I know that we are beginning a New Year with this newsletter, and most all of our churches have navigated through the Christmas schedule – which is always hectic at best. But while we are pressing forward to a new calendar year, I’d like us to slow down just a bit and remember what Christmas was like, even maybe a little simpler. To some of you this will sound like a nostalgic flashback. To others it will not make any sense except possibly an old man just remembering.
I still think of Christmas with a Norman Rockwall type of scenery. Since I was raised up north in Missouri, I was more familiar with the snow on the ground, people sloshing through the weather to do their last-minute shopping for presents. Instead, I am wearing short sleeves and short in December. I guess I just haven’t caught up with the reality of 80 degrees in the winter down here! In our house we had wood burning stoves as our heat. I could walk outside and smell the wood smoke as it spewed out of the chimney. We would play outside until the breath we breathed out froze on our scarfs and coats. Of course,there was sledding down snow packed hills and the seasonal snowball fights.
Growing up most of our decorations were done inside the house. My mom would bake for what seemed like months. She would make peanut brittle, peanut butter balls, divinity fudge, sugar cookies with homemade frosting. We had a big fat Styrofoam Santa that was filled hard rock candy from Brach’s along with the ribbon candy. As kids we would eat out of Santa until almost February, but by then some of the candy had stuck together into blobs, but that didn’t matter we ate it anyway.
One Christmas Eve we always went to town and visited my dad’s parents. It was there that we got to open our first gift from grandma and grandpa. One year we all got New Testaments, but one time I got a homemade tied quilt with cowboys and horses stitched in it. I still have it hanging in our spare room. Back home before bedtime, we got to open another gift from under the tree. We always knew what it would be – New Pajamas! We would look good for pictures on Christmas day. Come Christmas morning the kids would always be up early scurrying through the gifts under the tree; trying to be quiet until mom and dad got up. When we did finally open all the gifts, we had things like etch-sketch, board games and some toys. My mom always made sure that Christmas came to our house. Probably because it was not always affordable for her growing up.
The biggest meal of the year, which is saying something was Christmas dinner. Mom usually got a 25-30 lbs. turkey! We had relish trays with stuffed celery and cream cheese, pickles, and of course black olives. Mom had to buy at least three cans, because one can would be gone before the tray hit the table! Now we never put the leftovers in the refrigerator unless absolutely necessary, that way we could pick and eat for the rest of the night.
But there was always something that really made me get in the mood for Christmas, it was the Christmas musicals at Church. Christmas didn’t officially start until that happened. It was cold outside and warm inside, there would be a pie and punch after the program. The sanctuary was filled with parents, friends and grandparents, all jockeying for the best view and picture. One never knew if the program would be a hit or a disaster. It seemed like every year something would go wrong, but that is what made it so special. Seeing all the graded choirs singing, then the big people sang their cantata. I was able to do the “Official start of Christmas” this last Sunday at Nassau Bay. I guess that is what prompted this theme.