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Friday, 23 December 2011

Christmas Tradition Survival

By Barbara Sloan

Max was about 10 years old when he called to ask if I would come to his fourth grade classroom “Grandparent’s Day.” The only requirement was I had to share something about “the olden days.”

Thinking about the olden days for the six-and-a-half hour trip from Alpena to Holland just after Thanksgiving produced little in the way of something that might interest 10 years old.

That night, as I crawled onto the hide-a-bed, I still hadn’t thought of anything to share. I decided to not worry about it and get a good night’s sleep. Something would come to me before 1PM tomorrow when I was to meet Max and the others in his classroom.

The next morning I woke up and went out to the kitchen to get a cup of coffee. I opened the refrigerator to get milk for my coffee. I saw something that triggered a thought about “the olden days.” I would share an event from my childhood about Christmas.

Little did I know that I was going to learn a lesson about about our family's Christmas traditions. This is the story I told.

We laid our empty stockings beneath the cedar tree Christmas Eve. We did not have a fireplace so I wasn’t sure how Santa was going to find them. Christmas morning we got up early to see what Santa had left in our stockings.

At that point, I pulled out an old, black sock of Max’s Dad’s that I had found somewhere in the house. The distinctive thing about this sock was that it had a hole in the toe.

I was able to make the point that when I was growing up on a farm, everyone was poor. We didn't have large, fancy made-for-Christmas socks like most of today's children. We just took one from Dad's sock drawer or the laundry basket if Mom hadn't had laundry day that week. The other grandparents nodded in agreement.

I told the group that most of the Santa items in the socks were useful, like mittens, pencils, toothpaste, etc. The bottom three items were the things about which we were most excited.

I pulled out a small net bag that contained the game of jacks - a little, hard, rubber ball and 12 pieces of odd-shaped metal called jacks. The grandparents nodded and smiled. Max and his classmates looked puzzled. I explained briefly how the game worked and that one could still purchase it in the local stores.

The next thing I pulled out of the sock was a handful of Hershey’s Kisses. I explained that during the Second World War, chocolate candy was very hard to come by. This was a special treat we all loved.

Then I pulled out the orange. I told the group that this orange at the toe of the sock was the one orange we had all year. This was in the days before refrigerated trucks and train cars. “Besides,” I joked, “it plugged up any holes in the toe of the sock.” Everyone laughed.

At this point Max raised his hand. The teacher said, “Yes, Max?”

“Now I know why there has always been an orange in the toe of my sock. I always wondered why we always had an orange in the toe of our sock since there was a whole bag full of them in the refrigerator.”

The teacher commented to her class that traditions that seem to make no sense today often are handed on long after the original reason no longer exists.

I left Max’s classroom smiling with the knowledge that this tradition had survived four generations of our family Christmases.

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

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


This story brought tears ...maybe the most beautiful story I've ever read. Funny story back at you mom....your two grandkids are grown but not so old that they don't get their orange in their stockings as you know. Last night, the two oranges were in the fridge awaiting Christmas. But, I needed a snack last night, and took one to eat thinking if I forgot to replace it that it might be funny to use the onion this year that caught my eye. After reading this, be assured, I'll get to a store somehow to replace the one I snacked on. I love you mom. Merry Christmas!

Your wonderful story brought this to mind.
We're Jewish, but one of my mother's first memories of school in St. Louis in the early 1900s was seeing Santa Claus and getting an orange from him.

What a story...I say, what a story. Grandparent's Day is always a special day. The things we learned to appreciate as kids bring tears when we see a new appreciation in this day.

At our family gathering, my 93 year old mother passes oranges to her grands x 3. If any are left we get them. No waiting. Everybody peels and eats. The party hall smells of orange all over.

I'm so glad you shared this story with your grandson and his class. I feel it is quite important to pass along the "story" behind many of our "traditions" that are carried on. Dee-lightful!!
Merry Christmas!!

My hubby and I commented how oranges were occasional fruit as children, that they were always in his Christmas sock. We never had socks, tho I don't know why. But since oranges are now so common, we had to come up with a rare fruit for that sock. It became Asian pears that were only out during the holidays. I was so disappointed to see that they were getting stocked more than during the holidays because now we may have to start to think of something rare again. Thank you for sharing. We have so much now we can't relate to a time when things were special.

Wonderful Christmas memories for all of us older ones for we all lived through the same depression and the Christmas orange was such a looked forward gift. Thanks for reminding us how lovely traditions are.

Lovely story amazingly I have just written a story & gave it to my Granddaughter as part of her 16th Birthday gift.Hopefully for her memory box. It was a special day,about our Grandparents day with her in Prep class when she was 5 years old.One of the best and funniest memories hubby and I have. Thank you Barbara, I am glad to see we are not the only quirky Grandparents.. aren't we the luckiest people.Family traditions are so important and the children really do enjoy them. Rock On Grandies all over the world.

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