Christmas traditions

Published 4:24 pm Tuesday, December 11, 2018

At our church Christmas program and party, I asked the question “What do you remember about Christmas?” Naturally, some people aren’t comfortable speaking up, but many did and I could see in the facial expressions and smiles that just about everyone had fond memories of Christmas.

There is probably no season that brings our memories to life more vividly than Christmas. Particularly those of us who have a little, or a lot, of age on us. As I recounted some of my memories just to “prime the pumps” of others I could tell that many of us find common ground.

For instance, growing up in the country, as many of our members did, finding a tree somewhere on the farm was a pleasant remembrance.

We had fence rows in the old days, before so many irrigation pivots, and fence rows were conducive to Christmas trees and coveys of quail. Also a few plum trees and blackberry bushes.

There might have been a cypress tree in those acres of woods on the farm. Every now and then…this happened with my family a time or two …we’d all get in the car, especially that long, black 1959 Ford Station Wagon that looked almost like a hearse, and ride the dirt, country roads looking.

Donna Sue started putting up Christmas trees before Thanksgiving, but in my early years, putting up the Christmas tree was done much closer to Christmas Day. We might decorate the tree about two weeks before.

I don’t remember (sort of like all those people who testify before Congress) just where the decorations were stored, but we used the same ones over and over. These days, the lights are mainly white and small, but the lights back then were a variety of colors and big.

I think that the improvement in artificial trees has been amazing. They are very attractive and most of us use them now, but finding and decorating the tree was a big deal back then and greatly anticipated.

Most of the Christmas traditions I liked, but there was one that I didn’t. At the big farm house where we lived until I was 13, the yards always had to be raked between Thanksgiving and Christmas. I think that was “make-do” work for two brothers so when school was out for Christmas, we’d have something to do. There was no lolly-gagging around at our house.

We had very mature water oaks in the front yard and large pecan trees in the back. I’m sure all of you who had to rake yards know that those two varieties of trees make for a lot of leaves.

It might not be fashionable nowadays, but we raked yards with two threats hanging over our heads. One threat was physical, if you know what I mean. File that threat under “Don’t make me come in there!”

The other threat was more psychological. We believed that Santa Claus’ visit to our house depended on the leaves being raked. Forget the fact that Old Saint Nick had a sleigh that landed on top of the house and leaves did not get in his way.

My brother and I would start out pretty good, raking up big piles of pecan or oak leaves. The only problem was that a big pile of soft leaves was simply too inviting. We raked them up, then had to rake them up again as we wrestled in the leaves and scattered them. Not too smart, but brother’s challenge to a wrestling match could not go unanswered.

There are many more traditions, and I’ve got two more columns to write before Christmas.