The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 12, Issue 9 (December 1, 1937.)
Christmas—Old and Young
“When eight million men and women decide to live together on the same spot things are bound to happen.”
—H. V. Morton.
Things have been happening in this way in London for centuries, and thus has been built up a wealth of tradition which expresses, itself fully at this Christmas time. Eight million pairs of feet scurrying to do Christmas shopping, eight million hearts throbbing to the goodwill of this glad season, eight million pairs of eyes dancing in the light of tinsel signs and cheerful greetings: in such an atmosphere the bleak days of cold and fog are transformed into bright sparkling happy ones.
There has been a little snow during the day, but the rain has turned it all to slush, the overcast sky has given temporarily to the frosty stars. A steady throbbing relieved by a background of shrill hoots and whistles fills everything and rises upwards to the dancing heavens. The eight million inhabitants of London are celebrating Christmas Eve.
On a 'bus bound for Camberwell two men, laden with bulky packages, are striving to share a creaking strap with some degree of equality. As the 'bus passes from Knightsbridge and Piccadilly they become less conscious of the scenes outside and more conscious of themselves, until when the 'bus is travelling down the Vauxhall Bridge Road, they look at one another and the shorter sighs and says:
“You know, it may sound strange, but I never like shopping on a crowded night, not even Christmas Eve.”
The second, slightly bigger, smiles and cheerfully remarks:
“Yes, that part is always a bother, but,” eyeing the parcels which display their contents rather obviously, “think of what the youngsters would say if Father Christmas forgot to turn up!”
A happy glow lights up the tired eyes of the father, and from this moment his Christmas is complete.
A sorting clerk in the Post Office at St. Andrews, Scotland, heaves a sigh of relief as the last package drops into a waiting mail sack.
“There you are, Jamie,” he says, “that will be all for to-day. I'll now be off to my Christmas Puddin'.”
During the short trudge home he claps his hands together smartly to warm them, and smiles happily. The Spirit of Christmas is upon him. A sharp turn into Sloan Street and a brisk hundred yards or so, and he bursts through the door of his home. A peal of laughter greets his ears and he is just in time to join the rest of the family as they sit down to their Christmas dinner.
“Hello, mother,” he exclaims, taking a little parcel from his pocket, “this is yours.”
As he sees the care-worn eyes of his mother brighten and feels her warm embrace, his Christmas is complete.
* * *
It is a far cry from the islands of Great Britain to this land of the South Pacific, and there are many differences of climate and custom which affect the celebration of Christmas in the respective countries. The seasonal and historical contrasts between a northern land, where life is mellowed by centuries of tradition, and a South Seas country, settled less than a century ago, are equally great. Nevertheless, the spirit which actuates New Zealanders at this time is essentially that of the Old Land.
It is night, but there is no fog, no snow. The stars wink in the haze of page 54 page 55 summer, and the limpid waters of the sea murmur softly as a warm breeze suggestive of many gardens, travels over its surface. A joyous multitude throngs the streets and presents that delightful blending of rural and urban settings which is so characteristic of this country. There are no mufflers, gloves, or overcoats, but instead sports coats, flannels, and blazers are predominant. The fiery street signs seem brighter than usual and milk-bars and ice-cream counters do a phenomenal trade.
Aboard a tram climbing steadily for some hill suburb, is a parcel-laden crowd. Normally this crowd would be a dismal-faced lot. The talk, if any, would be generally pessimistic, and tired workers who were anxious to reach home would softly swear about the crowd and everything in general. Now, however, there is a bright buzz of conversation, smiles are on all faces, and cigarettes and pipes are puffed energetically. Need you ask why? It is Christmas Eve. The talk is mainly about presents. Women discuss prices, men confide that they hadn't the least idea what to purchase and wandered about aimlessly, finally pouncing on some little nick-nack and bearing it off triumphantly. On a corner seat, almost hidden, is a little tot prattling away to her father.
“And mummy took me to see Father Christmas, he gave me a ball—look,” she says, holding out a big squashy rubber one. A look of great joy comes into her eyes and she chuckles merrily.
“He's going to leave me a doll's pram to-night.”
Her Christmas is complete.
The sun is high in the heavens and the grass on the ridges is parched and brown. Down in a green hollow a homestead nestles and the faint scent of cows is borne on the welcome breeze. Far in the distance is the cracking of a whip-lash growing gradually louder. An undercurrent of barking and bleating stirs the air and soon over the hill comes a flock of sheep. Slowly it winds down to the pens by the house and after much seeming confusion, which is in reality orderly effort, the flock is safely penned. The dogs, panting contentedly, slink away to bask in the sun by their kennels, and the farmer dismounts and makes towards the house. There he finds a busy little wife laying a plenteous repast, mostly cold, but easily recognisable as a Christmas dinner.
“Where's Ron?” asks the man.
“Not back from town yet,” says his wife, “but I expect he will be in at any moment now—he said twelve thirty.”
Just then a faint hum is heard, bee like, and growing louder.
“Here he is!” says the man, and goes to the window.
A motor comes leaping over the sun sparkling highway. It slows, and swings round into the stony drive. It bumps over the cattle stops and its low bonnet anticipates the rise. With a humming acceleration it climbs the slope and stops at the verandah. A moment later a lad of eighteen bursts in, his arms full of parcels.
“Look, both of you! See what I've brought from Aunt Mary's.”
Their Christmas is complete.