Remembering Christmas: Church and family

Remembering Christmas: Church and family

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Christmas memories from the 1930s and 1940s


MISSOURI, December 24, 2015 — For those who grew up in the 30s and 40s, Christmas was made up of two main ingredients: church and family. The focus was very much on those two things, not on the frantic shopping that often defines Christmas today.

Most of the talk now about Christmas is about merchandise. Economists use “the Christmas shopping season” as a barometer of the larger economy, and people emphasize this toy or that toy, this gift or that.

This is over shadowing the true meaning of Christmas. Materialism, an overabundance of gift giving, cannot replace personal attention given to your loved ones.

Christmas 1930s (Flickr/Philip Howard)

Christmas Eve looked very much like the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life,” staring Jimmy Steward and Donna Reed. The night was so clear and bright and the ground was covered by a fresh snowfall that had not been disturbed by any human or creature. The family was all cleaned up and walked together to a small country church. The family talked quietly, commenting on the bright shining stars. The snow crunched under foot, and the quiet was deafening.

As they entered the church, they were blinded with the brightness of the lights. At that point in time, many families still used oil lamps in their homes, especially in rural areas, and the abundance of lights in the church was something very special.

The church lights were startling, and an enormous tree, fully decorated, stood proudly in the corner. Earlier, the men of the church had ventured out to the local forest to cut it down. The decorations were very simple. Popcorn strung together, paper loops inter twined to make a chain that covered the tree from top to bottom, candy canes, and religious ornaments. At the top of the tree stood a gigantic star.

Large brown bags surrounded the bottom of the tree and the children were very curios about their contents.

Service begins. Even today, some seniors can remember the singing. It was thunderous to the ears. They all had songbooks and found joy in this time of celebration. Prayer was periodically introduced into the service and every person was completely tuned in to the true meaning of Christmas.

After several hours of celebration, the service is over. The children are invited to form a line and come up to the front of the church to get that mysterious “brown bag.”

They draw the bag into their small chests and beam as they return to their families. Still, they do not look into the bag.

The families leave the church, greeting other church-goers and neighbors, and finally start the walk home with a heart brimming with shear happiness. They felt a true and sincere sense of internal peace.

The family returns home and sheds their winter togs. Boots go by the wooden stove to dry out.

Now is the time to look into the brown bag.

The whole family gathered around the kitchen table, the center of the home, and opened the “brown bag.” The bag was filled with walnuts; pecans candy canes, apples, oranges and other types of fruits.

Great smiles spread on the faces not only of the children, but of the adults as well.

Children today will likely pause here, incredulous at what they see as paltry contents. “Is that all there is?” The answer is yes, that was all that there was. But it was so great, so big, so special to those of us then, it made for a very special Christmas celebration.

There were no Xbox’s or PlayStations, no Beats or television sets. Instead, there was simplicity and beauty. There was family and there was God. Christmas evening was about the new snow, the clearness of night, the cold on your face. It was about walking with family, greeting neighbors, standing in awe of a brightly lit church.

Overall, Christmas was about closeness to God and about love and friendship. And that is what Christmas is really about.

However, that’s from a place and time I am from-

To all a very Merry, Happy and Blessed Christmas.

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