Christmas bake and Christmas Club

There were two rituals that preceded the Christmases of my childhood. My grandmother and aunt would put vast amounts of effort into making Christmas cakes. They did not do the actual baking, since the oven was too small. They put all the ingredients together into huge tins that were then taken to the bakery a few streets away. As children we were allowed into the hot bake-house to watch as the bakers placed them onto huge metal paddles to lever them into the ovens later on. It was not something done while you waited. The cooking must have been slow because it was an overnight thing. Customers went back the next day to collect their now-baked cakes. I believe this practice must have died out in the early 1950s as home ovens became larger.

The other ritual was the Christmas Club. My grandmother paid small sums into it every week, going in person to deposit money and having it entered in her book. When Christmas came along, she had enough saved to pay for Christmas goodies, and the ritual came when we accompanied her to collect the money. It was really just a way of saving. I'm not sure if it paid interest. I believe it did not, but with the money out of reach in a Christmas Club, it could not be spent before Christmas.

Such clubs were popular in Victorian England, with poorer families paying a couple of pence a week into clubs to save up the funds for festivities. Goose clubs were popular, with working class families saving up for a Christmas goose. I think my grandmother's Christmas Club was near the tail end of a once widespread practice, as society became more affluent.