An Heirloom Christmas Recipe

When thinking about what to write for Christmas, I wondered if my mum had inherited her mum’s recipe books.

Sure enough she did, and what treasure it is.

Can you tell it was well used?

my grandma’s recipe book

And guess what the very first recipe written in the book is … yep, “Mother’s Christmas Pudding”.

So here it is. The Christmas pudding recipe from my great grandma.

In case you can’t read my grandma’s handwriting, here’s a transcription:

Mother’s Christmas Pudding
3 Large Cups Flour
2 Cups Sugar
1 lb Seeded Raisins
1 lb Currants
1/2 lb Lemon Peel
1/2 Cup Bread Crumbs
1 lb Suet
8 Eggs
1/2 Teaspoon Carb Soda

Mix Soda in Flour. Boil about 6 hours.
I generally boil mine 4 hours the first time.


Now don’t go getting any ideas thinking I’m going to make this. Firstly I’m not much of a cook. Secondly I’m totally not a fan of Christmas pudding. And thirdly I had to google to find out “suet” even is, and that should not go in anything, let alone a pudding!!

But still I do believe in preserving history, and this is an heirloom recipe, whether I make it or not!

I don’t know what date this would have been written, but my grandma’s name was Evelyn Phebe Hannaford (nee Randell) b.1916, and her mother’s name was Ella Alice Randell (nee Sinkinson), b.1876, so no doubt it dates back a fair way!

Wishing you a all Merry Christmas!

The Origins of Christmas Traditions

Christmas. It’s the time of year where so many people have ‘traditions’.

Whether it be decorations, presents, carols, the gathering itself, christmas stockings, gingerbread houses or other Christmassy treats, or more … there’s usually an element of tradition to it. So let’s see where these traditions started!

I wouldn’t say that I’m really a traditionalist, but there are certain things that ‘make’ Christmas, Christmas for me. Things such as having a Christmas tree, sending out cards to friends, having a roast lunch, and my mum’s “polish sausage” which is actually a chocolate mint thing, rolled up like a sausage … sounds weird, but it is YUMMY!

While Christmas is long associated with Christianity, when you look back there’s a definite mix of Christian and non-Christian origins of traditions.

“Yuletide is the old or poetical, name for the Christmas season, and has been held as a sacred festival from time as a memorial – long before the advent of Christianity – by numerous nations of the earth. The births were celebrated, then, of Buddha by the Chinese, or Horus, son of Isis, by the Egyptians, and of Ceres, Bacchus and Hercules by the Greeks. Druids, various Indian tribes, the ancient Mexicans, Persians. Romans, and Scandinavians, all held some sort of religious celebrations during the period of winter solstice, occurring in the northern hemisphere towards the end of December.”

The following description of Christmas traditions was reported in the West Australian newspaper, 24 December 1929, with a few additions (with links) added in as needed.


Evergreen decorations have been used since ancient times when the great feast of Saturn was held in December and the people decorated the temples with such green things as they could find. The Christian custom is the same transferred to Him who was born in Bethlehem on the first Christmas Day. The holly or holy-tree is called Christ’s thorn in Germany and Scandinavia, from its use in church decorations and its habit of putting forth scarlet berries at Christmas time.

The custom of Christmas-trees laden with gifts comes from Germany and has origin in obscure Scandinavian and Egyptian legends. The Christmas tree was introduced into England by the Prince Consort, husband of Queen Victoria, in 1840.

The Christmas box was a small gratuity given to servants, retainers, etc., on Boxing-Day (the day after Christmas Day). In the early days of Christianity boxes were placed, in churches for promiscuous charities, and opened on Christmas Day. The contents were distributed next day by the priests, and called ‘the dole of the Christmas box,’ or the ‘box money.’ It was customary for the heads of houses to give small sums of money to their subordinates ‘to put into the box’ before mass on Christmas Day. Somewhat later, apprentices in England carried a box round to their masters’ customers for small gratuities. The custom died out gradually after 1830.

Christian carols are sung in commemoration of the song of the angels to the shepherds of the nativity. In olden days the bishops with the clergy used to sing carols and play games on Christmas Day. The earliest Christmas hymn, Corde natus ex parentis, ‘Of the Father’s Love Begotten,’ still sung in the Church of England, was written by a Spanish Christian poet, born at Saragossa in the 4th century. The popular German Christmas songs date from the 11th century, and Christmas carols generally from the 13th century. The hymn Adeste fideles. ‘O Come All Ye Faithful.’ was composed as late as the 17th century, by John Reading.

The custom of the Christmas stocking comes from Belgium.
[ed. The more common theory is that is started with Saint Nicholas from Turkey, who threw bags of gold coins down the chimney of a wealthy businessman who had gone broke. You can read all about that here]

Santa Claus hails from Holland.
[ed. Again St Nicholas who was born in 280AD at Myra, near current-day Turkey, seems to be the origin of this legend and tradition, you can read more about that here].

French children range their shoes on the hearth-stone on Christmas Eve for the Christ-child to fill with toys or sweets.

In Denmark and Sweden the Christmas box or gift is known as julklapp. The delivery of the julklapp is peculiar. Small presents are wrapped first in fringed tissue paper, then done up in common brown paper, and sometimes wrapped in strips of cloth until round like a ball, covered with a thin layer of dough and browned in the oven, finally pinned up in a napkin, tied in white wrapping paper and tied with pink string. Other gifts are enclosed in labelled bundles of hay, rolls of cotton or wool, with inner wrappings variously as sorted. Julklapps are delivered early on Christmas morning after a loud knock at the bedroom door, by hurling the packages on to the sleeper’s chest. Later in the day they may be landed in someone’s lap after a sharp tap at door or window. In short, the julklapps’ may come from any and every direction when least expected, and surprise and excitement is thus kept up from early morn until late at night on Christmas Day.

The Polish custom is for the children of a household to search for their Christmas gifts which have previously been hidden in all manner of places about the home.

Christmas cards, which have gone through the post annually in millions for many years, and their popularity shows no sign of waning are only a modern institution. The first genuine Christmas card ever entrusted to the care of the Post Office was sent in 1844 by W. E. Dobson, R.A., who has a friend from whom he has received certain courtesies for which he desired to show appreciation. The time was Christmas, so he made a sketch symbolising the spirit of the festive season and posted it to his friend. It was done on a piece of Bristol-board about twice the size of the modern letter-card, and from this small beginning rapidly sprang the custom responsible for the development of a vast industry for the manufacture and distribution of Christmas cards. [Extract from The West Australian, 21 December 1923, pg 6] [ed. there is also reports of the first Christmas card appearing in 1843, which you can read about here].

Christmas pudding (sometimes known as plum pudding) is a type of pudding traditionally served as part of the Christmas dinner in the UK, Ireland and in other countries where it has been brought by British emigrants. It has its origins in Christian medieval England.  It was not until the 1830s that the mix of flour, fruits, suet, sugar and spices, all topped with holly, made a definite appearance, becoming more and more associated with Christmas. More information on this here.


What are your Christmas traditions?

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas – Genealogy-Style

The items on a genealogists Christmas wishlist tend to be a little different to everyone else’s, and this is reflected in a number of variants of the “Twas the Night Before Christmas poem, and a few other genealogy-related Christmas poems. Enjoy!

(Author Unknown)

‘Twas the night before Christmas
when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even my spouse.
The dining room table with clutter was spread
With pedigree charts and with letters which said:

“Too bad about the data for which you wrote.
It sank in a storm on an ill-fated boat.”
Stacks of old copies of wills and of such
Were proof that my work had become much too much.

Our children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugarplums danced in their heads.
And I at my table was ready to drop
From work on my album with photos to crop.

Christmas was here, and of such was my lot
That presents and goodies and toys I’d forgot.
Had I not been so busy with grandparents’ wills,
I’d not have forgotten to shop for such thrills.

While others had bought gifts that would bring Christmas cheer,
I’d spent time researching those birthdates and years.
While I was thus musing about my sad plight,
A strange noise on the lawn gave me such a fright.

Away to the window I flew in a flash,
Tore open the drapes and I yanked up the sash.
When what to my nearsighted eyes should appear,
But an overstuffed sleigh and eight small reindeer.

Up to the housetop the reindeer they flew
With a sleigh full of toys, and ol’ Santa Claus, too.
And then in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of thirty-two hoofs.

The TV antenna was no match for their horns,
And look at my roof, with hoof-prints adorned!
As I drew in my head, and bumped it on the sash,
Down the cold chimney fell Santa – KEE-RASH!

Dear Santa had come from the roof in a wreck
And tracked soot on the carpet! I could just wring his neck!
Spotting my face, good old Santa could see
I had no Christmas spirit, you’d have to agree.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work
And filled all the stockings. (I felt like a jerk).
Here was Santa who’d brought us such gladness and joy;
When I’d been too busy for even one toy.

He spied my research on the table all spread.
“A genealogist!”, he cried (My face was all red).
“Tonight I’ve met many like you”, Santa grinned,
As he pulled from his sack a large book he had penned.

I gazed with amazement – the cover, it read:
“Genealogy Lines For Which You Have Plead”.
“I know what it’s like as a genealogy bug”,
He said as he gave me a great Santa hug.

“While the elves make the sleighful of toys I now carry,
I do some research in the North Pole Library!”
“A special treat I am thus able to bring
To genealogy folks who can’t find a thing.”

“Now off you go to your bed for a rest –
I’ll clean up the house of this genealogy mess”.
As I climbed up the stairs full of gladness and glee,
I looked back at Santa who’d brought much to me.

While settling in bed, I heard Santa’s clear whistle
To his team, which then rose like the down of a thistle.
And I heard him exclaim as he flew out of sight,
“Family history is fun! Merry Christmas! Good night!”

While I can find numerous reference to this poem, sadly they all say author unknown.
The earliest reference I found of this version was on Matthew Monroe’s
Canonical List of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas Variations site, dated 6 January 2007.


(by Sandra Devlin, Moncton, New Brunswick)

‘Twas the night before Christmas and inside my house
Little was stirring, except my computer mouse.
Our descendants were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of ancestors danced in their heads.

So I at my laptop, near trusty old printer
Put the finishing touches to the project of winter,
The gift I had promised for under the tree
A product of love, the family genealogy.

My table with clutter galore was aspread
with pedigree charts of the living and dead;
old yellowed photos, letters of yore,
wills and diaries chronicling days from before.

While others bought gifts at Wall-Mart or Sears,
I’d spent my time searching birth dates and years.
No need for ribbons or fancy gift wrappings,
This gift had a way of transcending the trappings.

While surveying the charts with one final proof,
I must have missed the sound on the roof.
For what to my wondering eyes did appear,
But the jolly old elf, replete in his gear.

Searching my face, old Santa could sense
My Christmas spirit was extremely intense.
He spied my research on the table spread out,
“A genealogist!” he exclaimed, “that removes any doubt.”

As I climbed up the stairs feeling quite in the pink,
I looked back at Santa and shared a sly wink.
For he and I know that the gift of oneself,
Beats anything bought from a department store shelf.

This was posted by the author on a RootsWeb Mailing List, and is dated 19 December 2000.


(by Daniel Hubbard)

Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house,
Not a creature was noisy, except my clicking mouse,
The descendants were nestled, all snug in their beds,
But I was still searching for great-Uncle Ned,

And a census with Grandma and Great-Grand-pap,
Who just settled down at this spot on the map,
When suddenly arose some noises exterior,
I swiveled in my chair to free my posterior.

Away to the window, I made a mad dash,
And gazed out on the scene of a quite festive crash,
A tangle of decorations surround a miniature sleigh,
Santa flew low over a Yuletide display,

Reindeer and camels and snowmen all mingled,
I knew in a moment that I’d soon be Kris Kringled,
They struggled to pull all the lights they were trailing,
And even the dead heard his most fearful wailing;

“On Probate, on Will Book, On Baptismal Ledger,
On Census, on Plat Map, On Microfilm Reader!”
He entered extra quickly ’cause I’ve shortened this poem,
And he bore in his hands one enormous tome,

A rub of his eye and a shake of his head,
Soon gave me to know genealogists should be in bed;
He spoke not a word but went straight to my work,
Found all my relations then turned with a jerk,

And leaving the curser beside great-grandpa Morse,
Gave me some papers, each a primary source,
He sprang to his team, I yanked the mess from his sleigh,
So he managed to lift off before it was day,

And I heard his great joy at a sleigh minus fetters,
“Next year your getting all Uncle Ned’s letters!”

This was on Daniel Hubbard’s own blog, Personal Past Meditations – A Genealogical Blog,
and is dated 24 December 2011.


(by Dora Mills)

‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the charts
The lines that were empty would sure break your heart.
The pedigree chart was laid out with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas would know who or where.
As searcher I nestled all snug in my bed
While visions of ancestors danced through my head.

Others sound asleep both upstairs and down
All in a nightcap and ankle length gown.
when out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I jumped from my bed to see what was the matter.
When much to my wonderment there did appear
Good old St Nicholas with a grin to each ear.

His bulk was tremendous, his eyes full of glee
He laughed as he picked up the sad pedigree.
He shouted and roared and ripped it to bits
While I swallowed my heart and went into fits.
“Dash it all, dash it all,” I heard him then say,
“This clutter and mess is just in my way.”

He said not a word as he started his job
He sat down at once and his pencil did jog.
A new pedigree he filled out in two winks
Giving names, dates, and places and all missing links.
Clear back to Adam, and down to the last…
For ageless was he, having served in the past.

I thought, “Oh, how wonderful it would all be
If he did for others what he did for me!!:
As he finished and blotted the ink not quite dry
A sadness came over me and then I did cry!
He gave me the details and seemed to have such fun
But now all my ancestor chasing was done!!!

He bounced out the window and I heard him say,
“For others I’ll do the same any old day,
Just tell them my number and be good and kind,”
But then, a sure thought came into my mind…
Nobody wants ancestors that fast and so good
I’ll let everyone else do the job just as they should.

This was published on RootsWeb, but was first published in the Ash Tree Echo in January 1983.


(Author Unknown)

Dear Santa: Don’t bring me new dishes,
I don’t need a new kind of game.
Genealogists have peculiar wishes
For Christmas I just want a surname.

A new washing machine would be great,
But it’s not the desire of my life.
I’ve just found an ancestor’s birth date;
What I need now is the name of his wife.

My heart doesn’t yearn for a ring
That would put a real diamond to shame.
What I want is a much cheaper thing;
Please give me Mary’s last name.

To see my heart singing with joy,
Don’t bring me a read leather suitcase,
Bring me a genealogist’s toy;
a surname with dates and a place.

I found this one on Linda and Mike Bianchi’s genealogy website, where they state that this poem had been seen
in the Illinois State Gen Soc newsletter, 1984


And to finish off, here’s a link to an earlier post I did which is “An Aussie Genealogist’s Wish List“. We don’t ask for much really …

And I’d like to take a moment to WISH YOU ALL A WONDERFUL CHRISTMAS.

Introducing “Blog Caroling”

I was introduced to a new term a couple of days ago, and that is “Blog Caroling”.

If you’re like me and hadn’t heard it before, it is where you blog about your fav Christmas carols, an apparently well-known geneablogger, footnoteMaven (aka fM) has made an annual tradition of it and welcomes everyone to join in.

As part of her intro to it footnoteMaven writes …

From the comfort of my blog, with Hot Toddy in hand, my flannel jammies and furry slippers on, I will blog my favorite Christmas Carol on Friday, December 22, on this blog and Facebook. So my fellow GeneaBloggers, I challenge each of you to blog or post to Facebook your favorite Christmas Carol – Blog Caroling. Blog Caroling is posting the lyrics, youtube video, etc. of your favorite Christmas carol on your blog.

So Blog Carol by Friday 22 December (US time), which of course is Saturday 23 December (Australian time), and post a note in the comments on her original post.

So Blog Caroling … I do love Christmas carols. Though I’m not one to put them on about 6 weeks before Christmas. About 1-2 weeks before is enough.  Fortunately I don’t work in a shopping centre where they do that, as seriously I would be “so over” carols that you just don’t want to hear them anymore.

Anyway I just wanted to share my favourite Christmas carol with you. It is performed by a capella group Pentatonix and I think they do a simply amazing version of “Little Drummer Boy”.


But another seriously awesome one is the “Angels We Have Heard on High” by The Piano Guys.

I hope you enjoy my carols. Are you into Christmas carols? Do you have a fav?