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They Don't Make Christmases Like This Anymore

Mistletoe, window stencils, tinsel, popcorn strings, and coloring books kept us busy preparing for Santa

By KenPublished 2 years ago 4 min read
Photo by Clint Patterson on Unsplash

As I sit by the hearth, drinking a cup of coffee is a fitting way to greet the early morning on a cloudy December day. I am listening to the hissing, crackling sound of wood burning in the fireplace as I inhale the faint, tell-tale smokey aroma from a fire that ushers its warmth to greet me. I'm fascinated by the dancing flames.

Staring wistfully into the flickering flames, my mind gets swept away by a flood of fond memories, whisking me back to my early childhood Christmases, where traditions were started that have been faithfully kept until this very day.

Throughout the '50s and 'early '60s, my family lived in the typical shotgun house that was prevalent for those times. There was a living room, a bedroom for us four kids, my parent's bedroom, and a kitchen. Almost as an afterthought, off to the right of the kitchen was a bathroom and a small utility closet where the clothes washer/ringer was stored.

In those days, the sun was our clothes dryer. We would hang the wet clothes on a rope clothesline, attached by clothespins so they wouldn't fly off if a strong wind stirred the area. Sheets, blankets, and pillowcases were the quickest to dry. Our day-to-day clothes would take a bit longer.

Sometimes, it was a gamble to put the clothes out to dry. The sky would fill with grumpy clouds, eagerly waiting to spoil a perfectly good drying opportunity. In those times, we would all run out to collect the clothes and take them back into the house, where Mom had several wooden clothes trees that she would normally use to dry underwear and bras.

During the holiday season, I remember there were lots of cleaning chores to be done, to keep the kids busy. Our house, though only 900 square feet or so, had eight windows. Each of them, plus the windows in our doors had to be cleaned and pristine before we would be allowed to put Christmas stencils on them. Otherwise, the stenciling wouldn't work, according to Mom.

Beyond that, each room's linoleum floor had to be swept, mopped and waxed before we could put up the Christmas tree. Four kids playing around outside could track in quite a bit of mud and leaves, especially when we paid no heed to wipe our feet before we entered the house.

After these chores were finished, Mom would sit us at the kitchen table and then cook up a batch of popcorn. Each of us was given a needle and thread which we would use to sew a string of popcorn to be placed around the Christmas tree. If we ran out of string or popcorn, Mom would bring out coloring books to help consume more of our time.

These Christmas-themed coloring books were some of my favorites. They were filled with blank images of holly tree leaves, candles in candle holders, Santa and Mrs. Claus, and of course, Christmas trees. When all the coloring was done, we would each pick our favorite page, give it to Mom and she would tape it onto the mantle in the front living room. Each of us beamed with pride at our accomplishments.

Photo by Addy Mae on Unsplash

Sometime during the week before Christmas, Dad would take us to the Christmas tree market downtown so we could choose the perfect Christmas tree. It had to be at least seven feet tall, with no big, glaring holes among its limbs, or it wouldn't get Mom's approval.

After we selected and bought the tree and a bunch of mistletoe, Dad would load the tree on top of the car and take us home. When we reached the house, there were still some minor adjustments to be made. Dad had to make sure the tree didn't lean one way or another when he put it in the tree stand. He would also take care of hanging mistletoe over the threshold of each door in the house.

Once this was accomplished, the real fun would start. Mom would bring out box after box of decorations for us to put on the tree. We were diligent in making sure no two ornaments were too close to each other. Meanwhile, Mom and Dad would be decorating the upper branches, the ones we were too short to reach.

After the tree was completely decorated, each child had to pick a spot around the tree and place a pair of our shoes there. Ostensibly, this was done so Santa could recognize where each child's presents should be placed.

That night, after the tree was lit and decorated, we would sit in the front room with Mom and Dad and watch a black and white television while we drank a cup of hot chocolate. When the show was over, off to bed we went.

Sigh... They just don't make Christmases like this anymore.

Thanks for reading.


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