something like it was many years ago despite the virus. Children went to bed but could not sleep, their stocking, or in our case, pillowslip at the end of the bed. Then they tend to wake up around 5am with the thought, “has he been?”

Christmas has always been unique with decorations, Christmas dinner and a sleep in the chair afterwards. And this has been the pattern for most families at this joyous time.

Let’s have a look at a country where Christmas was perhaps even more popular. A snippet from my novel Britain Invaded should illustrate this well.

‘In the middle of the dinner table, there was an Advent wreath made from spruce twigs and holly. In three corners of the wreath, there was a red candle burning. On each Sunday of Lent, we get together and light a candle; that’s why there are three. We light the next one tomorrow on Christmas Eve. Have you noticed that there is no Christmas tree? Or, as we call it, a Tannenbaum.’

The story continues by explaining that they lock up the living room with the Christmas tree and all its baubles, and the children are not allowed to see it until after Midnight Mass. At this time, presents are exchanged before it’s time for bed with the expectation of a visit from St Nicholas. Germany’s Father Christmas.

But continuing with a look back at Christmas through the years, starting with what the Guardian Stationary Department in Northwich had for sale. An annual exhibition of Christmas and New Year cards and at the shilling discount you could buy books for 3d. Scales and Sons, the shop that was in Northwich at 53 High Street and advertised The Most Reliable Boots for the rough weather, Scales own make. On Saturday, December 9, 1893, a football match was held at The Drill Field between Northwich Victoria and The Royal Arsenal at Woolwich, now simply Arsenal. It was a game that was expected to be interesting as it was a league match with both teams strong.

At the same time, Michael Cavanagh of New Street, Leftwich, had been enjoying the festivities a bit too much as he was taken to the police court by PC Woodward for being drunk and incapable. He had told the officer that he wanted to be locked up, and his wish was granted. He was fined 5/-. The poor men of Northwich were disappointed to be told that the penny shaves would be no more. In January, the price was going up to a penny halfpenny. It was a busy time in Castle, Northwich, as a startling incident occurred.

A horse and cart owned by Lord Delamere was being loaded with barrels of paraffin when a barrel rolled in front of the horse, startling it and causing it to bolt.

In doing so, the wheel ran over the leg of Thomas Hassall, the carter causing a severe injury. The horse ran across the road, and the cart was dashed against the kerb, causing the horse to set off towards Castle Hill. The day was saved by a bicyclist who managed to stop it.

During the First World War, the troops on the frontline made the best of a bad thing. They attempted to have some sort of celebration in the trenches. The one time that they really did have a bit of fun was when the British and Germans met up in ‘no man’s land’ for a football game. The Germans recovered the few trees that had not been destroyed and set them up on their trenches with what they could find to decorate them. Candles were lit, and carols were sung; the Pope had already suggested a Christmas ceasefire, but both sides had declined this.

British soldiers crawled across to listen to the carols and started to sing along in English. The shooting stopped, and by the morning of Christmas day, ‘no man’s land’ was filled with fraternising soldiers singing together and exchanging small gifts.

A football game was suggested and played using anything that resembled a ball. It is possible that they also used a real football provided by a Scottish soldier. The Germans won 3 – 2; by New Year’s Day, it was all over, and the leaders of both sides demanded that the fighting resume.

The incident led to a poem by Frederick Niven in his ‘A Carol from Flanders.’.

O ye who read this truthful rime

From Flanders, kneel and say

God speed the time when every day

Shall be as Christmas Day

Christmas through the years was remembered in the local papers, complete with period advertisements. Special services were offered at the churches of mid Cheshire, and shops were filled with Christmas goodies.

The Northwich company Whate’s who had shops at 60 Station Road and 30 High Street, as shown here, were offering Christmas cakes, puddings, sweets and chocolate. They would also cater for festive dinners, balls and so on. In December 1944, the Second World War was coming to an end, but the ladies could still purchase a lovely Mary Arlen frock from Dane Street in Northwich; despite the end of the war nearing, a new delivery of frocks had just arrived.

The Regal, Plaza and Pavilion cinemas entertained the locals with a wide selection of films.

Miss Naffy consisting of 45,000 Naafi girls across the world, wished the troops a very Happy Christmas and New Year.

Scallywags were in action even during the war years and in the Christmas period. There was a lucrative business in stealing pedal cycles from the RAF stations and selling them for £4 each to Italian prisoners living and working in the area. The offenders appeared at Oakmere Magistrates Court and were duly punished, one of them to three months in prison and the other to a 3/- fine.

All the mid Cheshire villages did their bit. Weaverham WI held a Christmas party for their members, and the drama group performed Try Spunko. No, I have no idea either! Funds were raised for the Forces Comforts Fund and other worthy causes.

In Cotebrook, the WI had a Pie Scheme, and in the past year, they had baked 22,416 pies, raising £79,10s 9d from which donations had been made to various charities. Six months later, the war in Europe ended, and the Christmas festivities returned with the fun and merriment so long-missed in the dark years of the conflict.

Children were given a few shillings to get presents for their parents from Woolworth’s as the festive period approached.

Christmas will be with us soon when hopefully the lonely get together, there is peace on earth and children are as wide-eyed with their electronic playthings as the 1950s children were with their plasticine and Meccano.

And from the Looking Back aka Yesteryear’s column, may I wish one and all a very Happy Christmas.