If you’re of Boomer age, your memories of the days between Christmas and New Years are filled with sights, sounds, smells and tastes that you’ll never forget. When you were a kid, the Christmas season didn’t start right after Halloween in stores like it does today. No, it was more like after Thanksgiving that everyone started thinking seriously about Christmas.
Remember seeing those old Christmas Countdown posters in windows? They usually had a blank snowflake on them where you could write in the changing number of days left. The closer the day got, you’d start to get butterflies in your stomach and even stay up half the night thinking about what the Big Man and his Reindeer were going to leave you this year. And if you were like most kids, you kept a secret, or not so secret, calendar and checked off the passing days with big red X’s.
Many of us waited until Christmas Eve to put up the tree and decorate it. That was because we went, usually as a family, to pick out a real Christmas tree from a lot set up on a nearby street corner. You wanted to wait the most amount of time to keep them fresher as they started to lose needles pretty quickly once you got them home.
Like most people your age, you probably have some great memories of buying your Christmas tree. And nighttime made it an even more magical event – the smell of all those pine and fir trees under a star and Moon lit night, watching your frosty breath against the cold air, playing hide and seek with your brothers and sisters between the rows of trees, maybe getting hot cocoa, or a free peppermint candy cane, that the lot owner gave out to kids from his cool little 1-man trailer. And taking the tree home was even fun too. Some of us who lived nearby took turns helping drag our Christmas trees home by their stump while others hauled them on the roof of cars, or in the bed of an old Ford or Chevy pickup.
Today, many of us just go up to the attic and take down the pre-fabbed tree we keep in a box there. Yes, they last longer, and you don’t have the same expense every year, but there’s just something magical about a real Christmas tree. It’s almost like a special visitor that comes every year that you go out of your way to treat like royalty while they’re in your home.
Remember all the tinsel and garland people used to drip from their trees? So much that you often could no longer see the tree itself. I haven’t seen any of that tinsel on modern trees lately, but I think they have plastic versions of it now as the real aluminum based tinsel and garlands used to catch fire.
And who could forget those 1950’s-1960’s ornaments? They had to have been the elves finest years of ornamentry design. You could buy a batch of them and usually not find 2 that matched exactly. Full of pearls, glitter, intricate patterns, they were a Christmas wonderland all on their own. Like many kids, if you held them up to your face, you could see a kaleidoscope vision of your face reflected back at you. Most of them even had their own little sound they made when you hung them and something was kicked up inside them – stardust maybe. They even provided hours of enchantment for your cat that just had to carve a spot under the tree, or climb up in the middle of it to take a higher perch, and lay transfixed by their twinkling magic staring at that other cat looking back at them.
And speaking of sounds…remembering Christmas of the 50’s and 60’s wouldn’t be complete without a bow to this holiday royalty – Gene Autry. Known as the “singing cowboy” in early radio shows, Gene Autry soon took to television when it was developed.
Back in the days when there was no cable television and only a few “on air” black and white television stations, Gene Autry became more a household name at Christmas. His simple songs spoke of traditional characters like old St. Nick, Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer, Santa Claus coming down Santa Claus lane (somewhere up in the sky), Frosty the Snowman, and traditional values symbolized in sleigh bells, jingle bells, and will there be snow for Christmas?
And, I don’t know about you, but one of my favorite Christmas candy treats as a kid was brought every year by my Aunt – the Lifesaver’s Christmas Storybook. It was designed like a little book, you opened it and there was the story of Christmas and several rolls of variety flavored Lifesavers.
But the best part of Christmases Past, that I remember the most, was just being the youngest in a big noisy family. In my family, our many relatives would come by the entire Christmas/New Year’s week – not just one night. So, for me, my brothers and all our cousins, it would be a continuous party around our house during that wonderful week.
For my mom, though, it often meant continuous cooking, always in her Christmas apron with my Dad, myself and my brothers, sneak/stealing her cookies, éclairs, and pies off their racks. We’d sometimes even have a foot race to see who could get into and out of the kitchen fastest without slipping on the always waxed kitchen floor. But, she never seemed to mind.
We always had a non-stop supply of Christmas cookies, pies and cakes on hand for my Dad – the sweets king – and visiting relatives. And then there was always the notoriously laced Egg Nog, which I never got to taste.
So, if you’re like me this holiday, recalling the fun, sights, sounds and love of holidays of your 50’s-60’s childhood, don’t forget all the hard work your moms did back then, with or without their Christmas aprons. If you’re lucky enough to still have your mom with you this holiday season 2013, put her old apron on yourself and treat her to all the love and time she put into making your holiday one you still remember 50 years in the future. And if she’s not still with you, put her apron on anyway, and teach your kids and grandkids what Christmas is really all about…not spending boatloads of money on toys, clothes, technical gadgets – it’s really about just making your family feel loved.
Happy Holidays everyone!