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Sunday, December 10, 2017

Christmas: A Time for Celebration

Christmas is a special time of the year when we bring in a tree from outdoors and in lighting it bring joy to the season at a time when it is dark by 4 p.m. In grammar school, the Christmas season would begin with the Advent Calendar. I do not recall how the calendar was constructed and I have since seen many variations but it is a way to count down the 25 days leading up to the Big Day.

"Patti" in 1955 with tea set, Jill the doll, and a Chimpanzee


Our house was always bustling with activity and guests in December. My godfather would stop by with his daughters to bring me a gift, often a "society" doll that wasn't meant to be played with. My aunts and their families frequently visited. The brunt of the work in preparing a holiday for six family members fell on my mother. She would be busy making fruitcake, Stollen, and Christmas cookies. Somehow, she also knew that Santa preferred Coconut Layer Cake with jelly or jam between the layers, frosted with white icing.

We always had a turkey on the holiday and loads of pies: Custard, Mincemeat, Apple, Pumpkin, and Chocolate Cream Pie. You can see that Mother was busy in the kitchen, in addition to all the holiday shopping she did for our family and extended relatives.

Santa cross-stitch that I made years ago


My oldest brother "Jack" listened for the hooves of Santa's reindeer on the roof and would lay bug-eyed until that happened. Then he would wake up his younger brother who shared the same bedroom and together they would go downstairs to see what Santa had left. Somehow, they never managed to catch "Santa" leaving the presents under the tree!

Our tree was a "real" one. I am not even sure if artificial trees were manufactured at that time (1950s). We would load it down with garlands and tinsel that looked like icicles and lots of shiny ornaments and old tin ones that my mother had had for ages. Under the tree would be a ceramic manger scene and on the fireplace our stockings were hung.

Santa ceramic Christmas card holder made by me in 1973


All sorts of small items would appear in our stockings. I always enjoyed finding a new finger puzzle, a piece of jewelry, candy bars and candy canes, chewing gum, and an orange in the toe of the stocking. Santa was very imaginative but also practical. He left a new toothbrush every year.

Growing up, I had no idea of how other people celebrated the holiday or whether or not they celebrated at all. It has been fascinating to learn how the day is celebrated in other countries. Rick Steeve's European videos give a good idea of some of the festivities, especially in Austria.  When I lived in Spain, I learned that most people there do not celebrate Christmas with gifts. They wait until January 6, the Epiphany or Feast of the Three Kings, to exchange presents. In 1972, I celebrated Christmas by traveling around Granada by myself, a college student on winter break.

However you celebrate the holidays, I hope they are happy days for you. Music certainly adds to the merriment as do your own special traditions.


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