Grandma's apartment was almost too warm and stuffy, but considering the chill outside felt good as we sat in the living room near her artificial, metallic Christmas tree in the early 1970s. The lights danced off it around the room as we chatted about upcoming plans, with the aroma of the holiday's baked goodies coming from the kitchen. Back at home and as a child, it was certainly magical to lie under the Christmas tree and look up through its branches while taking in the wonder and excitement of the season. If asked to name a Christmas memory, rather than one event or thing, isn't it more than likely this question will evoke a collection of feelings and senses unique to this time of the year? It's these feelings that we cherish and look forward to each year as we carry on certain family traditions.
We often look back to childhood and old times when thinking about Christmas. Thinking back to the family Christmas tree, it actually created a frosty air in its perimeter as we brought it into the house and it defrosted. Its pine fragrance permeated the room and had quite sharp needles that scratched up one's arms when stabilizing it in its stand and hanging ornaments. More often than not, there was also some voiced frustration to get the tree in the door and standing straight. As a child, the tree seemed to take up half the room and had what are now considered old-fashioned lights. Unwrapping ornaments from their old tissue paper was a surprise each time to see which one it was, and if belonging to one sibling, was his or her job to hang it on the tree. There's nothing like a real tree. One year, on its way out the door and leaving a trail of dry needles in its wake, a bird's nest was found nestled in the branches, unnoticed while in the house and still intact after all the bustle from the tree farm to our home.
Who remembers from childhood the excited feelings of the last days in school before vacation came? There was the excitement of soon being home, special gifts hoped to be received and looking in the Five and Ten stores for something suitable for your parents. Before huge stores were around town, and certainly in more rural areas, the children's section of the Sears catalog was the place to look to create a wish list. If you had siblings, it took patience to wait for your turn. In hindsight, some families have fun stories of how mothers attempted to hide gifts, but were found and even played with a bit. One year, the NFL sport coats were found with matching footballs and were tried on with a few passes of the ball in the basement.
School Christmas plays were quite common years ago. The students at Holy Trinity School in Dunkirk had plays every year as depicted in this old OBSERVER photo from 1968. Pictured are Holy Trinity second-graders as they presented their version of a Christmas story.
With Christmas also come the feelings of peace from religious observances. In the old days of the 1970s and earlier, there were Christmas plays at schools retelling the Christmas story with Nativity scenes. Beautiful music was a prayer in itself, felt in the depths of the soul. Churches today still carry on this tradition, keeping the spiritual meaning of Christmas alive. The word Christ in Christmas reminds people that this child was born in a humble stable to save the world. With this knowledge comes joy as well as comfort for those who may also have had to deal with Christmas memories of sorrow for lost loved ones and other difficult circumstances. One year a grandmother passed away during the Christmas season. On the night of her death, while the tree was still up, a special angel ornament that she had made fell off the tree and rolled to her daughter in-law's (Rosamond) feet. Coincidence?
Cherish the memories and feelings of Christmas with family and friends. Old or new traditions, they are what make this holiday special. As a side note, there is a box in the loft of the garage that has metallic branches sticking out from it. Yes, it's Grandmother's tree. Too bad the squirrels probably got to it because it would be quite the "retro" find to use today.
Mary and Rosamond
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