Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Mary Christmas? You have to be kidding

I was going to have this written and posted last night, but baking gingerbread TARDIS and Daleks got in the way (the best laid plans of mice and Megans...)

I don't think it turned out too badly. Photo c Megan Hitchens 2013
There has been a lot on the web about Christmas posts, most about reminiscences of Christmas pasts. You know, what you did as a child, favourite traditions, that sort of thing. Thomas MacEntee has been running a good one, and encouraging people to put their posts on Pintrest. But most of my childhood Christmases were crap, so it has been difficult to want to take part, let alone managing it (sorry, Thomas).

So instead of writing about a family Christmas I have decided to write a little post about the Christmas family.

One of my third great grandmothers was Sarah Christmas from Bassingborne in Cambridgeshire in 1823. Sarah arrived in Australia 26 March 1849 aboard the Steadfast, along with her husband William Green and children William, Susan and Rebecca. The family settled in Grafton in the Northern Rivers area of New South Wales.

I always wondered where my father's side of the family got their love of bad puns and groan-inducing jokes. And then I started looking back through Sarah's family in Cambridgeshire.

If you had the surname Christmas, there would be some names you might want to NOT name your children – Holly, Ivy, Rosemary and Wenceslas spring to mind, but surely, SURELY, the one name you would want to avoid would be Mary. But no, not the Christmases of Cambridgeshire. I have found records going back to the late 1600s (christening records for the parishes of Landbeach, Oakington, Histon, Steeple Morden, Litlington, Guilden Morden and Abington Piggots) and in every generation there is at least one poor girl named Mary Christmas. It seems to have begun back in the early 1700s when two Christmas brothers thought it was a sterling idea. Robert and Susanna (ni Kidman) named their first born Mary in 1731, while brother Thomas and wife Anne had already named their first daughter Mary in 1716.

There were Marys who married into the family, and I hope they thought long and hard before making the leap, but at least their parents could say, “it wasn't my fault”.

Telling my father and his brother about the Christmases has resulted in roars of laughter. They love it, it's a great joke. I just hope Robert and Thomas, and everyone else who took that path, didn't think when they named their daughters. But I have this deep suspicion that they were laughing too.

HAPPY Christmas to everyone.

St Peter and St Paul Christmas Tree Festival 2013, Steeple Morden. From Steeple Morden Village Website