Sometimes I have a tough time coming up with things to write about every week, especially when there is no immediate issue facing farmers in the area. I had another one of those mundane pieces planned that would have covered a fairly technical subject that is important to farmers from several points of view — but I can’t bring myself to do that when Christmas is only 3 days away. I will save that one for later.
Sometimes I am slow to get into Christmas even though I understand the great significance it has for us. But as this season comes around my thoughts always drift back to the Christmas times I experienced as a child at Shady Grove.
Rather than a recollection of each Christmas, the memories of those times seem to gather into one big event with more than a few classic stories rolled into one. An attempt to describe Christmas in that part of my life is difficult even though it was a happy time, but somehow a record should be kept so that we can compare the present with the best of the past.
Christmas in those times, during the 1950s, was simple by today’s standards, but in many ways it had deeper meaning for most people, or at least that’s the way it seemed. We were fortunate to live in an active community of people who came together every Christmas for a big celebration at the old school house, where it seemed everyone showed up with special things for the special people in their lives.
There was always a big cedar tree cut fresh from the woods a day or two before the Christmas gathering, and the scent of that tree permeated the whole room, especially when the old wood stove got going. That tree was decorated with homemade trinkets and painted pine cones, strings of popcorn, tinsel that was carefully saved each year, and candy canes for kids to steal away. The old building would come to life with carols sung to the accompaniment of the old piano that was usually a little out of tune.
The finale for the gathering was the arrival of Santa Claus, dressed in the same old red suit and boots, but nobody seemed to care as he passed out presents for kids and reminded them that he had been watching all year. He often had a few interesting comments for some of the adults as well, but all in fun. He could never leave until everyone was inside and could not see him depart in his sleigh, the only evidence the jingling of bells.
Christmas Eve and the next morning were special events when people acted very strange and did things that would have otherwise been regarded as abnormal. Times were tough then and sometimes a couple of toys or maybe a new pocket knife would be under the tree, but there was usually a sweater or something like that as well.
On Christmas Day, families got together and all the kids got to compare what Santa had brought them. I was always surprised to see that some of my cousins got a whole box of oranges. And there were always the new cap pistols that had to be shown off and strings of firecrackers to keep the parents wishing they would soon be gone.
But somehow we never forgot what Christmas was all about and how important it was for us.
Sure, there were people who just didn’t seem to get into the season, but somehow most of them did in one way or another. People in those times seemed to realize that they had a lot to be thankful for even though in truth most of them had very little in the form of material things. The country had just been through two wars, and there was a feeling of appreciation for the freedoms and rights they enjoyed. They were truly the Greatest Generation.
Somehow things have changed since those days. We have a lot more “things” today, but in truth they don’t seem to matter much. I would gladly give up most of this stuff for just one more country Christmas.
Merry Christmas to all of you. Remember, Santa has been watching all year.