Showing posts with label Holidays. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Holidays. Show all posts

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Christmas–the message that lives on.

Imagine living in a long ago time when nighttime covered the land in a dark shroud, and there was no smog or street lights to dim the bright stars overhead. Imagine the awe of looking at those stars, and wondering what they were, and why they belonged to the darkness of night. Then imagine the wonder of a special star–the star that led to a special place, and a special babe. A babe that would grow up and bring a message of hope and joy.

The bright specks in the nighttime sky are no longer mysterious but have become even more awesome. Centuries of changes have made the world a different place from that of long ago, but the birth of that baby is still a time of celebration. Customs from other celebrations brought feasting, the giving of gifts, and the use of evergreens for decorations, into long ago Christmas festivities. Later, SantaClaus became a big part of the celebrations. All of these are now a traditional part of the season. And amidst all this, that message of hope and joy live on.

Christmas has a special feeling of excitement and anticipation.  Reverent church services honor the awesome event we will be celebrating. Social events, helping Santa with  his gifting, and  preparing for visits with friends and relatives, are all part of a four-week Christmas season. Not a Holiday Season but a Christmas Season. 

Elaborate decorations add to the excitement. Three important holidays are crowded into less than six weeks. From Thanksgiving to Christmas Day there are four weeks of glitter and bright lights, of silver and gold ornaments and bright poinsettias– all transforming the stores into magical places. Houses ablaze with color, and trees blooming with twinkling lights, turn each night into a time of beauty. It is part of a festive period, but each of this cluster of holidays celebrates a special event and should not be merged into a mere season. Less we forget,  Christmas is Christmas. 



We are only a few days away from Christmas Day, the day that celebrates the event that began on a starry night centuries ago. It was once such a raucous celebration that it was banned. Later it became a solemn candlelit Christ's Mass that evolved into our present-day Christmas. Although Christmas is not special to everyone–there are other beliefs and other special days which are celebrated by those to whom each is special–it should not lose its identity and be demoted to merely being a part of a Holiday Season. Christmas is a special day-we must keep it that way.

                          Beautiful lighting is this century's contribution to Christmas traditions.

There are street parades,
 water parades, and yards
sparkling with colorful lights.

Its a season when chaos reigns in shipping centers as shoppers frantically hunt for gifts. Santa is visited by hoards of the young–and a few of the not so young. Criminals prey on the unwary. The ringing bells give hope to those who are unfortunate.

When Christmas Eve arrives put it all aside. If it's a clear night, go outside and look up at the twinkling stars overhead. Don't be surprised if they look brighter and closer than those of other nights. Let all the trappings of the holiday season melt away. Gaze at those stars and image that long ago time when one shone brighter than all the rest, and guided the way to the newborn babe who came into the world to deliver a message of love and hope. That is the reason we celebrate this day.


Merry Christmas to all.


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Old Ornaments Holding Memories

From the '60s.-the era of tiny
grabbing hands
Decorated by a youngster in
bed with mono.
Hand-painted Santa ornaments according
to each family member's hobby

     What would have been my best Christmas ever? I remember one, with a little boy getting his first puppy and a teenaged daughter getting a sewing machine. Then there were the ones with the tricycles, the new clothes, the dolls...... And I remember the year the deed to the site of our new home-to-be was on the tree.
     But nothing–––nothing–––can rival the excitement and anticipation of a Depression Age five-year-old when that fragrant cedar tree is set up and decorated. That is what I remember most.                                                          

    The tree was set up, supported in a bucket filled with rocks and the ornaments and ropes of tinsel were hung. The living room had huge honeycomb appearing tissue bell hung here and there and red wreaths hung in the two windows and on the front door. They weren’t big or elaborately festooned with holly and cones – they were only about seven inches in dia. and a faded red. Each had a tiny crushed wisp of greenery and a few bedraggled red berries.

     The tinsel was crushed, the rough paper ropes were faded and so were some of the ornaments.  No matter. It was Christmas. The decorations said so.
      The tree stood at the end of the room opposite the old wood-burning heater. That is where I spent hours gazing into the red globes that distorted my image; admiring the little ornaments with deep recesses that sparkled like jewels. I gazed at those ornaments until I was numb with cold and then stood by the heater until I was slmost singed. Then back to the tree.

     The color, the magic, the dreams that that little cedar tree held in its branches! Santa Claus would visit and he would leave gifts. There would be wonderful new things; things I could play with ---a doll, maybe one with sleepy eyes and long hair.

     So my memory is of the excitement of anticipation; of the magic of color and glitter in a world that had very little to offer in that regard; it was the promise of something special and the mystery of that wonderful person who gave to little children---Santa Claus.

       In later years I learned that my mother had one dollar, or less, to spend on my gifts and she supplemented that with wonderful doll clothes. My dad, probably remembering his sisters’ enjoyment of their Christmas dolls, always picked out the doll that stood under the tree.

     Looking back on those lean years, I can imagine the difficulty of saving enough nickels and dimes to help Santa retain his status.

       So little brought (not bought) so much.

In special memory of

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Christmas with the Growing Family


December in Corpus Christi
     Our first child was three months old for her first Christmas and her first gift was a stuffed kitty that cost an outrageous $5. It was cute as could be but nothing like the cuddly stuffed animals of today. I simply had to have it for her. She couldn’t have cared less; that was the day that she first discovered that she had feet and she was entranced by their appearance.
      From that point we went through the usual progression of dolls and tricycles; blocks and tinker toys. No colorful plastics in those days. I was particularly partial to toys that would keep a child occupied for hours.
First horse
      One Christmas is especially clear in my memory. Our small son wanted a puppy so that was arranged. There was a problem, however, as the little doggie was so lonely that the quiet of Christmas Eve was broken by loud puppy whines.
Summer fun
     In order to keep the Santa image intact, our eldest daughter went in to the living room where the Christmas tree was awaiting Santa’s arrival and spent the night on the sofa, one hand petting and soothing the lonesome little pup.
     It was a joyous morning for her little brother when he greeted his first dog and promptly named him “Unting Buppy╦ć
      When my daughters were growing up, there were always dolls displayed prominently in the dime stores and even in other shops. One especially great place for dolls and unusual small gifts was Dore’s Doll Shop. I believe the last Christmas doll that I bought was a Jackie Kennedy doll.  Christmas was fun for mothers subbing for Santa.
High heels & toy
gun holster?
       In the fifties and sixties play and reality were widely separated so our Christmas saw its share of toy pistols and BB guns, and our kids and others in the neighborhood played cowboys and Indians with nary a thought of political correctness or in fear of warping their personalities.
       There were also years of buying special gifts of sweaters and jewelry for our teen-age daughters and some really neat articles of clothing for the growing-up son. He could never understand why I enjoyed purchasing his garments  as compared to the handmade clothes of his sisters . 
      The daily hum of that sewing machine caused my husband to insist that the main Christmas gift for several of the girls was to be a sewing machine so they could continue  with the handmade tradition.
     For years we kept the “live tree” tradition finally the chore of visiting tree lots on miserably cold and windy days became tiresome so after thirty Christmases we switched to an artificial tree and I almost joined my father in my declining enthusiasm for the hustle and bustle of the season. The children had grown up. There was no early Christmas morning excitement; if a teen was still home, they much preferred to sleep in to an early morning rush to the tree.  
     Regardless, Christmas will arrive as scheduled so a new, smaller tree has been decorated  with old favorite ornaments. The wreath is on the door and Santa and his elves have found their place in the wall niche. Poinsettias line the hearth in memory of our late son; the greenery there honors his father who joined him a year ago. Cookie making is on my list and, maybe, just maybe, some chocolate fudge.
The last babe
33 yr. of children
in the house.  
      So, although traditions are great, change is constant and our            
The latest addition 
to our family.

Christmas celebrations have moved away from much of the family gifting  and has become more of a time of  Angel tree gifts and family dinners.  The dining table extended to it limit, no longer has seating for everyone. The bar where the grandchildren sat now seats them as adults with their own children, and the card tables are put into use for the overflow. My kitchen often has ten or more occupants, some simply talking while other dodge around, trying to tend to the business of putting the finishing touches on the
Christmas dinner. The noise level increases.  Having  already done my share, I sit and watch! A new tradition is in the making and I am enjoying it!

      More than any other holiday, Christmas is loaded with poignant memories. We are fortunate if we have happy ones and are able to enjoy this celebration of the birth of Christ with happiness and a giving spirit, and with enjoyment of the music and the lighted wonderlands that the season brings.

All these beautiful lighted scenes were taken by my cousin while he was visiting during the Thanksgiving holidays.   

For another Christmas story see Karen Rutherford's blog.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

When Santa no longer visit

    It must have been my fourth of fifth Christmas that Weatherford had a large community Christmas Tree on the square by the old band stand. Santa Clause, himself, was to stop by with fruit and candy for all the children so my parents decided it would be a great experience for their little one to get to see ole Santa.
    It was indeed an experience, but not what they expected. Santa did arrive and he distributed the bags of goodies. He also passed out bigger and more special gifts such as dolls and bikes, to a few more fortunate children whose parents had wanted their children's gifts hand delivered by the big man himself.  This unfortunately, left the majority of children wondering why they were less favored and trying to understand their frustrated parents  explanations. My mother was angry. In fact, that usually calm woman, was furious, and I expect that the organizers of the event were made aware of her feelings. 
     After the Santa days Christmas became a time of Christmas Eve church programs which we walked to in the crispy winter air. Those were the type of nights that I still associate with Christmas Eve. 
     Christmas also brought the school holidays; there was still a tree to decorate, and gifts to buy. Mother did some special baking, and there was always chicken and dressing and my father's favorite cake with white icing and coconut...definitely not the candy decorated one of his childhood.
     In those days little girls played with their dolls for several years after Santa no longer delivered their toys, and the choosing of my doll was something my dad reserved for himself. He was probably remembering his sisters' pleasure in receiving a doll. The remainder of my gifts were chosen by Mother. Later, when I was in my teens, she told of the one Christmas she had only one dollar to spend and stretched it to make a pleasurable pile of of jacks, doll dishes, a jumping rope and a few other fun things. I never felt deprived, although I did yearn for a $2.98 Shirley Temple doll that never appeared under the tree.
     After I married and was no longer a part of their immediate household, I was flabbrtgasted to find that my dad was no longer making a big deal out of Christmas. He tried to explain to me that his enthusiasm no longer existed but I found it hard to accept. Mother's dedication to the spirit of Christmas continued even after the time came when I had to do her shopping.
     My husband and I and our growing family visited our parents each Christmas Day. The children were allowed to take their favorite gift to show and we took our gifts to our parents and chaos prevailed. Whether we brought joy with our arrival or relief with our leavtaking, is debatable. We did make fresh memories as the kids sat in their grandparents laps, listening to their PaPa's tales and brushing their Granny's hair... and the scent of a cedar tree and a wood fire lingers .

Christmases of the Past

  My childhood Christmases were happy ones, even in the terrible days of the Depression, It was a special event that  I must attribute to my father’s memories of his own childhood Christmases.
     In his family, the custom was to give one toy to each of the younger children; fruit and nuts and hard candies were the remainder of their Christmas loot. The older girls would get hair ribbons and brooches or sensible items such as a new pair of gloves or a scarf. To receive the one gift was exciting and the fruits and candies were special treats. Nothing more was expected.
       There was also a traditional Christmas cake that my dad remembered, not quiet as fondly as the toys and candy. He described it as rather dry layers similar to those of old-fashioned “tea cakes,” covered with icing and decorated with candies. Each Christmas, the sisters produced this Christmas goodie.
       Strangely, I have no memory of Mother ever mentioning her childhood Christmases. Her father, a Methodist minister, may have subdued his children’s fun-loving nature long enough to made the day a quieter one of a more religious nature. I wish I knew.
        It was these memories of Dad's early years, that set the stage for the Christmases of my childhood and made them so special for me. Naturally, I knew the meaning of the Christmas celebration and viewing the star-lit skies of Christmas Eve were awesome, but that dimmed in the excitement of decorating the fragrant cedar tree with the glittering ornaments and ropes of tinsel.
      In the drab days of those Depression years, these bits of color were more beautiful than anyone in today’s colorful world can imagine. Our tree was always located at a window far from the only heat we had…. that from a wood-burning heater that barely heated one end of the room. My days of the Christmas season were spent gazing at the changing reflections in the glass ornaments until I was thoroughly chilled, then baking by the stove and returning to the tree. Recessed windows of color such as these of today were among our ornaments and a few are now family heirlooms in the possession of my eldest daughter. 
     Depending upon the size of our tree, there were usually a few unused bits of tinsel, which I strung helter-skelter over a small cedar growing in our front yard.
      The final decorating was to hang a few tissue bells from the ceiling and place small wreaths in the windows. The bells were folding ones that when unfolded formed a bell of honeycomb tissue. I just this minute remembered the wreaths! They, like the bells, were a faded red and were probably also of some type of crushed paper. They were small, and had bedraggled bits of greenery and ribbon decoration.
     One year my dad did not have a spot located to cut our tree so he asked if I thought it would be all right to use a small live oak tree. Of course, I agreed with my dad’s plan to use a substitute for our traditional cedar. As you might imagine, as a Christmas tree, the live oak was a dismal failure. Dad’s only remark was, “I’ll not do that again.”  And he didn’t!
     Next came the anticipation of Santa’s visit and the excitement of the morning after! There was always a doll and doll clothes Mrs. Santa had made. Once there was a little ring with a tiny blue stone surrounded by a circle of tine clear ones. Hair barrettes, a pencil box, a coloring book were tucked among the tree’s branches and I searched and searched for more. Almost eighty years later, I still have the ring and the pencil box! Cherished treasures!
      The day came that we all experience: the day that some older kid announces that there is no Santa Clause. Of course, I knew better, but just in case the claim that my parents did the gifting was true, I began a search for any hidden gifts.
      Sadly, I found them stored in the attic.  I quickly replaced the trap door and wished I had never searched and I wished it were not true. That unforgettable day, the magic left, never to return, and growing up began.
      The gifts I had discovered appeared on schedule Christmas morning. They were accompanied with the usual five and ten cent gifts of the day: many small items could be bought for that amount, making even a few dimes provide a lot of joy for a little kid.

      Those previously discovered gifts were a set of handmade doll furniture made from the wood used in the car bodies of early days. Some was oak and some was a softer wood and I can appreciate the difficulty of using these odds and ends of wood to make the four pieces of furniture that made the set of a table and one chair, and a bed and dresser.
     These were not tiny items and were not proportioned realistically but they were wonderful. Each piece had been decorated with pink apple blossoms on the apple green background of the furniture. The little dresser had a framed mirror and drawers with carved knobs that actually opened each one.
      Thirty years later, all but the little dresser were stolen from my own attic where they had been stored.  If I ever, ever, spot them at a garage sale or in a junk store, they’re coming home!

Undreamed of in the '30s and '40's, decoration such as  this is becoming common, today.


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Have a little chuckle

It's tough living in a woman's world!
The season is a busy one: there’s the gifts to buy and wrap if you have time.  A handy supply of gift bags is a life-saver.

Suddenly we’ve all turned into cooks. It’s the time to bake all those favorite cookies and breads for gifts.  It’s time to stir up all that candy you didn’t have time to make last year.

Another year has gone by without making that really good fruit cake you been planning to bake. The persons scheduled to receive these are relieved to hear you grumble that it won’t happen again this year.

Now, for the house: Besides turning into the “cook of the year.”
You’ve become a decorator… and not just of the house but of the entire yard. There is enough  “Honey do’s” to keep the man of the house busy for weeks and its only ten days ‘til Christmas!

The tidy house has turned into a jumble of boxes of Christmas decorations; bits of sparkle litter the carpet; pine needles and poinsettia petals are joining the sparkle litter;  a glass ornament breaks.

It’s time for your favorite drink whether its of the hot chocolate or chilled wine variety, kick off  your shoes, turn up the Christmas music (if you can find  where you stored it last year) and join in with a few chuckles over bits of humor that have been shared with me.

From Jeff Foxworthy  he really has us pegged!

If you've had a lengthy telephone conversation with someone who dialed a
wrong number, you may live in Texas

If someone in a Lowe's store offers you assistance and they don't work
there, you may live in Texas

If 'Vacation' means going anywhere south of Dallas for the weekend, you may
live in Texas

If the speed limit on the highway is 55 mph --you're going 80 and
everybody's passing you, you may live in Texas

This is easily understood!
Cowboy's Ten Commandments posted on the wall at   Cross Trails Church in Fairlie ,   Texas  
(1) Just one God.
(2) Honor yer Ma & Pa.
(3) No telling tales or gossipin'.
(4) Git yourself to Sunday meeting.
(5) Put nothin' before God.
(6) No foolin' around with another fellow's gal.
(7) No killin'.
(8) Watch yer mouth.
(9) Don't take what ain't yers.
(10) Don't be hankerin' for yer buddy's stuff.  

It’s a rushed time…lots to do. Have a happy holiday, don’t bother with New Year’s resolutions and instead think of the positive things you’ve done. I hope I’m here soon with memories of past Christmases but if not…

                                             Merry Christmas