A Babbacombe Christmas in the 50’s


When Babbacombe School and Babbacombe church “do’s” were over with, Christmas had truly begun for me. These were just prerequisites for Christmas which had to be got over with, if you know what I mean

Decorating the cottage where I spent my early Christmases with my beloved Nan was an exciting time.  My sister and I explored Walls Hill and the stony paths down to Babbacombe beach looking for ivy or holly to hang above the picture frames.  Mistletoe was hung above the kitchen door for that unsuspecting visitor!  Cards flopped on the mat through the brass letter box which had to be polished every day along with the brass doorstep and the bell pull which didn’t work.  Usually my job!

Nan in the kitchen was an enigma!  She mixed all the Christmas cakes and puddings by hand.  They smelled so rich with dried fruits, rum or brandy or whatever it was that gave off those mouth watering smells.  Of course we all had a stir three times around for good luck.  Nan would then wrap up some “joeys” or silver three-penny bits in cellophane – we were rich if we found them in our pudding without breaking a tooth!  When the cakes were done they all sat on top of the tallboy on the landing with their gorgeous pink coats.  We’d all steal up for an illicit look and a poke, leaving grubby telltale fingerprints.  Nan pickled huge pots of red cabbage and pickled onions.  We glued coloured paper chains together which were hung up next day by our aunt Shirley.  She decorated the tree, a thin scraggly pine with real red candles and magical Victorian glass baubles on.  Being very imaginative I would gaze into them conjuring up all kinds of make-believe worlds.

The candles were lit on Christmas Eve for a short time under Granddad’s watchful eye.    We awoke to peals of joyful Babbacombe church bells ringing out Christmas  morn .  We dived into our pillowcases for the nuts, apple , orange and chocolate bar , which we prized more than anything.    One Christmas Eve Granddad came upstairs, and pointed out of the window to Browning’s roof opposite where he said Santa and the reindeer had just landed.  By the time we rushed over of course he had disappeared!  It was all in good fun.

The Christmas cake sat on the small square table in front of the crackling fire.  I always got a ‘joey’  in my bite of pudding.  I was rich indeed.

Christine Hawkins