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Christmas time & gifts

We had our Christmas program and party at Sutton Chapel this past Sunday night and it was lots of fun. I have been a part of one Christmas cantata this year and enjoyed it very much, but our program at Sutton Chapel wasn’t choir-oriented although it had plenty of music.

We had all kinds of Christmas music: traditional hymns, secular and light Christmas songs like “Jingle Bells” and “Rudolph.” It’s hard to hold a good man down (insert laughter), so I played my guitar and sang a few country Christmas songs.

A few people read poems and a favorite time of mine was when we asked the congregation to give some of their favorite Christmas memories. I primed the pump by telling of how Christmas time always meant raking leaves for my brother and me.

We had big pecan trees in the backyard and water oaks in the front. Both varieties have lots of leaves and from Thanksgiving until Christmas, it was our job as children to rake the leaves. The big threat was that if we did not finish the job by Christmas Eve, the jolly man with all the gifts would not come to our house.

When we were growing up, there were at least two things in which we believed. One was Santa Claus. You know. He’s keeping a list and checking it twice! I don’t know why we would think that Santa Claus hated messy yards, but naiveté was par for the course in the old days.

The second thing we believed in was more important than Santa Claus. That was the word. I’m not talking about the Word of God. It was the word of Daddy that scared us the most. If Daddy told us to rake the leaves, then rake the leaves was what we did.

The job always started out the same. In the backyard, we’d rake up a big pile of pecan leaves. It’s something about a big pile of leaves that attracts little boys. They look so soft and inviting. It did not matter that we had worked hard and diligently to assemble the pile, one of us boys just had to jump right in the middle.

Then the other would follow. A scuffle would break out and, before too long, the neat pile of leaves would be scattered all over the place again. Our schedule for finishing by Christmas Eve was always being delayed by too much fun.

I have so many great memories about Christmas, I could talk all day long about them. I asked the Sutton Chapel crowd, “What was your most memorable Christmas gift?”

One person told me later that for ten years in a row he got Roy Rogers paraphernalia. I knew what he was talking about. Cowboy hat, holster and belt, cap pistol and perhaps a cowboy shirt. All of that went right along with the tobacco sticks we rode, but I’m sure you don’t know what I’m talking about.

The funniest gift of all was one told about by a member. The name will remain unknown, but everyone got a big laugh over this one. I hope I tell right.

She said, “The funniest gift I ever remember is my uncle’s ‘sucked orange.’” What is a “sucked orange?” Everyone was perplexed. She explained.

“While at school, one year for Christmas, my uncle received a sack with an orange in it. When he looked at the orange he realized that someone had cut a hole in the top of it and sucked all the juice out!”

Talk about tough times. Made me want to sing, “If We Make it Through December.”