Friday, December 22, 2017

Looking Back at Christmas

Things I remember about Christmas when I was a very young child; things I don’t remember as well. It was the 1940’s.

The real tree stood out on the front porch until Christmas Eve. It was a Balsam with lots of space between the branches. Christmas music was played on the old phonograph. It was mostly heavy classical music and the records were hard 12 inch discs. They were called 78’s.  Mainly I remember that we, meaning my sisters, brother and I weren’t allowed downstairs from our bedrooms before our father turned on the Christmas tree lights. We were supposed to stay on the hall landing until called, but sometimes we sled down a stair or two and peeked through the railing supports until Dad said, “OK, READY!” He had even started up the electric Lionel train which circled around the base of the tree.  We never ever saw the tree decorated or any gift boxes before Christmas morning.

My brother and I remember few gifts but he remembers high quality plaid shirts and I remember a lovely doll with a yellow dress and leather shoes. These were from our mother’s dearest friend who we called Aunt Jeanette.  He remembers a green wagon and I remember my little pair of skis and his TinkerToys. We both loved the contents found in our stockings which hung on a cardboard imitation fireplace. Inside the bulging stockings he always found a block of Velveeta cheese and I always found a can of sweetened condensed milk! We could gorge ourselves on our individual favorite treats this one time of the year. There were water paints, crayons and embroidery kits in my stocking and small toys in his, plus a candy cane.

The bulbs on the light string were old and the paint was peeling off. These bulbs had tips on their ends and the wire was a double one with cloth covering. There were also some bulbs on another string that were animals and birds. In later years there were some that looked like candles and started bubbling when turned on. 

I have very little recollection of any tree decorations except for the tinsel which was always either falling off or the cat pulled off. If a ball fell, it shattered into hundreds of sharp shards. All paper wrapping was carefully folded and saved to be reused the next year; ribbons too if they were fabric. 

What else do we remember? Not much. New handmade mittens, and hair barrettes. Before Christmas we attended a party at the firehouse and were given a mesh red stocking with a paper cuff stapled to the top edge that was filled with candy. Church music was sung with joy and robust vocals. 

I don’t remember baking or decorating cookies, but do remember the plum pudding that was placed on the dinner table and then lit with a match. It must have had brandy poured over it and when the fire went out, it was served with “hard sauce” a sugary spread. When it was brought out the feeling was that it was a ceremony. 

Later in the week, it was always enjoyable for me to visit a girlfriend who lived down the street to see what she received. Her grandmother was German and the gifts were very special. In fact I was a little envious but happy at the same time to know someone who received different and interesting presents. She shared nicely. 

There are more memories but they are deeply buried and I just can't get them to the surface today. After I post this they will probably be recalled. Oh well..... 


  1. This was a very nice post. My own memories of Christmas's past bubbled to the surface. I remember getting a Lionel train set. I have to be careful here. I could turn this comment into a blog entry.

  2. Nice post. Did you eat the sweetened condensed milk right out of the can?