Christmas time was so much easier in the Georgian era! My ancestor Richard Hall did all his Christmas shopping with one supplier, a fortnight ahead of the Big Day. Everyone got more or less the same – oysters. He would drop a line to Mr May, fishmonger, and order a barrel of oysters to be sent to his family and closest friends. They would be delivered on specified dates in the week leading up to Christmas, and Richard could no doubt sit back on the day itself and reflect on the fact that it was indeed Christ’s birthday, a time for giving and receiving in memory of His blessings, and he would enjoy the pleasure of having given. No riotous early-morning ripping open of presents, no vast meal, but a trip to the church to sit on hard seats listening to an uplifting sermon by the Reverend Beddome, knowing that the good Minister would then be able to go home and dine on the barrel of oysters sent round a few days before…
Mind you – there was an element of class and status to this – Richard’s more important and prestigious friends got the Pyfleet oysters which cost four shillings and three-pence per hundred. The lowly Minister, like some of the other neighbours in Bourton on the Water, had to contend themselves with the somewhat inferior Colchester oysters, which cost a shilling less for each barrel! Some years friends moved up the scale and were rewarded with better oysters, just as some years others appear to have fallen out of favour and were downgraded. I just wish present-giving was as straight-forward today. But we can still enjoy the day, and be thankful.
The diaries kept by Richard – and by his brother-in-law William – suggest that there was no huge blow-out on Christmas Day. Lunch was a modest affair, not a lot different to a Sunday Lunch. No doubt he washed down his chine of pork with a few glasses of wine, but then, he always was partial to a drop, and Christmas was no different to any other day….
Peace and goodwill to all !