There was the preparation of every room in the house with decorations neatly stored in boxes put away neatly from the previous year. Selecting and decorating the Christmas tree taken from the garden was a big deal. As part of decorating the tree we used cotton wool to simulate snow, which of course was in short supply in Africa! Participating in the Advent services prior to Christmas and then midnight mass the night before Christmas were also magic moments. Best of all perhaps was helping my mother with the making of mince pies, the Christmas pudding and of course the Christmas cake. I am not sure Rory or I were of any real help because of our young ages, but it made us feel good to think we were helping.
After midnight mass we were allowed to sample the mince pies with a cup of tea before being sent off to bed. Shortly after that my mother crept into the room and we pretended to be asleep, as she placed our stockings at the end of the bed. Now these stockings did not contain items of any great value. You could say they were simply “stocking stuffers”. There might be an orange, some nuts, some handkerchiefs, as well as some stationary items for school. Amongst the ho-hum however there would also be some items of low cost but very much appreciated. An example of these would be the ever popular & world famous “Dinkey Toys”. These miniature vehicles, made from zinc alloy, were produced by Meccano in England from 1934 to 1979.
At around 4:00 o'clock on Christmas day, after an afternoon nap and before tea, the family assembled in our main lounge. We listened respectfully to the Queen's speech broadcast from London. Following this, a much-awaited high tea was served with the Christmas cake, mince pies, and most exciting of all, the opening of our main presents.
Every year, typically for Christmas or birthdays, no surprise, we were given sporting equipment—a cricket bat, a football or rugby ball, a tennis racket, or a hockey stick. This particular year, I saw an extra large box under the Christmas tree, and while it was difficult for me to imagine exactly what was in there, I gauged by the size of the box that it must be very special.
What a disappointment!! When I opened it up, I found I had been given a cowboy outfit! Can you imagine a cowboy outfit? Plastic pants and waist coat, as well as a sheriff’s badge!! We did not play Cowboys and Indians in Rhodesia. I had no idea what the strange outfit was meant for, including the 10-gallon yellow cowboy hat!
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