Christmases in Nantyglo-Blaina
I moved away from Nantyglo some 20 years ago, so for my recollections I will look at all the best of them during the 1950's. I believe that as communications have improved over the recent past, the US and UK have grown quite close, so our present-day Christmases would probably be quite similar.
Christmas is always special to children of Christian families, in Wales, as in most other developed countries. Again, my parents were much like other Welsh parents, very loving and protective. The house was average to large for a coal miner. Six rooms in all, three up and three down with a small bathroom downstairs (living rooms all around 12 feet square).
In the wintertime we lived in the kitchen (10 x 12 - the smallest room) at the rear of the house. No central heating, just the warmth of the "back kitchen" coal fire. On weekends and holidays, we would have the "middle room" fire lit, and this opened up the house a little. It also made my bedroom warmer, as it was above that room.
First signs of Christmas was the decorations or "trimmings" in the middle room, a week before Christmas. Mam making statements like, "Father Christmas only visits good children." Shopping was done in neighbouring towns like Abertillery or Brynmawr. A bus ride to one and train ride to the latter. In the 1950's we still remembered the second world war, but the area was coming into a period of growth so most were experiencing a "feel-good factor." The bus ride to Abertillery was about 15 minutes, and busses ran frequently, at 10-minute intervals. Brynmawr was closer, and as we lived closer to the railway station it was convenient to catch the train (every hour). In December, Brynmawr could be biting cold, the wind coming over the Coity mountain and going straight through. A lazy wind, my mam would say. It does not go around.
One Christmas Eve I remember the killing of the chicken. As we had kept chickens (for eggs) throughout the year, it was time to enjoy the cockerel for Christmas dinner. My father and uncle caught the condemned bird and tied his feet together. There had never been such swearing and shouting (as was heard to be then) in our back garden. Out came the axe and a block of wood to rest the neck of Christmas lunch. Uncle holds the bird, dad swings the axe. Oops. more shouts with hoots of laughter. Missed the ******* (I learnt some new words that day). Try again and this time hold him steady. Bang. Off comes his head, whoops of laughing, I'm off.
The memory of that chicken hopping around the garden with no head lives with me to this day.
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