Tuesday, December 12, 2006

What Christmas Means to Me - circa 1946 - Part One

I found this essay that my mother wrote when she was a young teenager in the 1940’s. She describes the way Christmas was celebrated in her home with enthusiasm and warmth. Mom has always been a great communicator and is a gifted writer and speaker. She was a school teacher before raising the five of us. She still teaches at a school in Mexico even though she is well past “retirement age”. Mom is pictured on skates as a young girl in 1939. The backyard was flooded each winter to create an ice rink. The other picture is of Mom and her brother, Uncle Bill, taken about the time this was written.

Christmas- The very smell of the word makes my mouth water- turkey, cakes, cookies, candy and all the other things that go to make up this great festive feast in our home.

At the mention of the word there comes to my mind the beloved and familiar story of the Babe who was born to save the world, of the rude stable and manger where He was born, of Mary and Joseph, and how proud they must have been, of the wise men and of the shepherds who left their flocks on the hillside when they heard the angels’ glad “Gloria in Excelsis Deo”. I think of the White Gift Sunday at our church, of the beautiful and awesome candle light service in the evening, of the rich and melodious chimes that peal their joyous message over the countryside. I remember the Christmas Eve get-togethers, when groups of young people go from door to door singing the old familiar carols. To be without this sacred part of Christmas would be like leaving a doorway from a beautiful cathedral so no people could view the beauty of its interior.

To me, the next part of Christmas, and the part I love most, is the pageantry connected with the season. About five days before Christmas, my father, mother, brother and I go to our reforestation area to find our tree and to gather pine boughs for decorating both inside and outside. We are very particular about our tree. It must be red pine and ten feet high, as well as bushy;- none of these spare and half dead trees that are bought at the last minute in the city square for us. It must be floor to ceiling and it would never do to see the centre trunk.


The day after getting the tree is the most important time, for it is the day to turn our home into a Christmas fairyland. Out come the glaring white lights from their sockets and into their places go the Christmas ones of red and green. Down come unnecessary curtains and pictures to make room for the tree and evergreen boughs. Away go awkward chairs and tables that might hinder the joyous movements of people around the house. The oil painting above the fireplace is taken down and in its place is put a round mirror draped with boughs of pine. The mantle is also covered with pine set off with vivid red candles at each end. In the centre is set a miniature replica of the Nativity, which gives a finishing touch to that side of the room. Above the piano is hung a picture of the Madonna, also draped with fragrant pine boughs. Above the French doors, between the living room and the dining rooms, are more decorations. If luck is with us, a large box of holly and mistletoe has arrived from friends in Vancouver. It is in this prominent place, where everyone must pass, that we hang the mistletoe. Every year it is the cause of many embarrassing events. The most prominent place however, is between the two south windows, for it is here the tree is placed. The branches are draped with brightly coloured lights and hung with balls of ruby and silver. When all is completed the room smells like a pine grove after a spring rain. All this beauty was not achieved without suffering on our part. Our hands and clothes are sticky and stained by the pitch from the pine boughs, our fingers are cut by broken ornaments and the sharp holly leaves, our bodies have received various shocks while testing the tree lights. Now, after a long hard day’s work, come in to sit by the crackling wood fire in a room that is filled with the symbols of Christmas, even to the carols echoing through the still night from the United Church tower.

1 comment:

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