Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas in the Good Old Days


 I could have been the kid in 'A Christmas Story'
Christmas Songs Filled The Airwaves
Everything shut down for the week....

Growing up in rural southern Ontario in the fifties meant far less consumer-consumption oriented Christmas's than what I see today. Is it better now? You will probably get yeah's and nay's to that question, depending on who you ask.

I did not grow up in a religious, church-going family in fact the only recollections I have about church was occasionally having to wear itchy grey flannel pants and go to Sunday school every now and then. Back in those days we also had a Bible-teacher who came to class with some regularity, although I can't remember the frequency.

In those days, everyone acknowledged that Christ was the central focus of the Christmas Season. That said, the flight of a Jolly ole elf on Christmas eve was what held the imagination of the kids in the early years. Getting together with family for a Christmas dinner was the primary focus for the adults in my clan, and Christmas music either on radio or the phonograph was the extent of the 'religious' focus. I do remember that my father (whom I don't think ever darkened a church door) had a record collection of Mario Lanza, whose voice filled the house with Silent Night and many more the entire week of Christmas.

We seemed to rotate between my parents and both sets of grandparents as to which home would host the big Christmas dinner, although I think my folks hosted more often than either grandparents. One thing I do remember, was that the factory where my father worked, and most others, would take a break between Christmas and New Years, as would many of the stores.

Boxing day wasn't the same shopping-addicted furor we see today, in fact I think boxing day, was a day for exchanging or returning gifts that didn't fit, were the wrong color or the like. In my circle, no one had plastic burning a hole in their pocket, so after spending the Christmas company bonus to stock the bar (as all good hosts would do), buying all the fixings for a traditional Christmas feast which of course included a huge turkey and special desserts, seeing that Santa didn't forget and getting a few other presents, there really wasn't any cash clamoring  to be spent on boxing day.

The Christmas feast would of course include a huge turkey that could barely fit the oven, which had to go in first thing in the morning in order to be properly cooked by supper time. There would be a few Christmas veggies, stuffing and of course freshly made pan gravy, which sometimes came with lumps if the flour wasn't stirred in properly.

Christmas would be incomplete without some Christmas oranges, my mother's fruit cake (no fruit cake jokes please) and my grandmother's special shortbread that had to be made with rice flour or it just wasn't right.

Christmas morning of course saw us kids getting up far too early to see if Santa had shown up as anticipated and whether he delivered our one special request. As big a deal as the 'main' gift was opening our Christmas stockings that had been hung by the chimney with care. They were like opening five or six different presents, eagerly aiming for the bottom, as that is where Santa always put the 'good' stuff!

After Christmas Day everyone returned to their own homes to spend the rest of Christmas week with their family and also visiting with friends and neighbors you either went to see or who just dropped in. By the end of the week, the dessert tins were empty as was the liquor cabinet.

I remember that week as being the quietest, most peaceful week of the year. Kids kept busy with their newest toy, the family putting together a massive jig saw puzzle, and usually the family playing some new board game Santa brought each year.

In addition to the week of peace and quiet there was left over turkey dinners, turkey sandwiches at lunch and finally a big bottomless pot of turkey soup that took us right up to New Years eve.

The one thing I remember with some sadness was the lack of Christmas music on the radio stations as soon as Christmas Day had passed. The month leading up to Christmas, all radio stations continually played Christmas Carols and Christmas songs 24/7, but as soon as Christmas day passed the airwaves returned to normal.

Was Christmas a better time then? I think so, but I'm sure you will gett many today, thinking how underprivileged we must have been when the extravagance of Christmas wasn't determined by how many credit cards you carried.

If I were to prioritize the focus of Christmas past, it would be the birth of Christ, the arrival of Santa and finally food - family and friends.

(Originally posted in Dec. 2013 but I thought worth repeating.)

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