In the early 1940's I was 5-10. My brother was three years younger and our twin sisters were 6 years younger than me. Some memories have surfaced recently and I'd like to share how it was in those days.
Electric plastic Christmas candlesticks with blue light bulbs were placed on all the window sills. The naked tree sat on the front porch and never came into the house until late on Christmas eve after we kids went to bed. Some of the lower branches were cut off and tied with red ribbon as a front door spray. There was a cardboard brick fireplace set up in the living room and our stockings were pinned to the mantle. A cardboard fire with a light behind it was bright.
We never saw the decorated tree when we were very young until we got the "OK" to come downstairs on Christmas morning. We sat on the steps peeking through the balusters waiting until permission was given. You see, after we all had gone to bed, I now realize that the tree was brought in, set up and decorated by our parents along with the Lionel train set made to circle around the bottom and ready to be activated. The presents were spread there. The lights were turned on. The OK was given. Santa was supposedly the one who did it all during the night.
Each child had a turn opening one gift and showing the others before opening another one. The wrapping paper was not torn or ruined, and the ribbons were saved. There was a special place in the room for them to be placed for imminent storage to be reused.
We all received new hand-crocheted or knitted mittens and a box of animal crackers! My favorite gifts that remain in memory are new crayons and books. There was a craft to make flower petals and leaves with wire dipped into a transparent colorful substance and they were twisted together to make a flower. How I loved that one! A lovely 12" blond haired doll with jointed extremities, dressed in a yellow organdy frock was a favorite. She was from my mother's life-long friend who we called "Aunt Jeanette." The lady was never married and was always part of our family, though much wealthier and very caring and sweet. One year she gave me a 13" Kewpie doll and my mother and a neighbor made many outfits for her. I regret now that I didn't keep her and her hand-sewn clothing.I only remember some of what was in our stockings — mine had a can of sweetened condensed milk - all my very own! My brother's had a package of Velveeta cheese. I don't remember our sister's special treat but do remember that we all got a potato in the toe!
During Christmas week I was allowed to run the train set, which was really my brother's. The twins didn't get this privilege. When a couple of weeks had passed, it was time to take the tree down and put the decorations in storage. A very important part of it was first removing the crinkly lead tinsel of the 40's, ONE strand at a time. Back then it was stored and then reused from year to year. Some of the hanging glass ornaments would be valued today as they had been passed on from my grandmother.Christmas dinner was special. We kids all got a wineglass of watered-down wine. There was always a turkey. Dad claimed a leg. After dinner, a plum pudding, made by Mother was lit on fire before serving. Blue flames! Brandy had been poured over the top and it smelled really good! The hard sauce was sparingly dolloped on top of each slice! No wonder I love sweet stuff!
Oh there is so much more starting to surface but the jist of this story is that we always felt loved and happy at this time of year. We never realized the sacrifices that were made for the celebration. We knew the real meaning of Christmas as well. A manger set up was on the dining room buffet. The story was read to us every year before we went to bed.