Christmas Eve

Published 3:53 pm Tuesday, December 18, 2018

realize Christmas Eve is a few days away, but as I remember, I’m not sure which day I liked the most: Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.       

Certainly Christmas Day was exciting with all of the early waking up, the opening of the presents, the rounds that were made to visit both sets of grandparents, knowing that there were more gifts to open. The one thing was missing on Christmas Day, though, was anticipation.

Christmas took so long to get here; maybe that’s where we get the saying, “Slow as Christmas.” However, once Christmas Day arrived, what was left to excite us? 

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The greatest day of anticipation was Christmas Eve. Only one more day! The excitement of Christmas Eve was almost unbearable. Once the middle of the afternoon arrived, nothing could settle the anxiety.

When I was a child, Christmas Eve didn’t shut down at 6:00 in the afternoon like it does now. Our town of last-minute shopping was Pelham, but I’m sure Bainbridge was identical. Trying to find a parking space in town on Christmas Eve was like finding that needle in the haystack. It might take two, three, or four drives around the block to be so fortunate as to catch someone backing out of a parking space.

I’ve seen pictures of city sidewalks and busy-ness in large towns, like New York City, but, believe it or not, the sidewalks in our small towns on Christmas Eve were wall-to-wall people. Every store was open until at least 9:00 and some were open later. These days, all fast food places and shopping areas will be shut down by 6:00.

My mother worked at one of the drug stores in Pelham during the holidays. Those stores sold all sorts of last-minute gifts and Daddy would get us all ready for town about the middle of the afternoon. We’d go to Pelham and stay in town until most stores closed. The grocery stores would be the last places to close and it might be 10:00 before that happened.

If you have to come to town next Monday, Christmas Eve, for anything, you’d better get there early. It wasn’t that way 50-60 years ago.

I guess my parents needed a little time to finish their shopping and the “show” (the movie theatre) was where my brother, sister, and I spent the afternoon and early evening. We’d each take our quarter and buy a ticket to get in. 15 cents! A bag of popcorn was a nickel, as was a cup of Coca-Cola. For that quarter, we saw a double feature and a cartoon, plus had enough for eats. Can you believe that?

When we would be picked up, the only thing left to do was to ride around and see all the decorations on the houses. Many families did the same thing every year and two places were of absolute necessity. One, was a house on Legion Drive where Santa Claus’ sleigh and reindeer were on top of the house. No matter how many years passed, we had to see that house or it wasn’t Christmas.

There was another place called “Santa Claus Lane.” It wasn’t a drop in the bucket to the dramatic displays of Christmas lights these days, but I’d like to see it again. I would probably ask a question like the Peggy Lee song, “Is that all there is?”

But that’s not what I said 60 years ago. Santa Claus Lane meant Christmas Eve and all that was left of the day was to get home, get in bed, try to sleep, and every 30 minutes ask, “Has Santa come?” I’m glad I still remember how exciting Christmas Eve was.