I am thinking about the stories my Grandmother told when asked about what it was like in the 'old days'. She would say that things were surely different then. Not the commercialism of today and certainly not seeing the stores filled with things of Christmas in November, even before Thanksgiving! This was back in the 1960's when I had young children, her great grandchildren, that I wondered about things in her younger years.
She told of when she was a young wife and mother of two sons, attending a "Christmas Tree". This was how they referred to the gathering and celebration of Christmas before 1900 in the little town in upstate NY where they were living. I try to imagine the darkness early in the evening. The need to light the kerosene lamps, whose chimneys had to be washed often to allow the brightness of the flame to shine out into the room. Filling the wood stove before leaving. Getting bundled up, children and adults, possibly needing to take the horse and buggy or sleigh if the family lived a bit too far to walk to the Church or the Hall where the festivities were being held. Bringing a dish to pass or maybe snacks to share, maybe a homemade decoration for the tree. But like in our day, the excitement the children feel ... probably about the same!
I recall Grammie telling how 'George' her husband, would bring along his fiddle and that meant there would be music. Maybe others too brought along an instrument. So, like today, we have family, friends, food, fun and and fellowship as we gather together to celebrate Christ's birthday.
As for presents on Christmas morning. My dad remembers his father making him and his brother a Skip-Jack-Jumper! ( This was still around when I was growing up and I never could master riding the thing!) This was an affair for sliding downhill... a one runner thing, made from a barrel stave, serving as a single ski. A piece of wood, maybe a 2x4 or two nailed together rose up from the surface of this ski to a height suitable for the child it was made for and a seat was formed by a nailed board of some sort across the top of this 2x4 post. That was about it! One would sit on the seat, one leg on each side of the ski and hands on each side of the board that formed the seat. Feet gave a push and when under way, feet were lifted up off the ground and then the balancing act began and the Jumper went skip-sliding down the hill.
Dad would tell of finding an orange in their stocking on Christmas morning! Wow an orange in VT, in wintertime (this was in 1909) after they moved to Vt from NY. The train came into a nearby village bearing wonders, like oranges, from far away places like Florida. While the boys were in school, the folks would go to the village where they sold apples in fall and maple syrup and maple sugar in late spring and did other trading, buy a few oranges and surprise the boys on Christmas morning. Life sure was simpler then! No artificial tree and no electric lighting yet either! There were little candle holders that clamped onto branches. The candles could be lit for a short time being very careful not to catch the tree on fire!
Christmas dinner, while still in NY, was often at Grammie's in-laws with other family coming as well. And sometimes at my Grammie's own grandparents home.
And so it was, such a different world then. Some things never change though ... still the hand made gifts are prized by many. A simple gift, made with love is still a treasure.
This year I want to make fruitcakes! My friend in VT kindly sent me her recipe and I think I have gathered nearly all the ingredients so will see how this goes. Maybe tomorrow or next day. Come to find out, my friend Pat got the recipe from a lady I had known since I was a girl! So these will be very special Fruitcakes indeed!
Meantime, enjoy each day, take some time out to be still. Think on the good times of your life. Be thankful for all your blessings as you prepare for a Blessed Christmas.