Make sure your Christmas is a real cracker

Fred Penney, aged 97, and Lillian Lewis, aged 93, residentsat Deerlands Residential Home in Parson Cross, with a Christmas crackers they tested for The Star.

Fred Penney, aged 97, and Lillian Lewis, aged 93, residentsat Deerlands Residential Home in Parson Cross, with a Christmas crackers they tested for The Star.

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The one thing guaranteed to make Christmas go with a bang is a good cracker. But it’s not until you’ve pulled it that you discover whether you had value for money or a real Christmas turkey!

The Star paid a visit to Deerlands Home in Parson Cross, Sheffield, to ask the residents there to test a selection of crackers and tell us which ones had the best hats, the most useful gifts... and the corniest jokes!

Christmas for the residents at Deerlands Home in Parson Cross is a very different celebration to the one they remember from their childhoods.

Mona Wooldridge, who is 94, Lillian Lewis, 93, Fred Penney, 97, and 77-year-old Edith Leng all recall times of great hardship but true community spirit far removed from the luxuries of 21st century living.

And, as they tested a selection of brightly coloured Christmas crackers, they agreed that such extravagances would have been mainly unheard of in the Depression-hit days of their youth.

“We always enjoyed Christmas and we had a happy time around the Christmas tree but we only had little presents, perhaps a small doll or things like paper handkerchiefs,” says Mona.

“But there’d be people round so you’d have to have the leaves on the table out so it was big enough to get us round, and the women would all make Christmas cakes while the men helped with things like plucking the goose.”

Fred, still sprightly as he approaches his 100th Christmas, remembers: “We were very poor and we had so little that I can’t remember any presents.

“But my aunts used to come for Christmas lunch and the men would go to the football match and us children would be given a tanner to go to the fairground on Blonk Street – it was great!”

Christmas Day at Deerlands, one of a group of 11 SheffCare homes for the elderly across Sheffield, always includes a full celebration with all the trimmings.

“SheffCare makes sure every resident has a gift so that even the people who have no family at all are not left out,” said Deerlands manager Diane Iwanejko.

“On Christmas Day we dress our function room and serve the Christmas dinner in there and everyone can see the chef carving the turkey.

“Later in the day we try to make it as much like everybody else’s Christmas as possible – a favourite Christmas film in the afternoon and then later games and the staff provide entertainment, traditional games and that sort of thing.

“We all do whatever we can to replicate what you’d do in your own home – including the crackers!”

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