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Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Christmas in the Past

By Johna Ferguson

As a young child, Christmas was the most wonderful season I can remember. Even though it was during Depression years, I was not aware of any of that. I was only aware of the celebrations going on in my home and in my neighboring friend’s homes.

My father, my sister and I went out in mid-December to cut a tree. That was before tree farms and in rural Tacoma there were lots of areas in the foothills of Mt. Rainier where we were allowed to cut them. My father was six feet tall, so we knew it had to be two feet taller than he was and really only two sides had to be perfect as it would go in the corner of our living room.

Once home, the tree sat outside in a pail of water for a few days and then on a Sunday my father fitted it into the stand and put the lights on it. My favorites were the bubbling ones for then we had none of the small twinkling ones. We even had tinfoil protectors, like flower petals that went at the base of every light to protect the tree from catching fire.

With my parents help, we placed all the ornaments on the tree, the littlest ones at the top and the big ones on the lower branches. Then and only then would my mother put the final touches on, the long strands of silver tinfoil rain. She never let us children do that for fear it wouldn’t hang perfectly straight. After that, we sat with popcorn and a bowl of ice cream and marveled each year at our beautiful creation.

Then it was time to start wrapping our gifts. We always made things for our parents in grade school; our handprints in clay, painted clay flowers, woven paper book marks, etc. I had learned to knit so one year, I remember I made my sister a scarf out of scrap yarn mother kept in a big basket.

We even decorated our gift wrapping paper. It was paper carefully saved over the year from various stores, even butcher paper from the meat market. We colored it with finger paints, crayons and glued on stars and snowflake cutouts from scraps of construction paper. We didn’t have scotch tape, but instead made our own paste out of flour and water. Ribbons from any previous packages were always saved and we could choose from an array of freshly ironed ones from the gift box.

We hung our stockings from the corner knobs of the screen in front of the fireplace. They were not the stockings like today’s brightly colored red felt ones with various decorations on them, but just our regular worn daily stockings.

And then in that week before Christmas our excitement grew daily. We still believed in Santa and at one large family gathering, one uncle dressed as St. Nick brought us all small gifts. We never questioned how Santa could come early and then come again to our house Christmas Eve. We were just filled with the blind faith of children everywhere.

I was always surprised on Christmas morning when under the tree sat just the gift I had wanted for so long. Once it was a baby doll. Another year it was a cradle and linens for the bed. But always just one gift.

But of course the stocking was full. It always had big tangerines, such a big treat, in both the toe and heel of the stocking and then was filled with brightly cellophane wrapped candies. Best of all were the gold tinfoil chocolate dollars which I always saved in a special box to eat later.

Christmas time was always filled with so much happiness in spite of it being so simple and even frugal some years. But the remembrances of those early celebrations are still etched deeply in my memory, now 75 years later.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 02:35 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Thank you for taking me back to my childhood. My husband was even so sentimental about the silver tinsel that he wanted to save it though it was no longer fit for the tree. Now I'm sentimental about the Tacoma area where I lived for 50 years just moving to Virginia 2 years ago.
Happy New Year!

Your story reminds of when fresh fruit, especially oranges and grapefruit, were so welcome on Christmas. Now instead of life sustaining vitamin C in mid-winter, we give plastic toys and indoor gadgets.

Just perfect, different little kid growing up in Manhattan, west side, believing in Santa..my Mother's cousin, Anne Donnelly, always came and brought a giant shopping bag of oranges, tangerines and walnuts for us 4 kids..always one gift too, usually after 7 years they were Union rollerskates, ruined your shoes, but loved them..boxes of tinsel..when did it disappear? Thanks for the trip back to l940s..Mary Follett


Your Mother had the right idea about the "Rain" as she called it.

We called it tinsel and the first 10 strands were put on the tree to perfection by my brother and me. The second 20 strands were "carefully" attached to the tree. Then, after about 30 minutes of placing the tinsel "just so" and still having another box of tinsel and a half a tree to go, my brother and I began throwing strands of tinsel toward the tree ,hoping that at least some of it would stick to the tree..

So, we always ended up with the top of the tree looking wonderful and festive with the tinsel sparkling and hanging like perfect icicles,and the bottom of the tree having great gobs of silver stuff clinging to the branches in the most haphazard way.

Thanks for your great Christmas story.It brought back some delightful memories to me of happy Christmases past.

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