Christmas used to be the best and most looked forward to holiday of the year. Christmas used to REALLY be Christmas, celebrated as the birth of Jesus Christ, Savior of the World. We used to actually celebrate it as exactly that. Yes, one still had Santa thrown in and present giving as well, right along with the tree and all, but the excitement was all about Christ.
Our Christmas usually revolved around Church and School. (I suppose there was no separation of Church and State issues then. After all, we didn’t have a state religion, did we?) considering the amount of school plays that were held every year telling the Christmas story. I remember being in one when I was in 5th grade. And it was AT SCHOOL. It was so cool. I remember many school years like that. We got to dress in Angel garb, long flowing white dresses complete with wings and halo. Sheppard’s in robes and with staff. So cool all of us dressed, walked in the spotlight onto what seemed to be HUGE stage, for 5th graders anyway. It’s dark, the spotlight comes on and there is Mary, Joseph and little Jesus in a manager with the rest of us on risers behind singing Away in a Manager totally with meaning and feeling as if we were really there. I don’t remember seeing any protesters outside of the School. All our friends, neighbors and parents were all inside enjoying the moment.
Actually, I remember a lot of school productions at Christmas, while singing from risers. I almost fell off once.
I remember also when Churches had live Nativity scenes outside complete with (gasp) live animals! (Guess we didn’t have organized Animal Activists back then.) It was allowed. Don’t get me wrong. I have respect for all living things and I didn’t see them being mistreated as they stood or laid there for a couple of hours each night.
I remember in 1966 my most precious present I had gotten was a white award Bible from my Grandmother. For a 7 or 8 yr old it was the whitest Bible I’d ever seen. Believe it or not, after 45 years later, I still have it. Not so white any more and the front 2 pages missing but oh so precious with Grandmothers handwriting still in it.
Don’t get me wrong. We also enjoyed the secular version of Christmas as well. The Downtown area was usually brightly lit with colors everywhere and garland on every street light I remember Santa in a real life size sleigh and complete with deer (not real ones). The display was upon a huge ramp in the parking lot of a bread company. Kids went up the stairs to see Santa and got a snack size loaf of bread and some candy. It was so cool.
We’ve had a wealthy family that lived here for as long as I remember who lived in a big corner mansion. They started a Christmas display on their front lawn. It had all kinds of automated characters, merry go rounds and small ferris wheels on the grounds and lights everywhere. Every year, you could see a Santa in his little house rocking in a chair while soaking his feet. Every year they added something to it. You could walk through it totally amazed. After they passed on, the displayed was moved and now resides every year on the grounds of a University. As a child, it wasn’t Christmas unless you got to see that display at least a million times.
Christmas used to be the most wonderful time of the year.