Christmas With The Straws
The Straw’s plans for Christmas often kicked off much earlier in the year, with the first stages of preparation taking place in November.
In late November 1954 William could be found boiling a dozen plum puddings in the gas copper, another year he was busy making his mincemeat using 4lbs of apples, 4 of demerara sugar, 3 of currents, 3 of raisins, 2nutmegs, 2 suet and the rind and juice of three lemons.
On occasion the preparation of the puddings wasn’t something that occurred a mere month or two prior to Christmas, but several years previous. In 1967 William notes that they ate the last of a 1963 batch of plum puddings, so they evidently liked them well steeped!
It wasn’t just the age of the pudding that could be a little unorthodox, in 1955 an often mentioned friend and cousin of William and Walter, Reg. Woods, procured them a 10lb goose which they paid for with a bottle of whiskey rather than money.
Goose was a Christmas staple for the Straw family and William often went to the trouble of recording its weight and cost as well as the trimmings they served with it. In 1959 the goose set them back £2.11.3, by 1974 they were paying £6.15p.
Though goose was never replaced by the more modern Christmas bird of Turkey it wasn’t a feature at every Straw Christmas. During the war, in 1941, they had to make do with pheasant instead, though it was still served alongside sprouts, mashed potato and plum pudding, as well as a bottle of Sauterne.
It was likely an improvement on the meal they had a few days before, which consisted of a pork pie made using a tin of American sausage meat. Surely especially galling to the grandsons of a butcher!
Like any family the Straw’s had their traditions, though few are recorded in the diaries, entries through the Christmas period often being particularly sparse. It’s nice to think they were probably too busy celebrating with friends and family to bother recording the details, the huge number of Christmas cards they received, and half empty Christmas cracker boxes bearing testament to their popularity.
As many families do today, the Straw’s often enjoyed a Boxing Day walk. Red Lane, a picturesque track on the outskirts of Worksop, is mentioned several times through the years from the 1920’s, ‘Father, Walt & I walked around Red Lane’, right through to the late 1960’s.
Sadly, we know that Christmas must have forever changed for William when his brother passed away in 1976, leaving him as the last surviving member of the family line, and the sole occupant of 7 Blyth Grove. Difficult as Walter’s passing would always be, its proximity to Christmas must have made it all the more difficult for William.
Walter was frequently attended by doctors through late November and December, before passing away on the 16th of December. His funeral was only a few days before Christmas.
Though the festive period must subsequently have been difficult William still had his wider family, both William senior and Florence were from large families, so he had many cousins.
Each year a wave of Christmas cards and illustrated letters from friends found their way to him, throughout the 1980’s, and in spite of the years he spent in hospital towards the end of his life.
All of the recipes collected by his mother from her friends and family throughout the years were still available to him to recreate the taste of Christmas past, and we think he probably found his own ways to celebrate, likely as unique as his home.