I was only seven years old when the Second World War ended in 1945 so my memories are probably more attuned to the immediate post-war years than the war years themselves. Nevertheless I think they make a valuable comparison to what so many of our population feel is their entitlement today.
I can recall no great family gatherings on Christmas Day. My father had four brothers and two sisters, my mother one brother, all living within easy reach. All but the two sisters had families. However our Christmas Day was very much a matter of the nuclear family, though that included my maternal grandmother, who was widowed and lived with us.
We did not have turkey for dinner, or chicken, which was still a luxury food. Instead, we had pork, which my father would praise as "like a bit of chicken." I have no recollection of Christmas crackers. Maybe they weren't available, or maybe my parents regarded them as a frivolous luxury.
There were presents, and they must have been substantial, or at least bulky, since my sister and I both hung up pillow cases rather than stockings for Santa Claus to fill. The prized gift was still reckoned to be the orange at the bottom of the sack.
There wasn't a lot of time to gloat over the contents of the sack on Christmas Morning as I was a member of the Church Choir and our fist job was sing carols round the wards of the local hospital.
Our choir master was called Mr Pride. However the hospital matron caused us all to giggle by referring to him as Mr Proudlove. This error was never corrected over the years. Maybe it was meant to be a joke.
After our stint at the hospital we ran the mile or so down the hill to Church for the major morning service at 10.45. This was the fourth of the day. There would have been a Midnight Mass but we choirboys didn't sing at that. The choir men would have, and I suppose Mr Pride would have played the organ. (I now realise what a hero he was.) There would have been a said Communion at 8 o'clock and a Sung Communion at 09.15. Who played the organ for that I can't remember. The singing was supported by a small group of ladies.
Our 11.15 service was a "double." We first sang Matins up to and including the collects, then segued seamlessly into a full Choral Communion. Then it was home for the pork dinner with apple sauce followed by Christmas Pudding (bought not home-made).
I presume there was a Christmas Day radio broadcast by the King but I can't recall our ever tuning in to it. Time at last for toys. If Christmas Day happened on a Sunday it would be back to Church for Evensong at 06.30
Every Boxing Day Batley played Dewsbury in the local Rugby League Derby, though I don't suppose that actually continued during the war. My father used to take me in later years and I disappointed him by never becoming a fan.
By writing this I'm not trying to emulate Monte Python and the famous competition as to who had the most deprived upbringing, but merely to provide a contrast to present expectations.
My family Christmas was luxurious compared with those whose fathers were in the forces. Mine was not "called up," partly because he was too old, and also because as spinner in a woollen mill his occupation was "reserved." We in the Heavy Woollen District specialised in making the heavy cloth for the uniforms of the armed forces. (In the Crimean War we made them for both sides).
But thousands of children didn't see their fathers for up to five years. Similarly for many sweethearts and wives, and parents who didn't see their sons and daughters. Contact of a sort was maintained by the BBC "Home Service" which linked up with "Forces Radio" with "Two Way Family favourites."
It's worth also remembering that the Christmas Holiday for workers was just two days (one I believe in Scotland, because New Year's Day was also a holiday for them, though it wasn't in England until 1974.) It is a measure of the economic progress we have made that we now regard the entire Christmas to New Year period as "the holiday" and some even stretch it to a fortnight.
However, the present pandemic is by far and away the most serious crisis mainland UK has experienced since 1945.
Prime Minister Johnson likes wartime analogies. This week we've already had "the scientific cavalry" and "a final push". There can be no doubt that if the lockdown rules are relaxed over the two days of Christmas (or five?) this will cause an increase in infections. The ones who become carriers may not suffer seriously but some will inevitably pass the disease on to the more vulnerable who will. This will equally inevitably lead to a post-Christmas spike in serious illnesses and deaths, and a further strain on the NHS staff who are already close to exhaustion.
So It is no great sacrifice to ask us, for this year only, to abandon our collective winter "knees-up" and substitute a quieter nuclear family observance instead. The aim should be that as many of us as possible survive for Christmas next year.
Will our government have the courage to take this decision, or will they yet again, be guided not by "the science" but their focus groups?