(This will be a multi-part post.)
December 25th is by far the holiday with the most significance in almost every country, especially those where the Christian religion exists freely.
Certainly its celebration has evolved into a consumptive event that greatly overshadows its original meaning, and hence celebrants are not necessarily based in religion, but a season of variants of good-will and giving. which is not bad, either.
Families develop traditions from attending church services on Christmas Eve. to their Christmas Day menus, to other traditions, even how the tree is decorated, (I have two Dallas Cowboy ornaments) to hanging stockings (Luckie is the only one with a stocking this year.)
Christmas traditions change due to marriage and integration of traditions, changes and decisions of who to visit on what day, health issues. About 3 years ago an ill-timed phone call in the middle of a Christmas feast with 6 friends changed forever the joy of Christmas and many other facets of my life for me, personally.
I still believe in the essence of Christmas, to me, the birth of a Savior for all who accept him AND his teaching of living a life of self sacrifice, something I am still working on and probably will until I die.
However, this post is mostly my childhood memories of Christmas. I add this is my adoptive family, but at that time it was to known to me as my only family.
Christmas was THE big event of my family's year for many reasons. Dad received a big bonus for his year's hard work, 7 a.m. to often 7 p.m.
His unit in the small family-owned chain lumber business was the most successful. He knew his customers and often opened late or early, even on weekends to sell a bucket of paint.
He had a canny sense of credit when there were few credit bureaus. Often the now politically correct called African Americans made payments better than some of his cherished so-called Christian church friends.
Dad's other great talent was estimating materials needed for builders almost down to the number of shingles, 2'x4's, nails, whatever. He received no remuneration for this talent, but was widely respected for his talent, which was free and drew customers to his business.
|Collin Street Bakery|
|"Season's Greetings" glassware|
Set of 8 - Vendor's gift
to Dad one year.
I also have a set of Christmas glasses in good condition. I'll try to get a picture for this post. Actually, I think these are glasses for alcoholic drinks, but this non-drinking family used them for regular soft drinks, milk, etc.
I also own a set of the "12 days of Christmas" glasses,too. I'll see what I can do for pictures of these glasses, too, for different post.
(I have few old photos because I recently disposed of all prints to eliminate clutter and mold in our house.)
Dad shopped on Christmas Eve only for Mother whose birthday was Christmas Eve. His gifts were the same as long as I can remember, a nightgown and her favorite perfume. The "family gift'' which was a major purchase was his job, too, probably jointly decided between he and Mother.
Dad once told me Christmas was great in his family of 8 children if they all had stockings stuffed with oranges, apples and nuts and other odds and ends, As very young tyke, I remember some Christmas gatherings with his parents of grownups and cousins that was a little different with small gifts for everyone and an unbelievably meal so large the table could scarcely hold it all..
Mother's upbringing by two old maid aunts after the death of her mother the week after she was born, was probably just as stark by today's standards. However, she had quite a few cousins and relatives that probably doted on her whenever they had the means to do so. She rarely talked about it.
At our home, depending on the bonus, there usually was a family gift. The one I most remember was a black/white TELEVISION. We had one of the first, in town.
Of course, rules were established as to what we were allowed to watch, which present day children would be rolling on the floor laughing--like westerns were too violent. We watched a lot of I LOVE LUCY, the news (how violent is that?), and nothing, if homework was waiting.
Sometimes the family gift was a new appliance like a washer, dryer or refrigerator/freezer, which us kids did not realize as "family" so much as MOTHER. However, we benefited directly or indirectly from its use.
I do remember the FIRST dishwasher, and took note of the fact it was easier and less time consuming to unload and put up clean dishes, than the chore, which I often was assigned of washing, drying and putting up dishes and pans.
The FIRST DRYER was also a relief, as it was my chore to hang clothes on the clothesline, a good distance from the house. Carrying wet heavy clothes required several trips back and forth from the house. And I ended up doing a lot of ironing. [I became a liberated woman last week when all the ironing boards went to the Humane Society. I kept one iron.]
I did not have all the chores assigned to me, but as the oldest I certainly seemed to have more. My sister never had the number of assignments I had. My brother helped with mowing, trimming, and helped Dad on his gentleman's farm and at the lumber yard. He got MONEY for some of his work.
On the other hand Christmas was Mother's season of magic, partly because Dec. 24th, Christmas Eve was her BIRTHDAY! I always thought she was shortchanged on gifts as was my sister whose birthday was Dec. 31, New Year's Eve when we were all tired of gifts.
Since Mother did not drive, she mail ordered much out of Sears & Roebuck or Montgomery Ward catalogs, or the other many small catalogs that arrived in the mail in those days. For weeks in mid-November through December mysterious packages arrived, the contents of which we were not privy.
Each sibling had the same amount spent on him/her almost to the penny. After her death we found one of her lists where she kept account of her spending on each child.
Of course, Santa brought the gifts, but there were always a few wrapped packages under the tree before Christmas. Mother loved wrapping packages. She stored her orders in a closet which we were prohibited from entering. No use to even try, it was so stuffed with all manner of her hobbies, etc. it would be a hazard to open the door.
We left Santa cookies, Coca Colas, or hot chocolate--depending on the weather in Texas. Some Christmases in Texas came nearer to bathing suits than fur coats.
We worried Santa would burn his britches with a hot seat, coming down our chimney which had a gas-burning log stove in it, so Dad turned it off (temporarily) until we all went to bed.
After reading the Biblical Christmas story and 'Twas the Night before Christmas by Mother or Dad we were ushered off to bed.
Magically the next morning Santa had left an array of gifts. But before we could touch our gifts, we had to eat breakfast. As long as I remember I was allowed to set "get up time" - 5 a.m. I think the breakfast manifest was so our parents could endure the mayhem of three siblings tearing and throwing paper, boxes, and general excitement.
Mother was like Santa's wife enjoying our delight over all the presents.
As years passed and we grew, of course Santa Claus existence became known to each of us .
Remember, I told you I never sleep well. My bedroom was behind the wall where the Christmas tree was placed one year. I thought I heard rustling on the other side of the wall, but when a doll baby cried, I knew who was really Santa. But I said nothing to spoil it for my siblings.
From this moment, Christmas began to change for me.The next year before Christmas Mother told me, and maybe my brother about Santa. We were asked to not tell my sister, as I remember (this is a tad vague). I never told which probably surprised everyone as I did not keep many secrets, nor was very adept at lying, either.
Of course some things often were mixed up. I really did not play with dolls to any extent as my sister did. One year I asked for a wedding doll, which was just that, a doll in a wedding dress. But before Christmas I told Santa I wanted a Kewpie doll instead, which seemed to upset my Mother!!!
I got the wedding doll. Well, there was no clothes to change or anything. Just look at it. I think she finally sewed a few things for me to change clothes.
We had lots of board games the family played together. I soon learned I was much better with Sorry, Monopoly and similar board games than card games involving math skills. I thought OLD MAID was a ridiculous waste of time.
However I often enjoyed my brother's toys that involved building like Erector Sets, Tinker Toys and building block sets. Legos were not yet invented.
When we had allowances Daddy took us to Woolworth's or a the "nickel and dime" variety store as we called stores similar to present day Dollar stores. We bought very small inexpensive items for our parents and sometimes each other. Mother, particularly treasured each gift, even if it was a fake 10 cent ring.
As we grew we were taught the benefit of giving to others. Our fire department renovated toys for those less fortunate than we. Mother dictated we had to select a toy in GOOD condition to give to the effort.
In her own way, she was teaching us to give our best which the Holy Scriptures teach. Of course this was usually a toy we did not use very much, but not always. Sometimes this was not an easy choice; Daddy took the toys and sometimes we accompanied him to the fire department.
Later we also bought small gifts for our best friends, too.
Another highlight was what Mother would get with all the S&H Green Stamps she accumulated for a year. This was usually something for the household.
After I graduated from high school and was working in a drug store between college breaks, I proudly bought her the forerunner of today's Crockpot, a bean pot.
It took a goodly portion of my pay. I forgot which she opened first, but I was very upset; she then knew there were two bean pots' yet she would not let me take it back for credit either. She never re-gifted, but this was one time it should have been appropriate.
The two pots were identical. I think eventually I took one to an apartment after I graduated from college. In my mind it was the most miserable gift experience, because I was able to spend more than a few cents on a gift and thought I had really outdone myself. She tried to convince me "great minds run in the same channel" to no avail.
Mother had pictures of our Christmas trees which we all helped to trim. Sometimes presents stretched wall to wall.
One of favorite games was to guess what was in a particular gift. Mother would be resting in a chair and we 3 siblings picked a particular gift with our name on it and tried to guess its contents. Of course, she never admitted we were right, but some of us got very close several times.
One year new blood entered the family owned lumber chain. We knew Dad was stressed more this year. Lots of changes in business procedures which Dad had done so well ad lib. However, the ultimate insult was about the time the Christmas bonuses were given, the new honchos announced no bonuses.
Mother was crying, not so much because of the money, but she knew how hard Dad worked. Since Christmas was already bought, I'm sure they dipped into savings to cover it. Soon as I graduated from the university, he and a business friend put in their own lumber yard and he left the company.
In this time frame other changes began to happen. The vendors began to donate to charities instead of the year-end fruitcakes and other tokens of appreciation for business.
There is so much more I could write, but I think I can safely say, for a family of five in the '40s-50s we were blessed.