Thursday, December 21, 2006

Christmas Past

Both my parents grew up during the Depression. My mother was the eldest of four children and her family had an easier time of it during that time than my father, who was the eldest child in a tenant farmer family of eight children. Today, I thought I'd share with you how they each celebrated Christmas during their childhoods.

My father never got much for Christmas, as his family was poor and there were so many kids. The family never had a Christmas tree, but each child got a stocking that they would hang on the fireplace mantel on Christmas Eve each year. He never got much: some oranges and bananas, nuts, a new pair of mittens or a winter scarf, and the like. But he was surrounding by a loving family and didn't know any different, so he was happy.

My mother did better at Christmas time, though it was still humble by today's standards. Her family had a lighted tree each year and they exchanged gifts. My grandfather, who was a welder, made two outdoor electric candles from iron pipes some time during my mother's childhood. They were about four feet tall each, painted red, and each had a flame-shaped light bulb at top. They would be placed on either side of the front door each year for the Christmas season. These candles survived my grandfather and graced our front porch each year during my childhood and even into my son's childhood. It was a nice little reminder of the grandfather I was never lucky enough to meet. Unfortunately, after my father died, they disappeared, and I'm guessing that my ex-stepmother just threw them out, not knowing their sentimental value.

During World War II, Americans were under a rationing system for certain goods made out of materials that were essential to the war effort. Shoes were an item that fell under rationing. I remember my mother told me that each person was allowed two new pairs of shoes per year. One year, her grandmother gave my mother her shoe ration card as a Christmas present, as she was an old lady and had plenty of shoes and didn't need a new pair. My mother, on the other hand, was a teenager who loved getting new shoes, and she was very appreciative of my great-grandmother's gift to her.

As for me, I'm very glad to have been a kid in the 1960s and 70s, as I made out like a bandit each year.

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