When I was a child, Christmases were a lot less commercialized and a lot more innocent. Gifts were often homemade and so were ornaments and decorations. More children believed in Santa Claus and wrote letters to him.
It was just a more innocent time. There was no TV or very little TV for most of my childhood. So we weren’t overloaded with all the Christmas stories and animated movies that we have now. We had to make our own entertainment.
The season started in about September when Mother began baking cookies and breads and making candy. She gave some to everybody she knew in little Christmas tins she collected all year. Everybody looked forward to their little tin of goodies every year. Some people returned the tins to get them refilled the next year.
Then the decorating started. Every room had its own theme. It took days to get the whole house done, but did it look spectacular. My Mother had some decorating favorites in those days. Lots of candles and lots of angel hair.
I remember the year the angel hair on the dining room buffet caught fire. My Mother was always in charge of noticing problems and sending out the alarm. My Dad was in charge of fixing said problems. And so it was with the fire. Mother saw the fire on the buffet and began screaming. Daddy, knowing his job, immediately jumped up and threw his drink on the fire. It worked and the fire was instantly out. To which my Mother responded, “Well, that’s going to leave a stain!”. Ah yes. That was a good year.
But most years were not so “firy”. Usually we just decorated and put up our tree like normal folk. Well, maybe not so normal. We never had a green Christmas tree my whole life. In those days, tinsel trees were very popular, so that’s what we had. A tall sparkly heartwarming silver Christmas tree. Every year. My entire childhood.
Oh it looked great when it was decorated. It really did! And we all decorated it – the whole family. Then we had our Christmas tree picnic.
We would turn all the lights off except the tree lights. Put a picnic blanket down by the tree, where we would all sit. Then we would eat cookies, drink cocoa, talk and sing Christmas carols. It was wonderful fun and sometimes would last for hours. It’s a tradition I carried on with my family too.
No one ever peeked at their presents before hand in our family. I’m not sure why. I guess it would have spoiled the fun of Christmas morning.
Mother would carefully wrap each present. She was gifted at that. She could tie beautiful bows and the tape didn’t even show. Her presents were works of art. I hated to unwrap mine because they were so beautiful.
We opened gifts on Christmas morning – at o’dark thirty actually, when my brother woke up. He was a real early bird.
Mother had coffee and OJ ready for us. We usually all got new pajamas to wear for the pictures. First the stockings were emptied. There was always candy and an orange in the toe.
I never understood the orange, until I was an adult. My parents lived through the Depression when fresh fruit was so hard to come by. To have an orange all to yourself then was a real treat and my Mother was just passing that on to us.
Then we got to open gifts one at a time, so everyone could enjoy each one. Sometimes one child was designated as “Santa Claus” and would hand out each present from under the tree
Most years we had more than we knew what to do with but I remember one year when I was pretty young. Christmas was little sparse. But a week later my parents told us that Santa Claus had brought some gifts that he had “forgotten” the previous week. We were beside ourselves with excitement. And were we ever popular in school that year. Santa Claus had come to our house TWICE!
I was grown before I figured out that my parents had to wait for the after Christmas sales to get us Christmas gifts. How hard that must have been. But they made it so wonderful for us.
My parents always did that. They made every holiday special. They ept a positive attitude when it wasn’t easy to do and protected the children from adult concerns. Even though they must have had many Christmases when they were uncertain how they would manage, I never felt fear or worry.
My childhood Christmas memories are filled with fun, laughter, good food, family, bright colors, a silver tree, and an occasional fire (but no one was hurt!). I hope my children can say the same.
Nobody knows what Mr. McAllistair keeps in the colorful bottles which fill the shelves of his shed and sparkle with hidden secrets. “Memories!” Mr. McAllistair says concerning his shed full of bottles. “Each bottle holds exactly one of my most special memories. So when I’m old and I can’t remember things I just open a bottle and everything comes rushing back!”
Mr. McAllistair and his young friend spend the day reminiscing and opening bottle after bottle . . . red ones, frosted ones, tall ones, round ones, twisty ones, double ones, super-skinny topped ones. They laugh, they cheer, they travel through the years of Mr. McAllistair’s life. At day’s end there is one bottle left unopened. “What’s in that one, Mr McAllistair?” asks the boy. Mr. McAllistair leaps up, shouting, “TODAY! I’m going to save the memory of today in this bottle!”
What an absolutely charming book! What a sweet way to show how older people can share their lives, past and present, with the younger folk. And it also includes the younger ones enjoying that interaction. This book is one big, delightful tickle!
The book is not very long, only 24 pages. But the illustrations are grand and colorful. Mr. McAllistair’s memories are very touching and take the two from his childhood to his grandchildren. What a great story to share with your “grand” ones and remember your own best memories. There are many ways to store them, even if we don’t have bottles!
The last page shows Mr. McAllistair and his young friend together in the shed, after a wonderful day of sharing. The young boy says, ” . . . . and we fall back into the chairs laughing.” Isn’t that a fine end to a fine memorable day?