One of the fondest memories of primary school was the day before Christmas break began. The teacher wrote on the blackboard “Merry Christmas”. We would see how many words we could make from the letters.
Of course the first word we all wrote was Christ. Back then there was no protest about saying “Merry Christmas” because Christ was the heart of Christmas, and in public schools it was acceptable to talk about religion and to pray.
The teachers never forced their religious views on us. One teacher every day read from the Bible and all teachers prayed. No one seemed perturbed by this behavior of the teachers or students.
As the day wound down, we packed our school satchels with our classroom Christmas decorations and drawings. Of course we left our books in our desks because who wanted to study during the holiday?
The teachers bid us farewell as we headed for the buses or cars waiting on the hillside. Back we went to grandmother’s farm, where the swirl of the season was cascading like a waterfall.
There were a lot of preparations to be made for the eventual day. Helping bringing wood into the storage area for the fireplace and wood stoves; finding the old decorations in the storage closet; eyeing the pines growing on the hillside and wondering which one grandfather would choose for the living room masterpiece.
Of course daily chores did not cease because school was out. The chickens had to be fed and eggs gathered. The hunt for duck eggs was always a challenge since ducks were very crafty about hiding their eggs.
The goats had to be milked. If one thinks milking a goat is easier than a cow, then you need to experience this quaint reality for yourself.
The baby goats would gather around you as you milked mamma. You had to guard the bucket to keep those young heads out of there.
After you finished and headed toward the kitchen, they would follow. The scent of fresh goat milk was too much of an allure for those youngsters.
One could tell with the nip in the air that snow was coming soon, especially in the mountains. Christmas without snow is no Christmas at wall.
We would go up the hill with grandfather and choose the tree the day before Christmas Eve. Erecting this tree in the living room was a special joy, especially as we added the decorations and glitter.
Fresh popcorn was popping on the stove. Needle and thread waited to be used to attach the popped kernels for the tree.
By Christmas Eve all was ready for Saint Nick and his magical reindeer to visit. The 1949 Philco Transitone was tuned to CBS’s A Christmas Sing With Bing.
On Christmas Eve the radio was always tuned to this program from 1955 to 1962. With a mixture of songs and comedy there were laughs for all.
For us children the favorite song was Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. This was a few years before CBS brought the reindeer to the television airways in 1964.
As the fire raged in the hearth, the stockings were hung with hopes of the goodies to be found on Christmas morn. Off to bed we went with one last look out the window to see if snow had begun to fall, but alas, no snow—just the mountain winds.
However, as I lay in bed under Great Grandmother Etta’s patchwork quilt and listened to the wind against the old window, I gradually dozed off wondering if snow would come. Someone had said if you dream of snow on Christmas Eve, then there would be snow on Christmas—I believe Uncle Jess said that as he finished his third cup of eggnog before we headed for bed.
He always became jolly after a couple of cups of eggnog from the adult jug in the Hotpoint refrigerator on the top shelf. What we discovered as we got older was that the spiced eggnog had brandy, a heavy bout of brandy, in it.
Dreams of Santa and reindeer, falling snow flakes filled our dreams. Sure enough on Christmas as we crawled out of bed to the smells of buttermilk biscuits and duck eggs with dill cooking in the kitchen, we pried open our eyes to look outside—Snow!
It would be a day of wonder and excitement. The stockings would be filled with walnuts, oranges, candy, etc.
Presents under the tree reflected the morning light. Santa had come once again.
Of course, not all of our Christmases were like this. There were ones where times were hard and no presents or tree graced the living room in our city home far away from our grandparents’ old farm house on the snowy hill.
Reflecting back on those times in the country, one could truly say it was a time of blessings. Family was very important and traditions were the pièce de résistance of any festive season.
Whatever your traditions are this holiday season, make them enjoyable and memorable for the children. For, years from now when you are gone, your children and grandchildren will reflect on and remember those days so long ago. May those memories be good ones.
G. D. Williams © 2015
A Christmas Sing With Bing
A Christmas Sing with Bing (CBS) Broadcast December 24, 1961. and sponsored by the Insurance Company Of North America (INA). The first tune is, “Joy To The World.” The program includes a Edgar Bergen-Charlie McCarthy excerpt from December 24, 1955. Charlie “recites” “The Night Before Christmas.” Bing Crosby, Ken Carpenter, Paul Weston and His Orchestra, The Norman Luboff Choir, Sam Pierce (writer, producer), Bill Morrow (writer, producer), Jo Stafford, Edgar Bergen, The St. Michael’s Choir, Murdo McKenzie (director), Kathryn Crosby.