Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas in the past

First of all, MERRY CHRISTMAS to you all! This is the best time of the year and I hope you are all enjoying a fun filled day with your families. I am at home with my parents, this being about the first time I have been home on Christmas day in about 5years. Seeing that as a junior nurse we are often the ones working Christmas day. However, this year, I am not working, so I am able to be home! Yippee!!

This holiday season has left me with some reflection upon how things were at Christmas for our elders, that being our grandparents and our great aunts and elders. Luckily for me, the holidays is a great time for visiting with family members and I was able to talk to some of these elder and wiser folks. So with visiting I asked each person what their family did for Christmas.

Ryan's Granny, who is 85 and in wonderful health described her holiday as traditional. Her father was English and very proper. On Christmas morning, the children would have to be properly dressed before they could even exit their bedrooms to open their stockings and gifts. What was in their stockings? An orange, maybe an apple too, some hard candy and some nuts. They may have gotten a gift from Santa, but "nothing much", and an example that was given was some skates. Ryan's Great Aunt Peggy who is 84, stated that herself and her sister, Ryan's Grandma, would hang their stockings on their bedpost. And a stocking was nothing like the stocking I have made for Lyla. Rather, it was just the stocking off your leg. Their stockings would be filled in the morning with hard candy, nuts, and an orange. Now these 2 ladies did each get a lump of coal in their stocking. Something that no one else told me about. When I questioned why did they get both coal and goodies, she just chuckled and answered that she didn't have a clue. The stocking hung on the bedpost was placed there so that they could "nibble" on the goodies in their stockings until they were called out of their rooms to see what Santa had brought them. Gifts again, were stated to be "nothing much", and a doll seemed to be what Aunt Peggy could recall.

My great Aunt's - Aunt Anna(94) and Aunt Amelia(90), both shared the same sentiment that Christmas gifts where "nothing much". Similar stories were shared with me about how an orange was found in the stocking. An orange would be a highlight, my mother recalled from her mother. As you couldn't get oranges with such ease as you can now a days. Stockings where found from every where from the fireplace, to under the tree, to the bed post, to a string stung between the rooms. The highlight of Christmas was not the presents, rather the gatherings that would ensue that day. The family gatherings where laughter and love would be shared.

My parents recalled their Christmas to me.

My dad's father, my grandfather, owned a China Shop. So their gifts would be something from the store, thus making their Christmas morning somewhat elaborate. A new watch would not be an uncommon gift. Since my grandfather was a merchant in a local community, he would buy goods wholesale from other merchants to get a variety of gifts for the family. Church services were a center of the attention. They would walk up a half a block to the 11 pm Christmas Eve service for communion and then again on Christmas Day. A large family dinner would be prepared by my grandmother. Christmas morning would be exciting for the three children of the Waters' household. To my uncle John, who was mentally handicapped, this was the highlight of the year, he looked forward to this day from the fall. The family made this day special for John, as this was his day for he was always young at heart.

My mother claims that Christmas day was "the best day of the whole year". Her family would have Christmas at her grandparent's home, my Grandpa's parents, for noon, with a large family gathering with lots of food. They would eat a large lunch with all the Christmas trimmings. The women would clean up from lunch, the children would go upstairs and play in her Grandma's store rooms, and the men would share stories about the neighbourhood. My mother recalls Christmas pudding, which is a tradition that Ryan's family still holds. Gifts would be opened. My mother would get Two dollars from her grandparents, and one dollar from her uncle. "What a treat!" my mother exclaimed. My mother's grandmother would give the same gifts every year to the older people. A flannel sheet to the ladies, and a flannel shirt for the men, "probably out of the catalogue", my mom said. Later in the afternoon, my grandpa and a great uncle would go home to do the chores on the farm. While they were gone, the ladies would get dinner started, left overs from the lunch before. The children would continue to play and the day would end after dinner.
Sometimes I wonder if things would be easier if we lived in the "olden" days. Sure, there were hardships like no running water in the house, no electricity. These are obvious, but sometimes I wonder if the commercialization of society has overtook our family traditions. For example, today's child asks for electronics, a cell phone, an I-pod, whatever is the current craze rather than a pair of skates or a doll. Whatever the case may be, family should still be the center of the reason for the holiday. For it is Jesus' birthday, and birthdays should be shared with those you love. Don't get me wrong, I am enjoying the prospect of opening gifts this evening. But hopefully in the excitement of presents being opened, I can take some time to sit back and take in all of my family members joy. Hopefully you can enjoy your families and take time to reflect upon your past Christmas. Like my elders, is it the gifts or the gatherings that you remember most?? My hope is that it is the gatherings that you recall.
Either way, enjoy your day... and Merry Christmas to all!


pam said...

I agree, I think often of a simpler time and realize people can be happy with less. I don't think either of the people who said "not much" were ever disappointed. Life and events are what you make it and not want you have.

You can have the biggest house on the street, the most expensive cars, the best designer clothes, but do these things bring happiness?

Well written and a beautiful tale of Christmas' past.

Love, Pam

pam said...

Hey Kelly- this looks great. Kids are at the pool, Jill is having some quiet time. Melt down at breakfast. Love You, Pam