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Christmas Lunch in the 50s/60s

Dad killed the chook, mum plucked and stuffed it and there were real sixpences and threepences in the home-made plum pudding. Christmas dinner (lunch) in the 50s and 60s was quite different to today’s modern festivities.

Photo from Google Images. Like most single income families back then, there was never very much spare money about to spend on extras

Photo from Google Images. Like most single income families back then, there was never very much spare money about to spend on extras

It would have been a couple of days before Christmas day that dad, having selected the chook that was least productive as a layer, would go into the chook-house. After much commotion he’d finally grab the one he wanted, march outside to the chopping block by the woodpile, grab the axe along the way and quickly chop off its head.

It was almost a ritual each year to then let go of the headless chook and it would take off, running around the yard and scaring the living beejesus out of us kids, who had gathered by the back door to watch the proceedings.

After a short time he would pick up the headless bird and hang it upside down on the line to allow all the blood to run out.

Then mum and grandma (she spent a lot of Christmases with us from memory) would get to work and throw the fowl into a big pan of boiling water before beginning the task of plucking it. I can still remember that smell of wet feathers to this day as the two women would sit in the kitchen chatting as they removed all the feathers.

Next, grandma would gut the chook as mum would start making the stuffing. My grandmother was reared on a farm and I remember how she would stick her hand up into the fowl and then take great delight in removing the entrails one by one, explaining to us kids what each organ was and why it was there.

Once it was gutted, the stuffing would go in, the chook stitched up and it was ready to be roasted in dripping next day, along with the potatoes, pumpkin and carrots to sit alongside the boiled peas (all shelled by hand) and brussel sprouts.

We were similar to most single income families back then and there was never very much spare money about to spend on extras….But at the same time we didn’t expect a great deal, so we were well satisfied with what we had.

Come Christmas morning, it was off to Mass, after which we were allowed to open our pillow cases, in which Father Christmas had left our presents. Then the wood stove would be lit (probably on the usually hot day), and lunch would be prepared.

Photo from Google Images.  One of the highlights would be who would get the wishbone and therefore get to make a wish,

Photo from Google Images. One of the highlights would be who would get the wishbone and therefore get to make a wish,

I can never recall my parents ever drinking alcohol with any meals, even at Christmas, so the only liquid taken would have been a cup of tea. My wife remembers at her home, all the men at the table having a shandy (beer and lemonade)

The two highlights of the lunch were, who would get the wishbone, and therefore get to make a wish and how much you might get in threepences and sixpences from the plum pudding.

Grandma made the plum pudding each year, starting some time in about September. She would make the puddings for every member of her family and have them strung up in small calico sacks in the cellar at the farmhouse. Into each one she would put in a few silver coins and it was always a big bonus to get one of those at the end of Christmas lunch.

I think that Christmases back in those years were a lot simpler and far less commercialised than the festivities of today.

That is not meant as a criticism of the modern celebration. As a matter of fact I love Christmas and the whole celebration of families coming together, enjoying each other’s company and all the joy that brings at this time each year.

May I wish all my readers a very happy and a joyous Christmas!

And please share some of your own childhood memories of Christmas.

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8 Responses to Christmas Lunch in the 50s/60s

  1. Doug December 23, 2014 at 7:00 pm #

    That story is EXACTLY what our Christmas was like though the 50s and 60s!!!

    It also reminded me that we always got our presents in a pillow case!

  2. Roger Ray December 23, 2014 at 8:21 pm #

    Merry Christmas to you Bob and all your family, yes I too love Christmas and sadly this year there does not appear to be the Christmas cheer from retailers, I went into Tee Tree Plaza yesterday no Father Christmas (Santa) but a Rabbit, I am told it was Bugs Bunny, what he has to do with Christmas I don;t know, my Grandmother also cooked on a wood stove and somehow served up a meal generally roast beef (she traded home grown vegetables with the butcher) piping hot and the plum pudding with custard nice and warm, we did not have beer or anything like that in the house but an uncle worked at Jon preserving and we got a flagon of cordial (normally lemon) to have with Christmas Dinner, we had to get dressed up in our Sunday best and have a shower (with a chip heater) before we had lunch, toys were very few, one year I got a secondhand two wheel bike and thought that was the greatest present I could ever get, Merry Christmas everyone

  3. Lorraine Gregory December 23, 2014 at 9:21 pm #

    It was fun hunting for threepences and sixpences, and especially for the one and only shilling in the Christmas pudding. But it was not so much fun when Mum insisted that you had to eat everything on the plate, even though you were already full to the brim!
    Years later I married a farmer too, and I learnt to do the whole chook process by myself, right from chopping to serving. And, like you, I have never forgotten the smell of plucking feathers either. Good memories!

    • Jo Schenkel December 24, 2014 at 2:17 am #

      would you have been in Maitland, Lorraine? As a Barossa kid, those memories are all too familiar.

  4. Bev December 23, 2014 at 9:47 pm #

    I loathe Christmas pudding but I would still pretend I liked it just to get the sixpence. Just after decimal currency came in, mum would connect them and swap them for 5c pieces… Once I found mine I would push the pudding around the bowl and pretend to eat it. I’m sure my mother knew but she never let on.
    I can remember my mother plucking chickens, but not a turkey. She may have, but I was quite young when we had family Christmases together at home. But my father used to be a butcher in an earlier caareer so he may have drexsed the turkey himself. I can remember one time her plucking the pigeons that my brothers shot not far from our holiday house and they used to skin the rabbits they shot too… but that was before the rabbit population was given the Mixie virus…
    We would to to church in the morning and the roast would be in the oven cooking, and we’d come back to the most lovely aroma… and my mother and grandmother would get about making the salads and side dishes…
    It was never the colder fare that most people favour now. It was a full hot Christmas dinner with roast vegetables.
    My long suffering mother (unknown to me at the time) would then pack up the house ready for the trip on Boxing Day to our holiday house at the now suburb of Hallet Cove. Life was so much simpler then

  5. Jacque December 24, 2014 at 6:59 am #

    I remember Christmas day as a child being very loud, a lot of fun and bustling with people. My Nan had 13 children and most of them like my dad had 4 or more of their own. Christmas day all of us and a few extras went to Nans for dinner, about 70 of us usually. The women spent the entire morning on the food, the men played cards and us kids had the best time playing with the many cousins. Lunch time was the full traditional meal all cooked in Nannas wood oven and most times about 40 Celsius outside and heaven knows how hot inside. As our group was so big and nannas verandah not big enough, usually the men all ate first, then the kids and the ladies got to eat last before spending the afternoon cleaning up. Wè the children were many but Nanna had a little gift for every child no matter their age.Its a memory forever in my mind at Christmas and with Nanna, both my parents and most of the Aunts and Uncles now passed on they are memories that i and my cousins treasure dearly.

  6. Inez Schulte December 24, 2014 at 2:21 pm #

    Our Christmas wàs exactly asribed above and yes NO alchohol cups of tea and we all chatted endessly The lunch dishes was washed while elder brothers and sisters sat and chattered until tea (dinner time) then the process of using left over turkey and salds was consumed It was such great times and kept simple
    )(dinner time)

  7. Judi Hirst January 12, 2015 at 7:16 am #

    My English grandmother always made Yorkshire Pudding to have with Roast Chicken. She cooked tin peas forever so they were all mushy!

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