MERRY CHRISTMAS to all my friends, cowboy/girl pals, and fellow Christians!
Oh, how easy it would be to write this entire column full of whining and feeling sad about how Christmas has changed, and how this NEW-PROGRESSIVE-AGE PROPAGANDA liberal minded folks are trying to push on us, even makes we traditionalists sometimes forget it’s our Lord’s birthday—a glorious celebration the Lord gave us sinners in recognition of the sacrifice Jesus would make that we might have eternal life. This most Holy of all Christian holidays is now being called anything but Holy! I know it breaks your hearts too to hear people say HAPPY HOLIDAYS instead of MERRY CHRISTMAS, and to know the schools and retail stores now present this time as ‘Winter break’. But for us who keep the tradition and know the truth, fear not for our savior is at the helm. He will guide our ship through rough and stormy seas….
Now, on to the joys and fond memories of Christmas’ past and present!
Lets face it, it was and still is a wonderful time of year to gather family together and make merry, eat too much, and laugh ‘til our sides hurt over the fool things we all did when we were kids.
Since you know by now, I’m a sentimental ol’ rascal, you can be rest assured my memories today go back to my childhood fifty-some years ago as I type with visions of those carefree days on the farm at Christmastime, (either ours, or my paternal grandparents’) smelling those heavenly smells coming from the kitchen, and feeling the excitement grow evermore with the passing of each day that brought us closer to Christmas morn’. Though gifts were few, and the tree wasn’t professionally decorated, it all seemed so beautiful and grand to us kids.
Speaking of trees…I’m certain you folks who are past sixty probably remember going out in the woods—wading waste deep in snow to find that PERFECT tree, then digging down to saw it off at the base, dragging it back to tie to the saddle horn or top of the car on it’s way to the front window of the old farmhouse. Remember how good that tree smelled when you got it set up indoors and the fireplace started to thaw it out some? Also, how the yellow-jackets hibernating under the bows would get warm and start to fly around the room? Then, we’d all start to decorate the branches with colorful garland made from looped rings of stencil paper we kids had made at school, and the old (fragile) glass balls of gold, red, blue, and white. Of course the next task was to dangle loads of cheap silver tinsel on each branch and top the tree with an Angel that always seemed to be half-cocked on top in a position making you think she might fly off at any second.
The baking and candy making would go on for days before the Holy day, and many phone calls exchanged between aunts, granny, sisters and Mom to decide who would bring what, and at whose house we would be on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning.
I remember Mom also wrote out at least 150 cards to friends and family each year, (try buying stamps for that many nowadays!) I know now, being a mom and grandmother of eight, how much planning and work went into all the proceeds, but we kids were oblivious to anything but the fun of seeing our cousins and friends all on the same day, and sharing what we got for gifts.
True story…My Dad was a tough ol’ bird (still is) when we were growing up, and he didn’t want us to grow up with cotton between our ears thinking everything came easy and from some jolly, fat man with mysterious ways, dressed in a red suit as he slid down our fireplace chimney (that was always lit) with his bag of toys, while his eight tiny reindeer pranced nervously on our rooftop!!! Soooooooo, he always said these very words to us before Christmas season even got started, “I’m Santa Claus, and this year, Santa’s broke!”
Well, that was true, we had no cash-money to make too merry with but Mom always picked apples in the fall in one or two of the orchards surrounding our valley, or saved the milk and egg money she got from selling those products to neighbors and people who didn’t live off the farm as we did. (Dad was a logger besides, but most of those profits always seemed to go back into the equipment, so no big success story there.) But I can tell you honestly NOTHING dampened our excitement and enthusiasm for the holiday when it grew near.
Do any of you remember those white crepe-paper capes with a big red bow tied under the chin the church helpers used to make for children’s choir every Christmas? They were so scratchy but they wanted us all to match as we walked up the long aisle and stepped onto the alter to sing carols. Afterward we’d have a visit from Santa at the church to hand out popcorn balls, nuts, and oranges the ladies of the church had individually wrapped in little bags for every girl and boy in attendance at Christmas Eve services? I’ll bet, looking back now and knowing how dirt poor some were, it was probably the only gift they received each year. Pinches my heart with pain now, but being a kid, we knew nothing of other folks’ circumstances back then.
As teenagers, we’d ride on an old flatbed trailer piled high with hay bails, and being pulled by a tractor all over town and country as we sang Christmas carols house to house to those who would listen. There was lots of hot chocolate served at some folk’s homes who took pity on our red noses and frozen fingers…
Is anyone like me? I can listen to Christmas music for a month straight just to stay in that wonderful euphoric state of CHIST’S MASS being near… (That’s what the word Christmas means, ya know?) And when you think about it, it certainly clears up any reason to call the celebration anything but Christmas an abomination in my book….Oops! There I go again on my soapbox! Sorry…
I have so many funny memories that still make me giggle at the mere thought, and for sure someone just happens to mention these and even more silliness at every Christmas get-together.
Below are three memorable happenings of mine at Christmas—feel free to send me some fun memories of yours. I love hearing them…
Christmas Day 1953:
When I was but a wide-eyed child, our immediate family, extended family, and several friends had gathered to celebrate the holiday in traditional style at our house.
Mom had been busy for days planning food preparations for thirty people. Aunts and grandmothers contributed to the meal with their usual breaded tomatoes, candied yams, mincemeat pies, and other delicacies.
When dinner was ready, the adults were seated at the big dining room table, while we kids sat at card tables on mismatched chairs and apple-boxes.
After grace was said, food was passed clockwise until plates were piled high with various foodstuffs. When several minutes had passed, and the only sounds heard were forks colliding with Mom’s good china, Dad asked where the ham was hidden. Mom’s face grew scarlet as she sheepishly admitted she’d forgotten to cook it.
After a hurried breakfast, the family retired to the living room to open gifts. Uncle Bob suggested we build a fire in the stone fireplace and add a cozy, “Currier and Ives” affect to our Christmas morning. All were in agreement except us children, anxious to open our gifts.
We were outvoted, and soon kindling and paper were ablaze in the fireplace. The only problem was; no one had remembered the flue was tightly closed in order to keep winter drafts from entering the house. The room quickly filled with choking smoke before the grate could be opened.
Dad laughingly said, “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire,” or in this case, “Where there’s fire, there’s smoke.”
By this time, I was married with two small children who were anxiously awaiting Santa’s arrival. (I let them believe!) The family had once again, gathered at Mom and Dad’s house for the holiday.
When it was time to open presents, Dad volunteered to don the official fur-trimmed Santa hat, and hand out gifts. After each package was opened to great ooohs and ahhhs, there remained only one in the far corner behind the ornament-laden tree. Getting down on all fours, Dad crawled beneath the tree, making his way inch by inch closer to the lone gift. Just as he stretched his arm out to grab the package, his elbow bumped the tree stand. The mighty timber gave a shudder, then, crashed with a thud directly on top of him, ornaments flying in all directions.
There was a pregnant pause just before the room exploded into uproarious laughter. We could hear a few grumbles coming from beneath the bows where Dad was still trapped, but we were totally helpless to go to his rescue as we rolled on the carpet in painful, sidesplitting glee.