Copyright © 2005 Henrietta W. Hay
December 23, 2005
In the midst of celebrating Christmas Present, we have memories of Christmas Past.
Living as I do among people of my own age I am hearing so many wonderful stories. When we were all kids there were no tree lights except candles and you had to scout around and find your tree if you lived in town or cut your own if you lived where they grew.
My own earliest memory is probably fantasy, but that is as it should be. I was very small, and I wasn't where I should have been on Christmas eve. I was standing in a doorway looking into a room of incredible brilliance. There was a tree being decorated by my parents.
In my memory the tree glows and the whole room is like magic.
There is no way the memory could be completely accurate. It was before 1920 and in reality the room was not very bright. There could have been no candles on the tree, because my father was much too cautious. But wrapped up in the brilliant light of my memory there was warmth and love ad caring that have stayed with me all my life.
Christmas traditions bind us together and keep the memories fresh.
One of my friends remembers that in the days before Christmas the door to one room in their house was locked. The children didn't know why.
They all went to church on Christmas eve and when they came home they were herded into the kitchen and told to stay there. When they were allowed out their parents were standing by a beautiful tree all decorated.
Another says her mother was very fussy about the kind of tree they would have. She searched until she found the perfect three and signaled her husband to cut it down. But when they got it in the house it still wasn't quite perfect, so mother hung shoes on the some of the branches to get them in line. On Christmas eve she cut tinsel in exactly even pieces and gave each child a piece. Being kids, they made balls out of the tinsel and tossed them at the tree. But in the morning each piece has been recovered and carefully arranged so that the tree was perfect.
Some fifty years ago when my son John was a little boy he read "Hansel & Gretl." He decided it would be fun to build a gingerbread house, and proceeded to design a house and make a pattern, and find a recipe. For several years he made a gingerbread house at Christmas time.
And then there is Christmas Present. Customs are far less formal but far more elaborate. In many neighborhoods in our cities and towns outside lights are almost required.
A generation after the first gingerbread house, my friend the Philosopher and I revived the tradition. We used the same greasy
pattern and recipe. For a while the cookie houses were quite impressive. One year we even aid her little boy out on the floor, traced around him and made a gingerbread boy. Over the years, as we got busier and the kids grew up, we had some major disasters. The year we had to use Elmer's Glue to hold it together, we decided that tradition belonged in Christmas Past. But it was fun while it lasted.
To everyone my wish is for peace and warmth and love in this Christmas season -- and always.