December 19, 2012
I love the Christmas season, not just the religious aspects but also the traditions and memories. When I was a young girl growing up in England during the 1940s-50s money was extremely tight (although at the time I did not realize it, we were all in the same boat). In school we made paper chains and bells out of the “silver” off of sweet wrappers with which we were to decorate our classroom tree. We also made calendars out of old Christmas cards, and used glitter to enhance the snow.
Presents were few and far between. We only would have one really nice gift, one year I had a doll that walked and she had blond hair like me; another year I had an oversized book which was Walt Disney’s Snow White; another year I had a stuffed dog, and when I was ten I received an annual (a book with lots of stories) and a Cadbury Milk Tray (an assortment of Cadbury chocolates), I thought it was the best gift ever.
Although we did not receive a lot of big items, we did receive many little gifts in our stockings. A stick of rock, which is a peppermint sweet, is pink on the outside, white inside, and the name of your town going all the way down to the bottom of the stick. There would always be a tangerine, an apple, and some nuts at the foot of the sock. We would have things like pens, pencils, crayons, a coloring book, or a comic book, which would keep us busy until Mum and Dad awoke.
We arrived in this country in 1958; that first Christmas was like walking into a fairyland. My dad had a step-uncle who lived in New Jersey (which is where we initially put down our roots), so Christmas was spent at his house. Now, my "uncle" was a man who had believed in the American dream - work hard, pay cash, save, and you would be comfortable for the rest of your days. He was extremely comfortable. His wife, Aunt Dot, knew that we had to leave many things back in the old country, so she made sure there was plenty for us. I can remember walking into their house and in the huge living room; the tree was in the right hand corner by the fireplace, plus there were gifts from one side of the room to the other! To this child of twelve, it was magical! There has never been such a feeling since. In many ways, I rather regret such a glut, as it created a feeling of discontent during the ensuing years. Once my own family came along, I was happy to modify the gift giving. Both my husband and I wanted our daughters to appreciate all that we were able to give them. I feel that we were successful.
My dearly departed husband and I really fell in love during the season, which also endears the Christmas season to me. We enjoyed hiking in snow clad woods searching for holly and evergreens. We enjoyed ice skating on the pond and going for walks as the snow would fall. The silence was not broken; we enjoyed just being together. The air was so clean and crisp, our breath would meld together, and we would laugh. Simple times, priceless memories!
Here are some books that might spark some memories or create new holiday memories!
25 Days, 26 Ways to Make This Your Best Christmas Ever by Ace Collins
Christmas Miscellany: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Christmas by Jonathan Green
Christmas Through a Child's Eyes: True Stories That Capture the Wonder of the Season by Helen Szymanski
Christmastime in Kansas City: The Story of the Season by Monroe Dodd