By Farzana Hakim
Hi, all. Welcome to a festive edition of Thursday Connectors, with me, your host, Farzana. It’s holiday season and, as much as I try denying it, the fact is I’m still such a small child at heart! I love the fussing and rushing, the cheering and all the happiness generally associated with this time of year. Just as Eid is a truly special occasion for me, growing up in the UK Christmas was, and remains, a holiday which rekindles so many fond memories.
As a child, me and my siblings would get super-excited buying and writing up greetings cards for all our friends at school, and taking presents for our teachers. The weeks before we’d break up for the holidays were all about the Christmas fairs and making our classes look pretty with our crafts and handmaid decorations and drawings. I particularly remember the tissue lanterns and the paper chains we’d make. And then, as a young adult, our Christmas dos and our dinners; they were all so much fun.
My grandparents, who emigrated from Pakistan to East London in the late 1950’s, always looked forward to Christmas too. Away from family and friends, Christmas-time joy brought them closer to their neighbours. Coming together to celebrate as a community impacted on their lives a great deal. They probably felt welcomed and valued as members of the neighbourhood and wider society. Growing up with them, in the 80s and 90s, Christmas was still an important holiday at my house. And I’m sure my grandparents had a part to play in that.
And then, as an adult and a mum, I’ve also enjoyed many Christmas performances, watching as a proud parent as my children dressed up as shepherds, donkeys, inn keepers and angels, and sang and danced with their teachers and classmates.
These little joys are all fond memories and I’m sure we’ve all collected and can talk about our own at length.
So, to spread this positivity and joy far and wide, I’ve got the perfect line-up of humorous as well as special memories from members of my Write On! team and from our regular contributors.
I start with our Leader at Pen to Print, Lena Smith, and her special memory, because this one made me laugh the most!
Hi, Lena. Let’s Connect:
The subject of Christmas amusing incidents always brings to mind a story from my husband’s past. An incident that nearly resulted in disaster for future generations!
My dearly departed Mother-in-law is affectionally remembered for being very chatty, so much so, it was very rare for anyone else to get a word in! God bless.
One Christmas day, the family were sitting down in the living room for an after-Christmas dinner coffee. As was tradition, Mother-in-law was doing the rounds with a large pot of freshly brewed coffee; a special occasion treat in those days. And, as normal, Mother-in-law was conversing with family members, not stopping for breath.
Her son offered his cup for a coffee and dutifully, mid-conversation, Mother-in-law began to pour… and pour, still happily chatting away, not paying any attention to the pour.
“Mum, stop, the cup…”
She heard nothing, oblivious to the impending disaster, she carried on chatting and pouring.
In that split second, the cup overflowed, and steaming-hot coffee cascaded, waterfall-like, from the cup into the saucer and straight onto her sons ‘crown jewels’!
Shocked into silence, he was stunned, motionless. And, while he was silently gasping with pain, she continued to pour…
At that moment, Father-in-law came into the room, raising the alarm. Thankfully, her son’s ‘baubles’ were left with no lasting damage, if a little ‘warmed’ by the experience.
Each festive coffee time, we reminded Mother-in-law about the year she nearly ruined her chances for Grandchildren!
© Lena Smith, 2023
Connect with Lena on X: @pen_to_print
Next up, is Habib from our Pen to Print team. His memory is one all us parents can relate to!
Hi, Habib. Let’s connect:
Hannah And Catrat
Around this time last year, retail parks were flooded over the weekend with people buying Christmas presents. You’d e lucky enough to snap something off the shelves, especially at Smyths’ toy store, with little minions running around you.
I forfeited this one and decided to wait in the car while Hannah and her mum went for a lap around the toy store. Waiting in anticipation, I received a facetime call a few minutes later…
Hannah was in tears and before her mum could finish her sentence, I raced to the store, a bit like the scene from the movie, Jingle All The Way.
Having rummaged through the store like a bag of sweets, I finally found them. Hannah had her eyes locked in with a toy cat from the popular TV show, Gabby’s Dollhouse. She pointed at it, still in tears: “Catrat”. That’s his actual name and she was not moving an inch until she got her hands on it. Something I did with my parents for a toy car about three decades ago.
Catrat is the villain in the TV show and her mum wasn’t happy. We got him anyway. It’s been over a year now and little old Catrat is still a big part of her life. Everywhere Hannah goes, he goes too. From safari parks to being dragged across the streets of London. He’s been spun round the machine a few times, too. Poor chap; I sometimes wonder how he’s still holding up.
Here’s an image of Hannah’s one year old Catrat compared to a brand new one from the same store.
Image taken on my phone on November 2023 at Smyths Toy Store, Beckton.
© Muhammad Rahman, 2023
Connect on X: @pen_to_print
Now, we connect with Madeleine, our Editor, who shares a sentimental family tradition with us.
Hi, Madeleine. Let’s connect:
A dear friend once likened family traits and behaviours to a little red coat that gets passed down from generation to generation. In a world where many of us aren’t living in the country we started out in, this nature versus nurture ideas becomes even more interesting!
Here’s a little story of my own to illustrate.
The little German village near the French border my family is from, loved celebrating when I was a child. The obvious things, from birthdays to Easter to Christmas, but also church festivals and lesser events we might not consider worth celebrating these days. So often, I’d sit around a big table or the local pub – ‘Gaststube’ (whose owners were related to us in some convoluted way), at least four times a year. Aunts, uncles and friends would all be decked out in their Sunday best, while perfume and food smells wouldn’t be quite strong enough to disguise the slight whiff of BO.
The food, provided by the Gaststube, was always amazing and the women would try to outdo each other in terms of the cakes they baked for ‘Kaffee and Kuchen.’ With the event that would last from midday well into the evening, this baked extravaganza would be the late afternoon highlight. It was a point of pride for the baker if a cake was completely eaten up and an even bigger point of pride for a man at the table to be considered to be the one with the best appetite.
My great uncle Uncle Jakob was renowned for his cake eating prowess, having managed to devour one and a half plum cakes ‘Pfaumenboden,’ in one sitting. Bearing in mind the diameter of German cakes is 30cm, this was no mean feat! I tried to emulate, but watching Uncle Jakob, and others like him, eat piece after piece, I realised I was not in their league.
Wind on 19 years. I’m in England, with an 18-month-old Callum in tow. It’s the late 90s and we’re spending a family Christmas at a hotel on the coast of Kent (the only time we’ve ever been in an ‘establishment’ for Christmas).
Anyway, the room is big and crowded and we’re sitting around the table with a soup starter. Callum is eating with intent; shovelling spoon after spoon of soup. He then moves onto the bread roll. He’s on a mission. We don’t quite realise what that is until his head falls forward. If not for my eagle-eyed husband, our son would have landed face down in his soup – fast asleep! It seems he’d known this was coming and made a concerted effort to finish what was Infront of him. He spends the rest of the dinner snoozing under the table in a nest of coats we’d arranged.
It did make me think, though, of Uncle Jakob, and the manful prowess of eating as much as possible at one sitting. On that day, the little red coat passed to Callum. And, based on the 25 Christmases since, I believe it’s found pretty good shoulders to sit on!
© Madeleine F White, 2023
Connect on X, Threads and Instagram: @Madeleinefwhite
Our next Connector comes from Rachel Umoh and I just love how she talked about her most cherished and laughter filled Christmases with her family in Nigeria.
Hi, Rachel. Let’s connect:
Cherished Christmas Memories
Coming from a family where Christmas celebration is a religious and cultural practice, I am filled with joy, laughter, and gratitude during this special time. For my family, each Christmas is a treasured occasion that brings back cherished memories. We relish the chance to reconnect with one another, reflect on the meaningful moments of the year, and share laughter as we reminisce about funny events from previous celebrations.
Since I was a child, Christmas has always brought so much joy into my life! The vibrant decorations, delightful scents of delicious food and snacks, and the dazzling vacation destinations all made Christmas extra special. But what I remember most are the hilarious moments. One of the most memorable episodes is when my mom would get us oversized Christmas dresses. You see, in those days, many African mothers believed that baggy clothes were a great choice because we could grow into them and wear them for a longer time.
However, when I turned 15 and we had a Christmas carol service at the teen church, I decided to ask my mom for a more fitted outfit and some heels to match. Little did I know what was in store for me! I vividly recall tripping and falling with a loud thud, rolling over Christmas decorations on the podium while wearing my new suit and skirt as I went up to recite my Christmas poem. It was quite embarrassing, but it turned out to be a hilariously unforgettable experience!
In my childhood, one of the most delightful aspects of Christmas was the excitement of saving up for the festivities. We would carefully store our money in a piggy bank called “kolo” or “asusu” in Nigerian languages. This little wooden or metal treasure chest was beloved by children who had learned the value of spending their own money. In Nigeria, we would save up our money to purchase fireworks, balloons, and sweets for the joyful celebrations.
The saving would begin as early as March or April, right after Easter. I can still vividly recall the moments when I eagerly broke open my piggy bank, only to realise my savings hadn’t been as consistent as I had hoped. The amount of money inside was only enough to buy a single pack of sweets! This silly predicament would often lead to playful teasing from my younger siblings and the other children in the neighbourhood.
In most Nigerian homes, parents or older siblings often want to save the cash gifts that children receive from extended family members or loved ones. However, in many cases, these cash gifts are never saved or returned. It’s another funny experience that I’m sure many Nigerian kids can relate to!
Being a foodie, I got scolded by my parents for eating too much, especially as guests at a friend’s house. Mum would give an eye signal to caution the frequency of how often I took sweets or juice and innocent little me would give her a thumbs-up and still manage to sneak another sweet or two. Until I grew older, I never knew that was bad behaviour. My mum still remembers and laughs over it now.
“Memories brings back Memories” they say. As I write, I can go on and on to remember more humorous episodes of Christmas in my family.
Holidays are meant for relaxation and bonding with loved ones, Christmas gives us the opportunity to rekindle love, spread love and enjoy the peace of the season.
© Rachel Umoh, 2023
And now, last but not least, Eithne Cullen, our Thoughtful Tuesday’s editor, has reflected all her emotions in a fantastic poem.
Hi, Eithne. Let’s connect:
White stuff like fluff fell
freezing from the sky.
There was stuff on the table
glasses, jugs, menus, wine….
and lovely stuff from the menu
meats and cheeses,
a woman put stuff on our meals
and we talked and we laughed
about the stuff of our lives
and the stuff our very dreams
are made of…
moves, matches, families, ashes.
And we admitted we have
too much stuff
grounding us to our houses and
the lives we’ve led,
where every house if a store room,
every room a repository,
a treasure trove
then we listen to stories
of those who have to be
dug out of hoarders’ caves,
summoned by flies,
and all that could start
with a cardboard box.
White stuff like fluff fell
freezing from the sky.
Going into the cold,
Till the next time we share
this stuff called
© Eithne Cullen, 2023
Connect onX: @Eithne_Cullen and Instagram: @eithnecullen57
I hope you enjoyed my small selection. Just like that, Thursday Connectors says goodbye to another year. I’ll see you all again in 2024. I hope, by then, the troubles in the Middle East have ended and we have a peaceful resolution and an end to murder and madness. I hope 2024 is peaceful and full of good health and prosperity for all.
Take care and have a great holiday and a very happy New Year.
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I love the fussing, rushing, cheering and all the happiness generally associated with this time of year.